How Thick Should Chili Be?

It’s your call how thick your chili to be.

How thick should chili be

Chili is a hearty comfort food that is perfect for cold winter nights. One of the most common questions that people have when making chili is how thick it should be.

In this article, we’ll explore this question in detail and provide you with everything you need to make the perfect bowl of chili.

What is Chili?

Before we dive into the question of how thick chili should be, it’s important to understand what chili is. 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.

How Thick Should Chili Be?

The thickness of chili will depend on personal preference and the type of chili being made. Some people prefer a thicker and heartier chili, while others prefer a thinner, more soup-like consistency.

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. Black beans will not break down as much and will result in thinner chili.

Related: How Thick Should Alfredo Sauce Be?

How To Thicken Chili

If you’ve made your chili and it’s too thin for your liking, there are a few things you can do to thicken it up. One option is to add a thickening agent like cornstarch or flour. Simply mix the thickening agent with a little bit of water and then add it to the chili. Another option is to puree some of the beans in the chili and then add them back in. This will help to thicken the chili and give it a creamier texture.

For a thick and hearty chili, use lean ground beef, which has less fat. Also, cook your chili without a lid to let excess moisture evaporate. To fix runny chili, add a cornstarch slurry, mashed beans, or tomato paste.

The thickness of chili can also be adjusted by adding more broth or liquid to thin it out, or by cooking it longer to reduce excess liquid and increase thickness.

Ahead, discover even more ways to thicken chili so you can keep that meaty taste without sacrificing taste.

1. 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.

You’ll need about 1 tablespoon of corn starch slurry for every cup of liquid in the recipe.

Do not add dry corn starch directly to the chili, as this will cause clumping.

More corn-based chili thickeners

You can also substitute corn flour, cornmeal, polenta, or masa harina for corn starch. If you add too much corn to thicken the chili, it may lose some of its meaty flavor.

You can’t beat the classics.

Do not use coarse-ground cornmeal; it won’t dissolve properly in the chili.

2. Reduction

A simple method of straining and reducing will do, but it will take more time than other methods.

  1. To thicken your chili with reduction (aka evaporation), first strain your chili through a sieve, then pour it back into the pot.
  2. Then simmer with the lid off for about 5–10 minutes.
  3. Stir frequently to avoid scorching your chili. This will thicken the chili without adding extra ingredients.

Note that the flavor of your chili may be more concentrated using this method.

Important! Keep your chili uncovered as it cools to allow the steam to vent. Chili will thicken further as it cools.

so easy!

If you’re in a pinch, use corn starch or flour to thicken your chili (see #3 and #4 below).

Related: Chili Too Spicy?

What is reduction?

Reducing is the process of simmering or boiling a liquid (without a lid) like stock, soup, stew, sauce, juice, wine, or vinegar until the liquid evaporates and reaches the desired concentration or thickness.

3. Serve with Mashed or Refried Beans

Mashed, pureed, or refried beans are another classic choice for easily thickening your chili.

How to add mashed beans to chili

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.
  • If the chili isn’t thick enough, simply add more mashed beans and simmer longer.
  • Use red, black, and/or pinto beans.
  • Season with extra salt and pepper to taste.

Related: The World’s 14 Hottest Peppers

How to mash beans after chili is cooked.

If you’ve cooked your chili with whole beans already, just use a potato masher to mash up some (not all) of your chili.

The beans will release their starches and thicken the stew.

Mash lightly to maintain a bean-like texture. Or, if you don’t have a potato masher, pick about a third of the beans out of your chili and use a fork (or blender) to mash your beans.

It couldn’t be easier.

Did you know?

Chili peppers and beans are both botanically classified as fruits. Learn more fun chili facts in the FAQ section below.

4. Add Tortilla Chips

Adding traditional tortilla chips (or corn chips) will also thicken the chili in a flash!

  • 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.
  • (Optional) Before ladling the chili into your bowl, add a layer of crushed corn chips. Then stir to combine. Top it with more crushed corn chips for that extra crunch factor.

Tortilla Shells

Tortillas break down during cooking and soak up extra liquid to thicken chili.

Simply fold the (corn or flour) tortillas in half, then roll or bash them with a rolling pin.

Next, chop or tear your tortillas into small pieces, stir them into the hot chili, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Crumbled cornbread or corn muffins can also be added to your chili upon serving. When cornbread is stirred well into a bowl of hot chili, it soaks up some of the liquid and makes the chili thicker.

