How to Thicken Chili: Tips and Tricks

How to Thicken Chili: Tips and Tricks

There’s nothing quite like a warm, hearty bowl of chili. But what happens when your chili turns out to be too thin? Whether you’re making a classic beef chili or a vegetarian version, a runny consistency can be a real disappointment. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to thicken chili and transform a lackluster dish into something truly delicious. Here are some of the best tips and tricks for making chili thicker, heartier, and more satisfying.

Add a Cornstarch Slurry

One of the simplest and most effective ways to thicken chili is to use a cornstarch slurry. This method is a classic thickener and it’s used in many different types of sauces and stews. To make a cornstarch slurry, simply mix together equal parts cornstarch and cold water until you get a smooth paste.

When adding the slurry to your chili, be sure to whisk it thoroughly to avoid clumping. Start by adding a small amount of the slurry (about a tablespoon) and stirring continuously. If the chili is still too thin, you can add more slurry gradually until you get the desired thickness. Keep in mind that cornstarch can make chili a bit glossy and it can also slightly alter the flavor.

Use Masa Harina

Masa Harina is a traditional Mexican flour made from corn. It’s often used to make homemade tortillas, tamales, and other classic dishes. One of its lesser-known uses, however, is as a thickener for chili. Masa Harina has a fine texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that can add depth to your chili’s taste. It is different from regular cornmeal as it is made from hominy corn which has been processed in an alkali solution making it more digestible, richer in minerals as well as giving it a unique flavor.

To use Masa Harina as a thickener, simply add a few tablespoons to the chili and stir carefully. Make sure you mix it well, so you don’t end up with lumps. As it cooks, the Masa Harina will dissolve and help to thicken the dish. Just keep an eye on the consistency and add more if needed until you get the perfect thickness.

Puree Vegetables

If you’re looking for an easy way to thicken chili that also adds some extra flavor and nutrients, pureeing vegetables is a great option. Carrots, onions, and bell peppers are popular choices for chili, but you can really use any vegetables you have on hand. Simply cook the vegetables until they are soft and then blend them in a food processor or blender until you get a smooth puree.

Add the puree to your chili and stir well. The vegetables will add some texture and body to the dish, helping to thicken it up as it simmers. This method is also a great way to sneak extra veggies into your diet and make your chili healthier and more nutritious.

Simmer Longer

Sometimes the best way to thicken chili is simply to let it simmer for longer. This method requires the least amount of effort and can result in a beautifully thickened chili. The longer the chili cooks, the more the liquid will reduce, creating a thicker consistency. Keep in mind that the longer you simmer, the more the flavor and texture will change as the ingredients combine and the flavors deepen.

To simmer chili longer, simply lower the heat and let it cook for an additional 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the consistency and add more liquid or thickener as needed. With this method, you’ll need a bit of patience, but the payoff is a rich, bold, and flavorful chili that’s worth the wait.

Use Crushed Tortilla Chips

If you’re looking for a unique way to thicken your chili while adding a bit of texture and flavor, using crushed tortilla chips is a great option. Start by selecting high-quality tortilla chips (homemade or store-bought) and crush them into small pieces. Then simply add them to the chili and stir well. The chips will absorb some of the liquid and help to thicken the dish while giving it a crunchy, crispy texture in every bite.

Add Beans

Adding beans to your chili not only boosts its nutritional value but also helps to thicken the sauce. Beans are high in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and other essential vitamins and minerals. They can be a great addition to any chili recipe, whether you’re using dried beans or canned.

When using dried beans, it’s essential to soak them overnight before adding them to your chili. This will help soften them and shorten their cooking time. For canned beans, simply rinse and drain them before adding them to the chili. Depending on the size of the beans, you may need to break them up a bit to fit in with the texture of the chili.


As you can see, there are many different ways to thicken chili and create a delicious and satisfying dish. Whether you prefer a classic cornstarch slurry or a more unique approach like masa harina or pureed vegetables, the key is to experiment and find what works best for you.

Remember to keep an eye on the consistency of your chili as it cooks, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way. Whether you’re simmering your chili longer, pureeing vegetables, adding beans, or using tortilla chips as a thickener, the end result will be a hearty, delicious, and flavorful bowl of chili that’s sure to satisfy.

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