Home Food How To Thicken Chili – 5 Easy Ways

How To Thicken Chili – 5 Easy Ways

by Gina Elizabeth
How to thicken chili
How to thicken chili

Did your chili turn out thin? You’re not alone.

Here are 5 easy ways to thicken chili.


How to Thicken Chili


  • 5 Easy Ways To Thicken Chili
  • Chili Cooking FAQs

1. How To Thicken Chili With Reduction

Strain your chili through a sieve then pour it back in the pot. Simmer with the lid off, for about 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching your chili. This will thicken chili without adding extra ingredients. Note that the flavor of your chili may be more concentrated using this method.

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

Sooo easy!

A simple straining and reduction will do the trick but can take longer than other methods. If you’re in a pinch use corn starch or flour to thicken your chili (see #3 & #4 below).

What is reduction?

Reduction is simmering or boiling a liquid (without a lid) such as a stock, soup, stew, sauce, juice, wine, vinegar until the desired concentration or thickness is reached by evaporation.

Tip #1: Use a thick-bottomed or heavy gauge pot to avoid scorching your chili while simmering. [READ: 10 Best Pots For Cooking Chili]

Tip #2: Stir frequently to avoid scorching your chili. Or don’t. Some people scorch the bottom to add flavor — this is known as a fond in French culinary terms.

How long should chili cook?

Bring chili to a boil, then simmer uncovered for up to 1.5 hours. Stir frequently to avoid scorching your chili.

2. How To Thicken Chili 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/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 spices to taste.

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.

Couldn’t be easier.

How thick should chili be?

Chili is typically served in a bowl. There are varying preferences regarding the thickness of chili, but there should not be any broth when done cooking, or upon serving. Although chili is technically a type of stew, it should not have a liquid consistency.

3. How To Thicken Chili With Cornstarch

How to make a cornstarch slurry

To thicken chili, you’ll need about 1 tablespoon of corn starch for every cup of liquid in the recipe. Mix the cornstarch with equal parts water to create a slurry, then gradually pour it into the pot and mix thoroughly. Stir frequently over low heat until the corn starch is well incorporated and the chili starts to thicken.

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

More Corn Starch Chili Thickeners

You can’t beat the classics.

You can also substitute corn flour, cornmeal, polenta, or masa harina for corn starch. Note that corn thickening ingredients may dilute the chili’s meaty flavor if you add too much.

Tip: Do not use coarse-grind cornmeal, it won’t dissolve properly in the chili.

How to thicken chili with tortilla chips

  • Crush tortilla chips or corn chips in a freezer bag, and add 10 minutes before your chili is done.
  • Stir thoroughly into the chili. Corn based chips will help absorb excess liquid.
  • (Optional) Add a layer of crushed corn chips into your bowl before ladling the chili in. Then stir to combine. Top with more crushed corn chips for that extra crunch factor.

Adding traditional tortilla chips (or corn chips) will also thicken chili up fast!

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 with a rolling pin. Next, chop or tear your tortillas into small pieces — stir into hot chili, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Crumbled cornbread or corn muffin can also be added to your chili upon serving. Simply mix well into a bowl of hot chili, the cornbread thickens the chili by absorbing some of the liquid.

4. How To Thicken Chili With Flour

Whisk one tablespoon of flour in two tablespoons of room temperature water to make a slurry, then stir 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. Whisk until all clumps are gone, then slowly add back to your pot while stirring. You can experiment with rice, almond, or coconut flour as well.

Or make 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. Bring to a simmer (uncovered) and cook for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Tip: You can also make a roux using corn starch

5. How To Thicken Chili With 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!

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 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 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.

Did you know?

According to legend, chili largely originated with working-class Tejana and Mexican women, from what is now northern Mexico and southern Texas.

Chili Cooking FAQs

How do I thicken chili upon 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. Thickens so quickly! Stir in pieces white bread into the stew, then give it time to soak in 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. Sooo good!

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

Cheddar Cheese

Cheeses take the wheel.

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

I’m not sure if I’m more excited for the cream cheese or the chili.

Add cream cheese to further thicken your chili:

  • Mix equal parts hot liquid from the chili and softened cream cheese, until smooth
  • Add the mixture into the chili
  • Let simmer for about 15 minutes

So. Much. Flavor.

Parmesan Cheese

What doesn’t love Parm?

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

There’s no such things as too much cheese.

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

What ingredients thicken chili while cooking?

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 can’t have veggies?


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

Uncooked Noodles

If the chili is not chunky enough. Add uncooked noodles to 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.

Elbow macaroni or small pasta shells are a great choice of pasta for chili.