5. Make Use of Flour

To thicken chili with 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.

Or, in a separate bowl, just mix 1-2 tablespoons of flour with a cup of your chili’s hot liquid. Then whisk until all the clumps are gone, then return to the pot while stirring constantly. You can experiment with rice, almond, or coconut flour as well.

6. Create a Roux

What is a roux?

A roux (pronounced “roo”) is also French and describes a paste created with equal parts flour and fat (melted butter, oil, or lard).

When using a flour slurry, you have to simmer your chili for a while to cook out that raw flour taste. Using a roux speeds things up.

If you let your roux get really browned, it gives your chili a toasty flavor.

Here’s how to make a browned roux:

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a skillet.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir while cooking until fully incorporated and the roux is browned.
  3. Stir the cooled roux into your chili. Cook for at least 10 minutes on a low heat (uncovered).
  4. Adjust seasonings as needed.

You can also make a roux using corn starch.

7. Add Potato Starch

In case you were wondering—yes, you can make a potato starch roux.

Browned potatoes taste really good, and a potato roux is delicious!

So much flavor.

Here’s how:

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a skillet.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of potato starch. Stir while cooking until fully incorporated and the roux is browned.
  3. Stir the cooled roux into your chili. Bring it to a simmer (uncovered) and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Or add a tablespoon of instant potato flakes to hot chili. Stir thoroughly. Let it cook for a minute.

The potatoes will absorb some of the liquid and thicken it. Potato flakes lighten the color and flavor slightly.

You get similar results with a rice flour roux. No surprise there; browned rice always tastes good.

8. Thicken Chili With Oats

Quick Oats

Quick oats are cheap, fast, and work great in a pinch to thicken chili.

Oats are also nutritious and rich in fiber.

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.

Regular oats

Regular oats may take up to 30 minutes to cook.

Start with a teaspoon of oats and stir well. Just keep adding more and stirring until you’ve achieved your desired thickness.

Tip: It’s okay to use a combination of starches, but it will affect the taste of the chili slightly.

9. Thicken Before Serving

If you want to thicken chili after it has been served, simply add these ready-to-eat thickeners as toppings.

  • Crackers 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.
  • White Bread It thickens so quickly! Stir a few pieces of white bread into the stew, then give it time to soak up the extra liquid. Check the consistency after a few minutes and add more if needed.
  • bread crumbs. Use fresh, dried, or frozen bread crumbs. If your chili is still too watery, add more.
  • French’s Fried Onions Sprinkle a handful into a large individual serving of hot chili. Stir thoroughly. soo good!

If you want to stay low-carb, add cheese instead.

10. Add Cheese

Cheeses take the wheel.

Cheddar Cheese

Shredded cheddar cheese contains citric acid, which acts as an emulsifier.

This binds the cheese to the liquid in your chili and thereby thickens it.

Cream Cheese

Add 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.
  • Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

So much flavor.

Parmesan Cheese

Who doesn’t love Parm?

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a dollop of sour cream on top.

There’s no such thing as too much cheese.

  • Stir fry finely chopped mushrooms before adding them to the chili.
  • Or add them directly to the chili an hour before it is done.

11. Thicken Chili With Vegetables

If you don’t mind altering your recipe, you can add non-traditional ingredients to thicken your chili.

Raw Broccoli

Raw broccoli soaks up a lot of liquid as it cooks. Just use 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.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! The broccoli takes on the flavor of the chili and tastes great.

Who said chili couldn’t have veggies?


You can also add fresh mushrooms to your chili. Do not use canned or frozen mushrooms.

12. Thick Chili With Pasta

If the chili is not chunky enough, add uncooked noodles to the simmering chili to soak up extra liquid. Most pasta cooks in 8 to 12 minutes.

Test for doneness after about 4 minutes of cooking by testing it.

What is the best pasta to use for adding bulk to chili?

  • Elbow macaroni
  • small shells
  • Curly spirals (fusilli and rotini)
  • Penne
  • Ziti

13. Thicken Chili With Seeds

Ground seeds = game changing.

Whenever you need to thicken a stew or soup, add ground pumpkin or chia seeds.

They don’t have a lot of flavor, and the chia seeds will get a gel coating on the outside after a bit.

14. Thicken Chili With Quinoa

The newest use for quinoa is probably the best.

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.

Important! Quinoa is a “high risk” gluten-free grain for people with celiac disease. It is often grown and harvested with wheat, barley, and rye.

