Chili should have a hearty thickness, which can be reached through various thickening techniques.
Chili is a beloved comfort food that can be enjoyed in various ways, from topping hot dogs to scooping up with tortilla chips.
But one question that often arises is, “how thick should chili be?”
In this blog post, we’ll explore the ideal consistency for chili and provide tips on how to achieve it.
How Thick Should Chili Be?
The perfect chili consistency is subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences.
Some people prefer a thicker and heartier chili, while others prefer a thinner, more soup-like consistency.
A general rule of thumb is that chili should be thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon but not so thick that it becomes a paste. It should have a hearty, robust texture that is neither too soupy nor too dense.
Tips for Achieving the Perfect Chili Thickness
- Choose the right ingredients: Start with a good balance of ground meat (such as beef, turkey, or chicken), beans, and vegetables. Using a variety of ingredients will contribute to a thicker, more satisfying chili.
- Cook the meat properly: Brown the ground meat in a large Dutch oven or saucepan, ensuring that it is cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any excess grease to prevent a greasy chili.
- Use the right seasonings: Season your chili with a combination of spices, such as chili powder and cumin, to enhance the flavor and contribute to the overall thickness.
- Simmer the chili: Allow your chili to simmer for an extended period, which will help the flavors meld together and thicken the consistency. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Adjust the liquid content: If your chili is too thin, you can either simmer it longer to reduce the liquid or add a thickening agent, such as cornstarch or masa harina. If your chili is too thick, add more liquid (such as broth or water) to achieve the desired consistency.
- Consider additional vegetables: Adding more vegetables, like corn or chopped squash, can not only enhance the flavor but also contribute to a thicker chili.
There are a few things you can do to control the thickness of the dish. For example, use kidney beans or pinto beans for thick chili, they will break down and thicken the chili as it cooks.
Tip: Don’t use black beans, they will not break down as much and will result in thinner chili.
How To Thicken Chili
If you have made chili and it’s too thin for your liking, there are several things you can do to thicken it up.
Here are best ways to thicken chili:
- Add Cornstarch: To thicken chili, add a cornstarch slurry to your pot of chili and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. To make a cornstarch slurry, simply mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Add the slurry slowly to the thin chili and cook without a lid until thickened. Do not add dry cornstarch directly to your chili, as this will cause clumping. You can also substitute flour instead of cornstarch.
- Reduction: Strain your chili through a sieve, then pour it back into the pot. Then simmer with the lid off for about 5–10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching your chili. This will thicken the chili without adding extra ingredients.
- Serve with Mashed or Refried Beans: Simply add mashed or refried beans to your chili, mix, and simmer (without a lid) until the chili thickens. Mashing beans releases their natural starches and helps thicken the chili while maintaining flavor.
- Add Tortilla Chips: Crush tortilla chips or corn chips in a freezer bag, and add them 10 minutes before your chili is done. Stir the chili thoroughly into the corn-based chips. This will help absorb excess liquid.
- Make Use of Flour: Whisk one tablespoon of flour in two tablespoons of room temperature water to make a slurry, then stir it into the chili as it’s cooking. Don’t add dry flour directly to the chili, as it may clump. Simmer for about 15 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
- Create a Roux: Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir while cooking until fully incorporated and the roux is browned. Stir the cooled roux into your chili. Cook for at least 10 minutes on a low heat (uncovered).
- Add Potato Starch: Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of potato starch. Stir while cooking until fully incorporated and the roux is browned. Stir the cooled roux into your chili. Bring it to a simmer (uncovered) and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Thicken Chili With Oats: Quick oats are cheap, fast, and work great in a pinch to thicken chili. Oats absorb extra liquid in chili quickly, so add conservatively. You should see results instantly. Cook quick oats in your (uncovered) chili for at least 3 minutes.
