How To Thicken Chili: 5 Quick and Easy Ways

Making a good and tasty chili is not the easiest task.

For me, the biggest problem I’ve come across while making chili is its insufficient thickness.

Nobody likes a thin chili, especially not my family!

Over the years I found a lot of ways how to make my chili thick, while also making it delicious and rich flavored.

Many of those ways include adding some additional ingredients, investing more of your time and effort, but, if you do it right, it pays off greatly.

See also: Some of the best canned chili today!​

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Thicken Chili

1. Simmering

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Keeping the chili just below the boiling point (which is 212 °F) will lead to evaporation of excessive liquids. The best way is to remove the lid from your pot to allow more steam to evaporate.

If the temperature of the stovetop or your hot plate is too high, you risk burning the chili, so you need to be careful not to overheat the pot or pan you’re using.

By thickening chili this way, you will get more concentrated and stronger taste, and you don’t risk jeopardizing the flavor with adding some additional ingredients.

This is the longest way of thickening chili – it may take an hour or two, maybe even more! It depends on what temperature you’re simmering it and just how thick you want your chili to become.


​2. Thickening with Flour

There are a lot of different types of flour, and a lot of them can be used to thicken your chili.

All-Purpose Flour (mixture of soft and hard wheat - the most used type of flour)

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  1. Make a slurry from 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water and-and 2 tbsp (30 ml) of flour. You need to mix them really well – the mixture needs to be smooth and without lumps!
  2. Add the mixture to your chili and stir it until the liquid boils – cook it on medium-high heat and it shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
  3. Continue cooking and mixing it for a couple of minutes to ensure that chili is uniform – with no lumps of flour in it.

In case you are not satisfied with the result, repeat the process.

Cornstarch (cornflour or maize starch)​

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Cornstarch is the type of starch obtained from the corn grain. It is commonly used for thickening sauces or soups, and for making corn syrup.

The procedure is very similar to that using All-Purpose Flour.

  1. Mix 1 tbsp (15 ml) of cornstarch and 1 tbsp (15 ml) of cold water.
  2. Add the slurry to the chili and stir until it boils.
  3. Let the chili simmer for a few more minutes to make sure that the cornstarch dissolves completely.​

You can add more cornstarch-water slurry in the chili if you want to make it even more thicker, or if you’re making a very large amount of chili.

This method thickens the chili fairly good and quickly, and I use it very often.

Cornstarch will not alter the taste, but it can dilute the chili if you add too much.

Cornmeal (coarse corn flour)​

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This type of flour is used for making cornbread, johnnycakes, or spoonbread. The special type of cornmeal named masa is used for making tamales, tortillas, and many other Latin American food.

  1. Add 2 to 3 Tbsp (30 to 45 ml) of cornmeal directly into the chili and mix them thoroughly.
  2. Leave the chili to simmer for an additional 50 to 10 minutes.​

If chili is not thick enough, add more cornmeal and let it simmer again.

Note that using cornmeal will alter the taste of your chili, especially if you add a lot of it.

I found that these types of flour are the best choices for thickening my chili, and they are also easily available to most people. Other types of flour you can use to thicken your chili are rice flour or tapioca flour ( tapioca starch).


3. Using an Emulsifier​

Emulsifiers (also called emulgents) are food additives used for mixing two or more liquids that usually do not mix well.

The are usually made from lecithin or some kind of fatty acid.

If you decide to use an emulsifier, you just need to add one or two teaspoons of it in your chili and stir it a bit. There’s no need to add too much – a little amount is enough to make your chili thicker and tastier!


4. Using An Arrowroot as a Thickener​

Arrowroot is a starch derived from the rootstocks of several tropical plants. It is flavorless, so it won’t mess up the taste of the chili. You don’t need to add a lot of arrowroot, and it’s healthy, which makes it one of my favorite choices for thickening chili.

  • Mix 1 tsp (5 ml) of arrowroot with 1 tsp (5 ml) of cold water.
  • Add the arrowroot-water slurry to the simmering chili and stir it until the chili thickens.

Your chili will thicken quickly and become slightly glossy.


5. Adding Vegetables​

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Adding vegetables is probably the healthiest way to thicken the chili. You can use many different types of vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, corn, peppers, and beans. I like to use black beans - they are healthy and very nutritious.

Also, adding some more chili ingredients like tomatoes and peppers is always on the top of my list.

  • Add diced, smashed or blended vegetable or more vegetables of your choice in the chili (you can use tomato paste or sauce if you want).
  • The amount and number of vegetables you add are up to you – do it by your own preferences and taste.
  • Mix it really good and let it simmer uncovered until thick.

The vegetables will break down and release their natural juices that will make your chili thicker.

Vegetables will, more or less, alter the taste of the chili, but it’s not the change for the worse - at least, not for me!


Bonus - Thickening Upon Serving​

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If you are finished with cooking your chili, but you’re not satisfied with its thickness, you can add some of the following ingredients to make it thicker:

This is also a good option if you’re making chili for more people with different preferences – everyone can make his chili as thick as he likes it.

Mistakes to Avoid​

  • Try not to overheat the chili while simmering it – it can get burned.
  • Don’t add too many additional ingredients in the chili – if you do this, it can become too thick, or you can cause a counter effect (you can dull and dilute the flavor, making it more like a stew, or even make it thinner).
  • If you are using some sort of flour-water slurry, try to mix them really well – the mixture should be without lumps.
  • Be careful with ingredients that can alter the taste of your chili.

Conclusion

Chili is a spicy Latin American dish made with vegetables and other ingredients, and, by definition, it should be thick.

There are a lot of different ways to make your chili thick – is up to you to choose the best one for your taste and preferences.

You can even mix two or more different ways of thickening chili and create your own signature recipe.

But, be careful, mixing it a lot can convert your chili into something totally unexpected – it happened to me many times!

Good luck and have a spicy and delicious day!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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