Ground Seeds

Ground seeds = game changing.

Whenever you need to thicken 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.


The newest use for quinoa is probably the best.

Red quinoa blends into the chili. Add a 1/4 cup an hour before chili is done. Quinoa soaks up excess liquid and makes 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.

The following plant based ingredients will add extra nutrition and thicken your chili without changing the flavor:

Nutritional Yeast

Only sounds fancy: Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor. Its 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.

Kuzu Root Starch

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

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of kuzu root starch with 1 tablespoon of water, then add to simmering chili until thickened.
  • No change in flavor or texture

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. Mix thoroughly into the chili and simmer until the juices reduce.


Beer has starch in it. It thickens by releasing the starch into the chili. Put beer in a skillet then add to your chili. You can also add the beer directly into your chili, and let it simmer for one to two hours to reduce. The result will be a thick chili without altered flavor.

Beer starch = game changing.

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 thickness to ensure that you achieve your desired thickness level.

Tomato paste works wonders in thickening pastes, stews, and soups.

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 achieve your desired thickness.

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

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 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 an extra 20-30 minutes uncovered to allow evaporation of 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 to the chili
  • Or add them directly to the green chili and 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 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 and a tablespoon of flour. Cook until the flour is cooked, then stir the roux into your chili, blending thoroughly.

How do I thicken green chili gluten free?

How to Thicken Green Chili with Gluten-Free Starches:

  1. Reduction: Simmer (without a lid) until liquid reduces
  2. Cooking collagen powder
  3. Remove some of the veggies and beans. Mash or blend them, then add back to the chili
  4. 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. Gluten-free dry noodles while chili is cooking
  9. Precooked onion, corn, okra, 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 cornstarch dissolves, then stir mixture into the chili. Simmer uncovered until thickened.

You can also thicken white chicken chili with a 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 mixture into your chili and simmer until the desired thickness is reached.

You can also add mashed white beans or hominy your chili.

This chili will definitely warm you up on a cold night.

Should I cook chili covered or uncovered?

Bring 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.

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

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

How is chili served?

Chili is most commonly served as a main dish or dip in the United States.

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.

How do you fix salty chili gluten free?

How to Thicken Chili with Gluten-Free Starches, Just Add:

  1. Cooking collagen powder
  2. Arrow root powder or kuzu root starch (Japanese arrow root)
  3. Any corn based thickener like cornstarch, masa harina, tortilla chips, polenta…
  4. Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
  5. Gluten-free dry noodles while chili is cooking
  6. Precooked onion, corn, okra, drained tomatoes
  7. Low-sodium cheese like mozzarella or goat cheese
  8. Tomato paste

What is the best secret ingredient for chili?

Chili is endlessly customizable.

Try These 17 Secret Ingredient Ideas for Chili

  1. Beer, wine or liquor
  2. Chocolate powder
  3. Three Beans (Red, Black & Pinto)
  4. Masa harina or cornbread
  5. Salsa Verde
  6. Anchovies or fish sauce
  7. Sriracha
  8. Pickle juice or vinegar
  9. Ranch dressing
  10. Worcestershire sauce
  11. BBQ sauce
  12. Peanut butter
  13. Seared, chopped steak
  14. Lean ground beef (less moisture)
  15. Kale or other greens
  16. Toppings: Bacon, sour cream, shredded cheese
  17. Garnishes: Chives, cilantro, or avocado slices

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

Can I eat chili on keto?

Original Texas chili doesn’t include beans, tomatoes, onions or any vegetables. Only beef, chile paste, and a few flavorings. Use a high fat ground beef with a classic Texas chili recipe. And just skip the tomatoes, beans, and onions that add extra carbs. Top with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

How to thicken chili keto?

  • Reduction: Simmer (without a lid) until liquid reduces
  • Cooking collagen powder
  • Remove some of the veggies. Mash or blend them, then add back to the chili. The starches in veggies will help thicken the chili.
  • Arrow root powder
  • Finely chopped raw broccoli or raw mushrooms
  • Chia seeds
  • Add precooked cauliflower to make the chili chunkier
  • Grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • Xanthan gum (sparingly)

What is the difference between Texas chili and regular chili?

Texas Chili is beanless and does not add vegetables like celery, corn or carrots. In most other states, regular chili includes vegetables as well as kidney, pinto, black or other varieties of beans.

Can I use xanthan gum to thicken my chili?

Xanthan gum can create lumps if you apply it directly to your chili, so mix with a little cold water first before incorporating it into your pot of chili. This thickener should be added sparingly due to the health risks associated with it’s usage.

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