- Thicken Before Serving: If you want to thicken chili after it has been served, simply add these ready-to-eat thickeners as toppings. Crumble a few saltine crackers and stir them into your individual serving of chili. Start with 3 or 4 crackers, adding more to bring the chili to your desired thickness.
Whether you choose to add a thickening agent like cornstarch or flour, puree some of the beans in the chili, or serve with mashed or refried beans, you can easily adjust the thickness of your chili to your liking.
Did you know?
Using a thick-bottomed or heavy-gauge pot helps to avoid scorching your chili while simmering.
Related: 10 Best Pots For Cooking Chili
Thick Chili FAQs
What is Chili?
Chili is a type of stew that is typically made with beef, beans, and a variety of spices. It is a dish that has been around for centuries and has many variations depending on the region and culture. Some people prefer their chili to be spicy, while others like it mild. Some people add vegetables like onions and peppers to their chili, while others keep it simple with just meat and beans. In Texas, chili is often eaten without beans.
Can you thicken chili with cheese?
Yes, you can thicken chili with cheese. Shredded cheddar cheese contains citric acid, which acts as an emulsifier. You can also use cream cheese to further thicken your chili. Mix equal parts of the hot liquid from the chili and softened cream cheese until smooth. Combine the mixture with the chili and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Parmesan cheese can also be used to thicken chili.
How can you use raw broccoli to thicken chili?
Raw broccoli can be used to thicken chili by using chopped broccoli instead of beans. Use raw broccoli (not frozen) and only the florets. Chop the broccoli very finely. The broccoli cooks down (after about an hour) and shrinks to the point you can hardly see it anymore. The broccoli takes on the flavor of the chili and tastes great.
Can you add mushrooms to thicken chili?
Yes, you can add fresh mushrooms to your chili. Do not use canned or frozen mushrooms.
What type of pasta is best for adding bulk to chili?
Elbow macaroni, small shells, curly spirals (fusilli and rotini), penne, and ziti are all good options for adding bulk to chili.
How can you use ground seeds to thicken chili?
Ground pumpkin or chia seeds can be added to thicken chili. They don’t have a lot of flavor, and the chia seeds will get a gel coating on the outside after a bit.
Can you use quinoa to thicken chili?
Yes, you can use quinoa to thicken chili. Red quinoa blends into the chili. Add 1/4 cup an hour before the chili is done. Quinoa soaks up excess liquid and makes the chili more hearty.
How can you use nutritional yeast to thicken chili?
Nutritional yeast can be used to thicken chili. It has a cheesy, nutty, or savory flavor. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 30–180% of the RDI for B vitamins.
What is kuzu root starch, and how can you use it to thicken chili?
Kuzu root starch, also known as Japanese Arrow Root, comes in rock-like granules. Add 1 tablespoon of kuzu root starch with 1 tablespoon of water to the simmering chili until thickened. There is no change in flavor or texture.
Can you use peanut butter to thicken chili?
Yes, you can use peanut butter to thicken chili. Take the lid off and add a couple of tablespoons of smooth peanut butter. Stir thoroughly into the chili and simmer until the juices reduce.
How can you use beer to thicken chili?
Beer can be used to thicken chili. It has starch in it, which thickens by releasing the starch into the chili. Put beer in a skillet, then add it to your chili. You can also add the beer directly to the chili and let it reduce for one to two hours.
Can you use tomato paste to thicken chili?
Yes, tomato paste can be used to thicken chili. Mix the tomato paste just before serving, in the final half hour of your cooking. Add the tomato paste a little at a time, stirring and checking the consistency to make sure it’s the right thickness. Tomato paste works wonders in thickening pastes, stews, and soups.
How thick should Texas chili be?
Texas chili is a meat-centric chili that is typically thick and hearty. It is made with chunks of beef, chili peppers, and spices, and often includes ingredients like onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The chili should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and have a rich, meaty flavor.
How thick should Cincinnati chili be?
