How to Thicken Chili: 10 Proven & Easy Ways


Chili is a hearty stew made with peppers, beans, and sometimes meat. It is best eaten on a cold day and is a great way to fill you up. It is a thick stew. Meaning that you often need some way of thickening or reducing it before serving to make sure all those flavors blend together perfectly. 

Some of the best ways to thicken chili include adding various beans, masa harina, polenta, cornflour and simmering it. 

10 Best Ways to Thicken Chili

Let’s take a closer look at each method and learn more details.

1. Masa Harina

Masa Harina

Masa Harina is a great way to thicken chili since it is corn flour that is usually used in Latin American cooking. It is also used to thicken many other recipes.

You might know Masa Harina if you’ve made corn tortillas from scratch because that is the main ingredient. It is different from corn flour because it is ground finer.

However, it takes a little time to thicken anything. Therefore, make sure to leave it to boil for 10-15 minutes before adding more. Start off with about a tablespoon of Masa Harina, mixed with equal parts water.

Keep stirring until the chili thickens. If after about 15 minutes you still want to thicken. Then, add another teaspoon or 2 mixed with water.

Masa Harina is available in almost any supermarket or specialty supermarket. The best part? You can use the remaining Masa Harina to make homemade corn tortillas.

2. Tomato paste

Tomato Paste

This paste is a pantry staple. It can thicken stews and sauces and works exceptionally well in chili because it can also add a depth of tomato flavor to your chili.

It is thick and rich and when cooked down with a stew, it helps to thicken it as well. Add about two tablespoons to your chili and mix in, and let it boil for a few minutes to reduce. If you find you want your chili to be thicker, you can add a bit more tomato paste.

3. Cornstarch


Cornstarch is one of the most popular thickening agents because it can thicken pretty much any fish, from sweet to savory. It doesn’t have a flavor and works fast once your stew boils.

Add about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with water. Add in about half to your boiling chili and stir vigorously.

You should see results almost immediately, and you can add more if desired. However, start by adding smaller quantities first to make sure your stew doesn’t get too thick.

4. Add more beans

borlotti beans

Chili already has beans in it, usually kidney beans, which are known to help thicken stews. Any bean would work as well, whether you find white beans or chickpeas, but kidney beans are most commonly used in chili.

If you want to thicken your stew, add some more beans in there and let it boil and you will slowly see your chili start to thicken. The beans will also help add more flavor to your meal as well. And it won’t be noticeable that there are more beans than the recipe calls for.

5. Cornmeal

Cornmeal is coarsely ground dried corn and can also be used to thicken chili, but keep in mind that it will not disappear into the chili. It will take in some of the flavors and make the chili taste good, and will help thicken the dish considerably.

You can add about a quarter cup of cornmeal to the chili and boil it for about 15 minutes. Cornmeal has a great texture and can even elevate your chili if you’re looking to add more ingredients to it.

6. Potatoes

Russet Potatoes

Potatoes are a great starch that can be found in anyone’s pantry. They’re ideal to thicken up chili because you can cut them into small pieces and boil them.

They will release some of their starch and absorb some of the flavors of the chili, making the dish thicker and a little heartier. This is also great if you don’t have enough beans for the dish, as the potatoes will add that starch and fill the meal out.

7. Flour

All-Purpose Flour

You can thicken your chili with flour. This is a great option because flour is easily available and will not alter the flavor of your chili.

Add flour to your dish the same way you would cornstarch. Just add about 2 tablespoons of flour mixed with the same amount of water and stir into your chili.

It doesn’t work as fast as cornflour. However, but keep simmering for about 10 minutes and you will see your chili get significantly thicker. This is a great way to thicken all dishes as well.

8. Tortilla chips

Tortilla chips

This may sound odd, but a lot of the time, chili is eaten with a side of tortilla chips, and you can also use them to thicken your chili.

Do this by breaking them up and stirring them in for a couple of minutes. They will take in some of that liquid and flavor and help to thicken your chili.

They will also add more flavor to your dish, without taking away from the flavor of the chili. You can also use saltine crackers or potato chips as a substitute.

9. Cheese

Romano Cheese

Some people like to sprinkle cheese and sour cream on top of their chili. However, did you know that you can also use it to thicken the chili?

The best cheeses to use would be cheddar or mozzarella. They are both mild but still, have a flavor that would compliment the chili.

Stir in a few tablespoons of grated cheese and let it melt, and this should help thicken your chili and also give it a great flavor.

10. Simmer

beef Chili

One of the easiest ways to let chili thicken is to let it simmer for a while.

Just remove the lid, turn down the heat, and stir occasionally. Not only will your chili thicken, but you will also notice a much deeper flavor in your chili as well. The only downside to this is that it will take longer than adding other ingredients.

Often, it would take about half an hour. However, you will be left with a great-tasting chili at the consistency you want.

How To Thicken Chili Without Flour Or Cornstarch?

There are many ways to thicken chili without flour or cornstarch.

A fast way would be to add some beans, which will help thicken it. However, you can add other starches such as potatoes or tortilla chips.

You can also place the chili on medium-low heat, remove the cover, and stir continuously for 20-30 minutes. This will help thicken the chili without needing to add any ingredients.

Related Questions

What do I do if my chili is too watery?

If your chili is too watery, there are many ways that you can thicken it.

Some of the most effective ways are to use cornstarch, flour, add more beans or tomato paste, as well as simmer it for a while on medium to low heat to let some of the liquid evaporate.

Does chili evaporate as it cooks?

Yes, chili does evaporate as it cooks.

If you leave your chili to stew for long periods of time, you will find that it will thicken naturally and the flavors will deepen as well. If you find it is too thick, you can always add in some water to adjust the consistency of your chili to your liking.

What is the best secret ingredient for chili?

A great secret ingredient for chili is liquid smoke. Chili already has a slightly smoky, spicy flavor, and adding in liquid smoke, will really deepen the flavor of your chili.

It is also a great ingredient to use if you’re eating chili alongside barbecue food because it will really help build that barbecue flavor.

How do you thicken white chili?

White chili is made with chicken and is usually a little bit creamier. So, it doesn’t have exactly the same flavor profile as regular chili.

However, you can still thicken it the same way as you would regular chili.

Cornstarch, flour, masa harina, and beans are great ways to thicken your chili and make sure you add white beans instead of kidney beans to your white chili.

You cannot use tomato paste to thicken white chili. However, all the other thickening agents on the list above will work.

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