How To Thicken Chili? Learn Six Easy Methods

How To Thicken Chili? Learn Six Simple, Quick and Easy Methods 2023

Chili is one of those foods that many people can’t get enough of because there’re so many dishes go well with chili. Its versatility is one of the many reasons why it is so well-loved but it cannot be runny and loose. Here is how to thicken chili.

It can serve as a dinner after a long and tiring day at work. It can also be a dish that you can serve to your guests because honestly, who could say no to a bowl of delicious chili?

But I don’t like chili when it is too thin. It’s just like a soup. I want the chili that’s thick and hearty. Do you feel the same way? If so, you should continue reading because I will discuss the different ways of how to thicken chili.

There are plenty of ways to thicken chili. It is really up to your personal preferences as well as the ingredients you have in your kitchen.

How to thicken chili

Here are the different methods that you can try to thicken chili:


Adding cornmeal

A huge bowl of Cornmeal and a big spoon on the table

A huge bowl of Cornmeal and a big spoon on the table

You can sprinkle a tablespoon of cornmeal to thicken chilis. Even masa harina or polenta can do the trick:

  • Adding any of these three ingredients to a hot pot of chili can allow the latter to absorb and thicken the liquid.
  • Let the chili simmer for around 10 minutes before you serve it.

Some people don’t like this method because it gives chili a slightly grainy texture. But I’d say that it’s no different from crushing cornbread into chili.


Adding tortillas

A bowl of tortilla chips on the table

A bowl of tortilla chips on the table

If you haven’t noticed, tortilla soup recipes use tortilla chips to thicken the soup. That’s why you can also add tortilla chips to thicken chili.

Like in the previous method, this is pretty simple and straightforward:

  • Simply tear up some tortillas into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add these into the chili and let the latter simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Stir again before serving the thickened chili.


Using cornstarch

a bottle, a spoon and a bowl of Cornstarch and corn on the table

a bottle, a spoon and a bowl of Cornstarch and corn on the table

Making cornstarch slurries and adding it to chili is another method that people resort to in thickening chili. What I love about cornstarch is that it won’t change the taste or flavor of the chili dish.

Just make sure not to add a lot of slurry if you don’t want to eat a toned-down version of chili. You can also use a cornstarch substitute, since most starches will help thicken chili.

This is also very simple to do:

  • Simply combine a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water in a bowl.
  • Stir well before adding to the chili placed over medium heat so that there won’t be any lumps.
  • Once you have added the cornstarch slurry to the chili, increase the heat to high until you see bubbles in the dish. The chili should thicken after a few minutes.
  • You can add more of the slurry if you find the dish not thick enough. When you do so, let the dish stand for an extra two minutes after it thickens. This should allow the cornstarch to separate entirely.


Using arrowroot

A bottle and a spoon of Arrowroot

A bottle and a spoon of Arrowroot

Arrowroot is widely used in thickening soups and stews.

Not surprisingly, you can also use it to thicken chili:

  • Just add a teaspoon of arrowroot with a teaspoon of cold water to chili – no need to mix it in a separate bowl.
  • Within 10 minutes, you will notice that the chili will thicken.

Like most starches, arrowroot will add a minimal sheen to the dish.


Mixing tomato paste

A jar of Mixing Tomato Paste and tomatoes

A jar of Mixing Tomato Paste and tomatoes

Here’s another way to thicken your chili with a very simple ingredient – blending tomato paste.

What I like about this method is that it won’t introduce a new flavor to the dish. It will only improve the taste of chili:

  • I usually add a teaspoon of granulated sugar to offset the sharpness of the tomato paste. It can also add a bit of sweetness to the dish.
  • Add the tomato paste gradually into the dish.
  • Start with a third of a can then blending the paste well with the chili. You’d be able to gauge the thickness of the chili this way so that you won’t be able to over-thicken the dish.


Adding beans

Beans in sacks

Beans in sacks

Finally, home-cooked or canned beans can be used too in thickening chili. Crushing beans can further thicken the chili:

  • I usually add white kidney beans to chili to make the latter thick.
  • I smash the beans against the side of the pot before stirring them with the dish.

But what if the chili dish has beans?

  • Well, you can strain out about half a glass of it then re-broil.
  • You can also puree the beans. Put the beans back into the chili and let it cook for a few minutes.
  • Mix it well until the dish has become hot.


If you have made a great chili recipe that tastes good but not thick enough for your taste, then don’t fret. Simply follow any of the six methods I have shared above and I am sure that you can salvage that dish and thicken your chili.

Below is a DIY video about how to Thicken Chili:

Believe me, there are lots of people who are also at a lost on how to thicken chili. Why don’t you share this article on Facebook or Twitter? Let’s help your friends who may be clueless on what to do with thin chili.

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