How To

How To Thicken Chili


How To Thicken Chili

Share this article
How To Thicken Chili

How To Thicken Chili

How to Thicken Chili: A Comprehensive Guide

Chili is a beloved dish enjoyed by people of all ages. However, sometimes it can end up being too thin or watery, which can detract from the overall experience. This guide will take you through a variety of effective methods to thicken chili, ensuring that it reaches the perfect consistency.

Causes of Thin Chili

Before diving into thickening techniques, it’s important to understand the reasons why chili may become thin in the first place:

  • Excess Liquid: Using too much water, broth, or tomato juice can result in a thinned-out chili.
  • Lack of Starch: Starches help thicken sauces by absorbing liquid. If your chili lacks ingredients like beans, corn, or flour, it may not have enough starch content.
  • Overcooking: Overcooking vegetables, particularly tomatoes, can release their water content and result in a watery chili.
  • Low-Quality Ingredients: Using canned tomatoes or beans that are already watery can contribute to a thin chili.

Effective Thickening Methods

1. Masa Harina

Masa harina, a corn flour used to make tortillas, is an excellent thickening agent for chili. It absorbs liquid quickly and adds a subtly sweet flavor.

  • Instructions: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of masa harina with an equal amount of cold water to form a slurry. Gradually whisk the slurry into the simmering chili until it reaches the desired consistency.

2. Cornstarch

Cornstarch is a classic thickening agent that works well in chili. It provides a glossy finish and a slight crunch.

  • Instructions: Mix 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water to form a slurry. Gradually whisk the slurry into the simmering chili until it thickens.

3. Flour

All-purpose flour can also be used to thicken chili. However, it should be cooked first to remove any raw flour taste.

  • Instructions: Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of flour into 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter or oil to make a roux. Cook the roux over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until it turns golden brown. Slowly whisk the roux into the simmering chili.

4. Instant Potato Flakes

Instant potato flakes are a quick and easy way to thicken chili. They provide a smooth, creamy consistency.

  • Instructions: Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of instant potato flakes over the simmering chili. Stir until they are dissolved and the chili thickens.

5. Beans or Lentils

Adding cooked beans or lentils to your chili can not only thicken it but also add protein and fiber.

  • Instructions: Puree a portion of the beans or lentils and add the puree to the chili. Alternatively, you can add whole beans or lentils to the pot and simmer until they soften and release their starches.

6. Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a concentrated tomato product that adds thickness and a boost of tomato flavor to chili.

  • Instructions: Stir 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste into the simmering chili. Let it cook for a few minutes to blend the flavors.

7. Shredded Cabbage

Shredded cabbage adds a bit of texture and a slightly sweet flavor to chili. It also helps absorb some of the excess liquid.

  • Instructions: Stir in 1-2 cups of shredded cabbage to the simmering chili. Cook until the cabbage is wilted and the chili has thickened.

Tips for Prevention

In addition to using thickening agents, there are several preventive measures you can take to avoid thin chili:

  • Use high-quality ingredients: Opt for fresh vegetables and beans that are not overly watery.
  • Don’t overcook: Monitor the cooking time to prevent vegetables from releasing too much water.
  • Start with less liquid: Gradually add water or broth as needed until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Simmer gently: Avoid boiling the chili, as this can promote evaporation and lead to a thinned-out sauce.


1. Can I use uncooked flour to thicken chili?

No, uncooked flour will not thicken chili effectively and can leave a raw flour taste. Always cook flour into a roux before adding it to the chili.

2. How do I prevent cornstarch or arrowroot from clumping?

To prevent clumping, always mix the starch with a small amount of cold water before adding it to the chili. This will create a smooth slurry that will dissolve evenly.

3. Can I thicken chili with rice?

Yes, cooked rice can be added to chili to thicken it. However, it will not provide the same glossy texture as masa harina or cornstarch.

4. Is it better to thicken chili with masa harina or cornstarch?

Masa harina adds a slightly sweet flavor and a more robust texture, while cornstarch provides a glossy finish and a milder taste. The choice depends on your personal preference.

5. Can I thicken chili in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can thicken chili in a slow cooker. Simply add the desired thickening agent and cook on low until the chili reaches the desired consistency.

6. How do I adjust seasonings after thickening the chili?

After adding a thickening agent, always taste the chili and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Thickeners may slightly alter the flavor balance.

7. What do I do if my chili is too thick?

If your chili becomes too thick, add a small amount of water or broth and stir until you reach the desired consistency.