Cincinnati chili is a regional style of chili that is traditionally served over spaghetti and is more soup-like in consistency. It is made with ground beef, onions, and a unique blend of spices that includes cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. The chili is typically thinned out with water or beef broth to achieve the desired consistency, which should be thinner than other types of chili. Cincinnati chili is often served with toppings like shredded cheese, chopped onions, and oyster crackers.
How thick should chili con carne be?
Chili con carne is a classic chili recipe that is typically on the thicker side. It is made with chunks of beef, chili peppers, and spices, and often includes ingredients like onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The thickness of chili con carne comes from the meat and the use of chili powder, which is made from dried chili peppers that have been ground into a powder.
How thick should white chicken chili be?
White chicken chili is a variation of traditional chili that is typically on the thicker side. It is made with chicken, white beans, and a variety of spices, and often includes ingredients like onions, garlic, and green chilies. The thickness of white chicken chili comes from the beans and the use of a roux, which is made by cooking flour and fat together to create a thickening agent.
Should I cook chili covered or uncovered to thicken it?
Cooking chili uncovered is the best way to thicken it. This allows excess moisture to evaporate, resulting in a thicker chili. However, if the chili is too thick, you can add more liquid to thin it out.
How do I thicken chili verde?
To thicken chili verde, use a potato masher to mash up some extra white hominy. It will release natural starches and thicken the liquid. Season with salt to taste. You can also puree the white hominy in a blender. Add a corn-based starch like corn chips, corn starch, or masa harina. Cook the chili for another 20–30 minutes with the lid off to get rid of the extra liquid.
How do you thicken green chili without changing the flavor?
If you want to thicken green chili without compromising the taste, simply simmer it longer to allow the evaporation of moisture. This method takes up to an hour. If you’re worried that reducing your chili verde will make it too spicy, use a roux instead. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan with a tablespoon of flour. Cook until the flour is cooked, then stir the roux into your chili, blending thoroughly.
How do I thicken green chilies gluten free?
- Simmer (without a lid) until the liquid is reduced.
- Use collagen powder in cooking.
- Remove some of the veggies and beans. mash or blend them, then add them back to the chili.
- Japanese arrow root powder or kuzu root starch (Japanese arrow root)
- Any corn-based thickener like cornstarch, masa harina, tortilla chips, polenta…
- Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
- Nutritional yeast, potato flakes, chia seeds, oats
- While the chili cooks, I prepare gluten-free dry noodles.
- Precooked onion, corn, okra, and drained tomatoes to make the chili chunkier.
- Grated parmesan or cheddar cheese.
- Tomato paste
- Xanthan gum or lecithin (sparingly)
How do I thicken white chicken chili?
White chicken chili has a creamy taste. To thicken, mix one tablespoon of cornstarch into 2-3 tablespoons of milk or half & half. Stir until the cornstarch dissolves, then stir the mixture into the chili. Cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens.
You can also thicken white chicken chili with cornstarch, potato starch, or flour slurry. You can even use potato flakes. Simply mix the starch with cold water and whisk, ensuring there are no lumps. Stir the mixture into your chili and simmer until the desired thickness is reached.
How do I thin chili that is too thick?
To thin chili that is too thick, add about 1/4 cup of beef/chicken broth or tomato juice for each 1 cup of chili. A little at a time. Stir the chili to evenly distribute the new liquid. Cover the pot with a lid to avoid evaporation. Re-season if desired. Keep adding liquid a quarter cup at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
What is masa harina?
Instant corn flour (masa harina) is a common way to thicken chili in Texas. Masa harina is a corn flour that comes from ground nixtamalized corn.
Masa harina is pre-cooked and holds onto water better than corn meal. The corn flavor isn’t very strong (most people probably won’t notice). Masa harina is typically used in Latin America for making corn tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and other dishes. Wikipedia
How do you thicken chili in an instant pot?
To easily thicken chili in an Instant Pot, remove the lid to allow evaporation. Set to sautee. And simmer until the sauce thickens.