How To Thicken Chili: 9 Super Techniques And Tips You Need
I seriously love chili. It’s the first recipe that I learned to make on my own after moving out, and I remember calling my grandma every time I made chili to ask her for her recipe, tips, and more.
One of the questions I often found myself asking her was how to thicken chili. Sometimes, my chili would come out too runny, or I would want an especially chunky bowl to warm me up on a cold day.
There are a lot of different ways to thicken chili, and some tips you should know for cooking chili that will help you get a thicker result without much extra effort! Let’s got through 9 of my favorite tips.
#1 Lower That Heat, For A Long Time!
When there is excess liquid in your chili, you need to get that liquid to evaporate. The simplest method of doing this is to the let the chili simmer at a very low heat for a very long time! The liquid will gradually evaporate off the chili, leaving a thicker product behind.
But be warned: this method is not without risk. If the heat is too high or you let it sit on the heat for too long, the bottom of the chili might burn or become scorched.
Some people actually prefer to scorch the bottom of their chili and then mix it in for a stronger flavor, but if you let the chili burn too much, it could be completely ruined.
If you’re going to heat it for a long time, try the following tips to ensure you don’t burn it:
- Stir it very often.
- Use a crockpot or other slow cooker to keep the heat very low, but very insulated to help with evaporation.
- Set a timer to check your chili every 15 minutes so that you do not forget about it.
#2 Mash Up Those Beans
Maybe you don’t want to risk scorching the bottom of your chili by keeping it on the heat to evaporate, or you simply do not have enough time to wait for the excess liquid to evaporate.
In either case, you can try this alternative method to add some thickening starch to your dish:
- Take some of the beans you are using in your chili out of the chili or set them aside before cooking.
- Mash them up into a paste.
- Mix the paste into the chili!
This technique releases the starchiness of the beans. When you mix it into the chili, this starch will help to thicken the consistency of the chili and help make it even more delicious.
#3 Add Some Beer
Believe it or not, beer is actually a great thickening agent! If you incorporate beer into your recipe or add it to your pan before adding your chili mixture, you will be surprised to see that the result will be a thicker consistency.
There are two ways to add beer to your chili to help it thicken:
- Put the beer in a separate pan and let it reduce. Add the reduction to your chili.
- Add the beer directly to your chili, and let it simmer without a lid for one or two hours.
With both methods, you’re allowing the starches in the base of the beer to incorporate into the chili. This causes the chili to get thicker.
#4 Corn Masa Flour
Corn masa flour is one of the best ways to thicken chili, and in Texas, it’s the preferred way! It doesn’t alter the flavor of the chili, and it’s super easy to use.
Here’s how to use it:
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour to one cup of hot liquid from the chili.
- Mix these together thoroughly until they are fully combined.
- Add this mixture back to your chili.
- Allow chili to chicken for 20-30 minutes.
Unlike corn masa flour and regular flour, you should always use cold liquid to mix cornstarch into a liquid before adding it to your chili.
All you need to do is put a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of cornstarch together and mix until they are fully combined. Add as needed to chili, which should then thicken within a few minutes.
For more info on the best way to use thickeners like cornstarch, check out this informative video:
#6 Add Corn Chips Or Potato Flakes
A unique way to add texture to your chili while also helping it thick is to mix in corn chips or potato flakes! While these will have two different results, both are interesting chili thickeners that you might want to try out someday.
Using any basic corn chip, simple crumble them up and then mix them into your chili near the end of the cooking process. They’ll absorb the excess liquid and become a little soggy, but will add an interesting taste and texture to your dish.
Using the potato flakes like these, simply add about ¼ cup of them per 2 cups of chili to your chili about halfway through the cooking process. Not only will it add some delicious flavor to your chili, but the extra liquid will also be absorbed and used to cook them.
Between corn chips and potato flakes, using potato flakes is probably the better choices. Corn chips can make your chili taste dull or muddy, but this will not happen if you use potato flakes to thicken your chili.
#7 Get Thick With Plain Ol’ Flour!
The most basic way (and the way most people think of first!) to thicken anything is to use flour. Flour is a great binder which helps thicken things like chili, but it can also mute the flavors in your dish or get clumpy if you don’t use it carefully and sparingly.
There are a few different ways to mix in flour:
- Create a roux with flour and butter or flour and bacon grease. This will be a very flavorful mixture, so it won’t dull the flavor of the chili. Mix this into your chili and let it thicken.
- Mix a small amount of flour (1-2 tablespoons) into some of the hot liquid from the chili. Mix until it’s smooth and then add to the chili to help it thicken.
- Use a sifter like this one to sift flour into the chili directly. Do this in small amounts and mix immediately to prevent the flour from clumping.
No matter how you use flour, you need to make sure it does not clump. When it clumps, it becomes like glue and is nearly impossible to break up again. Never mix flour into cold water before adding it to chili.
#8 Xanthan Gum
No matter what kind of flour or starch you choose to mix in, there is always a chance that it will change the flavor of the chili more than you want it to.
If you want to avoid this problem altogether, you can use xanthan gum to thicken your chili. While xanthan gum might seem expensive, you’ll be able to use it to thicken many different kinds of dishes.
Using xanthan gum is a bit like using other starches - it will create clumps if mixed directly into the chili or another hot liquid.
Mix it into a small amount of cold water and then add this to the chili to help it thicken.
#9 Add The Cornmeal Early
The final option I’d like to share with you on how to thicken your chili is cornmeal. If you’re going to use cornmeal, you need to add it to your chili early in the cooking and simmering process. It has to simmer for at least 10 minutes after being added.
Why? Because it has a gritty texture that needs time to simmer. If you add cornmeal at the end to thicken your chili, you will not be able to get rid of some of this grittiness.
Note that when you add cornmeal to chili, you’re adding the taste of corn! Some people love this addition because it reminds them of tortilla chips. Others feel it ruins the flavor of the chili. What you what to believe is up to you!
Now That Your Chili Is Thick…
It was super easy to figure out a solution to save your chili, right? I was so thankful to my grandma when she taught me some of these tricks. Now, I never have to worry about runny chili!
Did you find a solution to your chili problem that you liked best? Make sure to let me know in the comments, and share this with any other chili lovers who just can’t get their chili to thicken up!