5 Easy Ways to Thicken Chili

If your chili is thin, reach for these ingredients and try these techniques.

Chili with Cilantro, Limes, etc.
Photo: Marcus Nilsson

Whether you're craving comfort food on a winter night or hosting a game-day party, you can't go wrong with chili. It's hearty, delicious, and endlessly customizable. And while the dish is relatively easy to make, there are times when you might end up with a soupy and thin result.

Luckily, there are several ways to thicken chili and reduce the excess liquid, as proven by these expert-approved tips and tricks.

Simmer Longer

One of the easiest ways to thicken chili is to simply increase the cooking time. Simmer your dish for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring it occasionally, says Traci Weintraub, chef and founder of Gracefully Fed, a meal delivery service and restaurant in Los Angeles. Simmering it for longer will also help intensify and blend the flavors, she adds.

Add Beans

If your chili contains beans, use a fork to mash them against the side of the pot. This will add body to your chili, according to food stylist and recipe developer Riley Wofford. "Mashing releases the starch [in] the beans, and it only takes a minute or two to start working," she says.

If your chili is currently bean-free, consider adding some to thicken things up. Just be sure to properly drain the beans, as extra liquid from canned versions will only thin your chili further, says Weintraub. Not a fan of these legumes? Consider adding lentils, which have a similar effect, she says.

Use All-Purpose Flour or Cornstarch

All-purpose flour and cornstarch are useful for thickening chili, as well as sauces, soups, and stews. However, you'll want to avoid adding these ingredients directly to your recipe, as this will result in clumps. Instead, create a slurry and add it slowly to help the thickener fully incorporate. "Transfer some warm liquid [from the chili] to a separate bowl. Whisk in the flour or cornstarch, then slowly stir it back in the pot," advises Wofford. Bring the mixture back to a boil, which will "activate" the ingredient, instantly thickening the dish.

Whether you turn to flour or cornstarch, Wofford suggests using a small amount to start. You can always add another round of slurry if the chili is still too thin.

Add More Vegetables

You can never go wrong with additional vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, or mushrooms. In addition to making your chili recipe chunkier and heartier, the vegetables will release starches as they cook, helping thicken the liquid. Weintraub is partial to diced bell peppers. "They add flavor, but don't get lost in the mix, as onions [or] garlic might," she says.

Mix in Cornmeal

Another easy way to thicken chili is to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornmeal. According to Wofford, the ingredient will soak up the hot liquid, creating a creamy texture (like cooked polenta). Cornmeal will also add a pleasant corn flavor, which pairs well with common chili ingredients like bell peppers, tomatoes, and chili powder.

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