What Is Kitchen Bouquet?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

A bowl of Kitchen Bouquet

The Spruce/Madhumita Sathishkumar

Kitchen Bouquet is a brand of seasoning sauce and browning agent that is used for adding a dark brown color to soups, stews, sauces, marinades and other foods. It also has a slight savory flavor.

Fast Facts

  • Made primarily of caramel color and water
  • Adds a rich brown color to foods
  • Found near the vinegars and oils at the grocery store

What Is Kitchen Bouquet?

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning agent and seasoning sauce manufactured by the HV Food Products Company. It's used primarily to add color to foods such as sauces, soups and stews, as opposed to being added to foods as a finishing sauce or condiment. It has a mildly savory flavor, which comes from the addition of concentrated vegetable base. But since it's used in such small quantities, it will not contribute any noticeable flavor to a dish.

The main ingredient of Kitchen Bouquet is caramel color, which is a food additive produced by heating any of a number of different types of sugar, usually glucose or sucrose, causing it to undergo the process of caramelization. However, to make caramel color, the sugar is heated far beyond the temperatures used in making candy, resulting in a dark brown product with a bitter, burnt flavor. But since only small amounts caramel color are needed to produce a brown color in foods, the burnt flavor isn't evident.

Kitchen Bouquet Vs. Liquid Smoke

Kitchen Bouquet and Liquid Smoke are two completely different products that are nothing alike. Liquid Smoke is a flavoring ingredient that is made by capturing the flavor compounds of real wood smoke and suspending them in a liquid solution. Kitchen Bouquet is a coloring agent that imparts a brown color to foods while adding little or no flavor.

Kitchen Bouquet Uses

Some cooks state that Kitchen Bouquet can be used to thicken sauces, but this is not correct. Thickening of sauces is done by the addition of a starch, and Kitchen Bouquet does not contain any starches, therefore it cannot produce any thickening effect.

Kitchen Bouquet is also frequently used by food stylists to replicate the brown color of cooked foods for food photography. For instance, a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet in a cup of water can make it look like coffee, and brushed or sprayed onto a cooked chicken breast it can give it a grilled appearance.

How To Cook With Kitchen Bouquet

Cooking with Kitchen Bouquet is as simple as adding a drop or two of it to your sauce, soup or stew. Some cooks like to brush it onto roast meats to give them a more roasted appearance, or add it to slow-cooker or braised dishes to give them a darker color. Because it has a powerful darkening effect, it's best to use a drop or two at first before adding more, so that your food doesn't become darker than you intended.

What Does It Taste Like?

Kitchen Bouquet is not used primarily for its flavor, but it does have a slight savory flavor that comes from small amounts of concentrated vegetable base, similar to the type of substance used for making concentrated soup or stock bases. However, only small quantities of Kitchen Bouquet are needed to produce a dark brown color, so you probably aren't going to taste it in the dish. And even though its first ingredient is caramel color, there is no sweetness to the product as all the sweetness is cooked out of the sugars in order to achieve maximum dark color. 

Recipes With Kitchen Bouquet

The most common recipes that you could add Kitchen Bouquet to include gravies, sauces and stews. Here are a few examples.

Where to Buy Kitchen Bouquet

Kitchen Bouquet is available in most grocery stores and supermarkets, usually in the same areas as the vinegars and oils. It's also available online.


Kitchen Bouquet is a shelf-stable product that does not require refrigeration. You can keep it in your cupboard alongside other dried herbs, spices and seasonings, where it will keep for up to three to four years.