These plant-based ingredients will give your chili more nutrition and make it thicker without changing the taste.

15. Thicken Chili With Nutritional Yeast

It only sounds fancy. Nutritional yeast 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.

  • Alternatively, you can add water to collagen in a separate bowl and mix until smooth. Then add the mixture to your chili. Cook over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly, until your chili thickens.

16. Thicken Chili With Kuzu Root Starch

Also known as Japanese Arrow Root, it comes in rock-like granules.

  • Add 1 tablespoon of kuzu root starch with 1 tablespoon of water to the simmering chili until thickened.
  • No change in flavor or texture.

17. Thicken Chili With Peanut Butter

You’ll be using this easy chili thickening hack all year long.

Make sure you drain everything first.

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.

18. Beer-Infused Thick Chili

Beer has starch in it. It 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.

The result will be a thick chili without altered flavor.

Beer starch = game-changing.

19. Thicken Chili With Tomato Paste

Most of the time, tomato paste is used as a basic ingredient in making 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.

Did you know?

Using a thick-bottomed or heavy-gauge pot helps to avoid scorching your chili while simmering. Chili pots with neutral surfaces like stainless steel, enamel, or anodized aluminum don’t impart a taste to chili. Cast iron, regular aluminum, and copper pots are reactive and can change the taste of your chili.

Easy Thick Chili Recipe

This easy thick chili recipe is perfect for a quick and hearty dinner.

Prepare to lose all your chill!


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup beer


  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain any excess fat.
  2. Add the onion, green bell pepper, and garlic to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes (with their juice), tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and black pepper to the pot. Stir everything together.
  4. Add the water to the pot and stir again.
  5. Bring the chili to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the chili cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and let the chili cook for an additional 10-15 minutes to thicken up.
  7. Serve the chili hot, topped with your favorite toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, and chopped green onions.

Thick Chili FAQs

How thick should Texas chili be?

Texas chili is typically thick and hearty.

How thick should Cincinnati chili be?

Cincinnati chili is traditionally served over spaghetti and is more soup-like in consistency, so it should be thinner than other types of chili.

How thick should chili con carne be?

The thickness of chili con carne is typically on the thicker side.

How thick should white chicken chili be?

White chicken chili is typically on the thicker side, similar to traditional chili con carne.

Should I cook chili covered or uncovered?

Bring the chili to a boil and then simmer for 2 or more hours. Alternating between covered and uncovered will control how thick the chili turns out. Stir your chili frequently while cooking to avoid scorching.

How do I 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.

Raw Broccoli

Raw broccoli soaks up a lot of liquid as it cooks.

  • 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.

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! The broccoli takes on the flavor of the chili and tastes great.


Do not use canned or frozen mushrooms; use fresh only.

  • Stir fry finely chopped mushrooms before adding them to the chili.
  • Or add them directly to the green chili an hour before it is done.

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. To thicken chili faster, mix the hot liquids from the chili with 2 tablespoons of flour or collagen powder. Then add the mixture back to the chili and stir.

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?

How to Thicken Green Chili with Gluten-Free Starches:

  1. Simmer (without a lid) until the liquid is reduced.
  2. Use collagen powder in cooking.
  3. Remove some of the veggies and beans. mash or blend them, then add them back to the chili.
  4. Japanese arrow root powder or kuzu root starch (Japanese arrow root)
  5. Any corn-based thickener like cornstarch, masa harina, tortilla chips, polenta…
  6. Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
  7. Nutritional yeast, potato flakes, chia seeds, oats
  8. While the chili cooks, I prepare gluten-free dry noodles.
  9. Precooked onion, corn, okra, and drained tomatoes to make the chili chunkier.
  10. Grated parmesan or cheddar cheese.
  11. Tomato paste
  12. 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.

You can also add mashed white beans or hominy to your chili. This chili will definitely warm you up on a cold night.

How do I thin chili that is too thick?

  1. Add about 1/4 cup of beef/chicken broth or tomato juice for each 1 cup of chili. A little at a time.
  2. Stir the chili to evenly distribute the new liquid.
  3. Cover the pot with a lid to avoid evaporation.
  4. Re-season if desired.
  5. 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?

  1. Remove the lid to allow evaporation.
  2. Set to sautee.
  3. Simmer until the sauce thickens.

Written by Gina Elizabeth

Gina Elizabeth is a lifestyle blogger and former drink mixologist (bartender). She sometimes eats pretty good food, other times not. Hey, you gotta live, you know?