8 Easy Ways to Thicken Chili (2024)

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Christine Gallary

Christine GallaryFood Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and CHOW.com. She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.

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updated Oct 4, 2023

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Nobody wants a thin chili because, honestly, then it’s really just soup! Chili should be thick and hearty enough to be a meal on its own, but sometimes there’s just a bit more liquid than you want in the pot.

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While you can simply keep simmering the chili, that method risks overcooking softer ingredients like the beans, losing all your nice texture to mushy monotony. Here are six other ways that you can easily thicken your chili, whether you want to add more ingredients, time, or elbow grease.

How To Thicken Chili

1. Use a Potato Masher.

All you have to do is take a potato masher and smash some (but not all) of the chili around. Mashing the beans and vegetables so that they break down and release their natural starches will help thicken the excess liquid while still leaving a good portion of the beans intact.

2. Add Cornmeal.

Sprinkling in a tablespoon or so of cornmeal or polenta is a great way to thicken Southwestern-inspired chilis. Adding either of these to a hot pot of chili means that it’ll absorb and help thicken the liquid after simmering for about 10 additional minutes.

While it might add a slightly grainy texture to your chili, I find that it’s not too different than when you crumble cornbread into your bowl.

3. Add Tortillas.

A lot of tortilla soup recipes rely on tortillas or tortilla chips to break down and thicken the soup, so you can apply the same principle here. Just tear up some tortillas into small pieces — flour or corn is up to you — stir them into the pot of hot chili, and let the whole thing simmer for 10 minutes before you stir again.

4. Add Beans or Veggies.

If you have another cup of beans or chopped vegetables on hand, add them to your pot and simmer. Those additional solids will help soak up the extra liquid.

You might need to adjust your seasonings, however, so be sure to sample a spoonful after the chili has thickened and add salt or spices to taste.

5. Uncover and Simmer

If you’ve been cooking your chili in a covered pot, remove the lid and simmer until some moisture evaporates. It might be tempting to crank the heat up to high to speed up this process, but that risks burnt or bitter-tasting chili. So, be sure to keep your pot at a simmer.

6. Make a Slurry with Masa Harina.

To make your slurry, combine equal-parts masa harina and room-temperature water in a small bowl, stir until dissolved, and then pour the mixture into your pot of chili and stir over low heat. Masa harina is an especially effective thickener, so start with a small amount — say, 1 tablespoon each water and masa harina per 3 cups of chili.

It can take a few moments for masa harina to work its magic, so let the chili simmer, stirring often, for about five minutes, and then check its consistency.

7. Make a Slurry with Flour

Flour is commonly used to make a slurry, which is one of the best ways to thicken chili and other stewed dishes. Just like with masa harina, you can use flour if that’s what you have in your pantry. To make a slurry with flour combine equal-parts masa harina and room-temperature water in a small bowl until incorporated. Add this mixture to the chili and allow it to simmer and thicken.

8. Make a Slurry with Cornstarch

If you don’t have flour or masa harina or flour in your pantry, you can also use cornstarch. You can also make a slurry with cornstarch and water and use the mixture the same way as the methods mentioned above.

Our Favorite Chili Recipes

Put your chili skills to use in some of our favorite recipes, spanning vegetarian, vegan, and meaty options.

  • Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili
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8 Easy Ways to Thicken Chili (2024)

FAQs

8 Easy Ways to Thicken Chili? ›

White chicken chili is commonly thickened using cream cheese and corn starch. Cream cheese adds richness without making the chili too heavy.

Can you use cream cheese to thicken chili? ›

White chicken chili is commonly thickened using cream cheese and corn starch. Cream cheese adds richness without making the chili too heavy.

Will heavy cream thicken chili? ›

Another great thickening agent is dairy, whether heavy cream, milk, sour cream, or even shredded cheese. You'll want to incorporate these ingredients on low heat. With the heavy cream or milk, you'll add that to your whole pot of chili before serving.

What can I add to chili to make it more soupy? ›

In addition, broth, beer, and/ or water is usually added to produce the desired consistency in the pot of chili. I usually add one or two cups of beef broth. If you put tomatoes in the stew, this will also provide plenty of liquid.

How do you thicken leftover chili? ›

8 Easy Ways to Thicken Chili
  1. Use a Potato Masher. All you have to do is take a potato masher and smash some (but not all) of the chili around. ...
  2. Add Cornmeal. ...
  3. Add Tortillas. ...
  4. Add Beans or Veggies. ...
  5. Uncover and Simmer. ...
  6. Make a Slurry with Masa Harina. ...
  7. Make a Slurry with Flour. ...
  8. Make a Slurry with Cornstarch.

What to do if chili is too watery? ›

If your chili is too watery, there are a few steps you can take to thicken it: Simmer Longer: Continue cooking the chili uncovered over low heat to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Add Thickeners: Mix a small amount of cornstarch or flour with cold water and add it to the chili. Cook while stirring until it thickens.

What secret ingredient will deepen the flavor of your chili? ›

Stir some puréed pumpkin into your chili just after sautéing your aromatics (onions, garlic, etc...) and before adding any liquid. This will deepen and sweeten its flavor, making it a great balance for all the chile peppers and heat.

Why isn't my chilli getting thick? ›

Simmer Longer

One of the easiest ways to thicken chili is to simply increase the cooking time. Simmer your dish for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring it occasionally, says Traci Weintraub, chef and founder of Gracefully Fed, a meal delivery service and restaurant in Los Angeles.

How to thicken chili without flour? ›

Make a cornstarch slurry: Mix together 1 tablespoon each of cornstarch and cold water, stirring well to remove any lumps. Then, stir the slurry into your chili and let it simmer for another 10 minutes to fully thicken.

Can you thicken chili with instant mashed potatoes? ›

Add plain instant mashed potatoes (which are essentially just dehydrated potatoes) to the finished soup recipe as a thickening agent. Simple? Yes.

Does butter thicken chili? ›

Butter & Flour

You can still thicken your chili with some pantry staples you most likely have on hand. Butter and flour are commonly used to give sauces and stews a rich texture (like gumbo, for example).

What is the best ingredient to thicken chili? ›

The good news is there are lots of easy ways to thicken up your chili with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry— flour, cornmeal, pureed beans, cornstarch, or even crushed tortilla chips will help do the job, along with some good old extra simmering time.

What makes chili so thick? ›

Add Cornmeal.

Sprinkling in a tablespoon or so of cornmeal or polenta is a great way to thicken Southwestern-inspired chilis. Adding either of these to a hot pot of chili means that it'll absorb and help thicken the liquid after simmering for about 10 additional minutes.

What can I use instead of heavy cream in chili? ›

Milk and Butter

Similarly to half-and-half, milk makes a good heavy cream substitute when it's combined with melted butter. Combine 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup melted butter for every cup of heavy cream. This mixture is not suitable for whipping. Best for: cooking and baking.

What do I do if my chili is too watery? ›

Add Thickeners: Mix a small amount of cornstarch or flour with cold water and add it to the chili. Cook while stirring until it thickens. Mash Ingredients: Partially mash some beans or vegetables to naturally thicken the chili.

What can I add to chili to make it thinner? ›

When your chili is too thick, it's easy to thin it out a bit. Just add some liquid. You can add beef, chicken, or veggie broth, or you can add a can of tomato sauce. You could add water, too, but it will dilute the flavor of the chili.

How to thicken red chile sauce? ›

Mix together water and cornstarch. Slowly add cornstarch mixture to red chile until the sauce thickens.

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