How to Thicken Chili: 16 Ways of Thickening Chili

When you make chili and it turns out to be thin, you may find your culinary skills being questioned. Nobody likes a thin sauce yet the main challenge of making chili is that sometimes it comes out too runny requiring further thickening.

This is very common. You will want to thicken your chili without compromising or affecting the flavor. Thickening your chili will depend on what ingredients were used to make the chili in the first place. You can choose to thicken chili while still cooking the chili or during serving.

How to Thicken Chili

How to Thicken Chili

Here are 16 techniques of thickening chili. You can use any of them to thicken chili.

1. Let the extra water evaporate to thicken chili

Use the process of evaporation to reduce the amount of water in your chili sauce. Remove the lid, to give room for the extra water, which is in steam form to evaporate. You do not want to burn your chili and therefore don’t let the temperature of the stove be too high. Use a low heat to protect the bottom of your chili pot from burning.

To avoid burning your chili, check your cooking pot every 20 minutes and stir the pot. It is advisable to use an insulated pot for this simmering.

This method works slowly. It may take up to an hour before achieving a strong concentrated chili. Fortunately, this method preserves the flavor of your chili because no extra ingredients are added to your recipe.

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2. Use Cornstarch

There are many thickening ingredients to choose from as thickening agents. Cornstarch is one of the thickening agents for making sauces, soups, and stews. For good results, mix the cornstarch with cold water first in a separate bowl. Mix a tablespoon of water with a tablespoon of cornstarch and mix them well. Make sure that all lumps are mixed up before adding the mixture to your chili.

Add to your chili slowly while stirring and checking the thickness. The amount of cornstarch will depend on the quantity of chili that needs thickening. Use medium heat to cook the mixture, until it boils. The cornstarch will thicken the chili sauce within minutes. Cornstarch has no flavor and will not compromise the flavor of your chili.

3. Using flour to thicken chili

Flour works like magic in thickening stews, soups, and sauces. When it comes to choosing which flour to use for thickening your chili, you have many options. You can use either cornmeal, arrowroot flour, unflavored protein powder among other flours. We will discuss how to use some of these flours to thicken chili sauce.

4. Protein powder

You will find protein powder in various outlets including grocery stores. There are a few ways to use protein flour to thicken your chili to avoid clumps. Take some of the hot liquid from your cooking pot and mix it thoroughly with the flour. One to two tablespoons of flour should be enough depending on how much chili you made or intend to thicken. Add the mixture to your cooking pot and stir well and cook for a few minutes.

Alternatively, you can add water to the flour in a separate bowl and mix them up well and ensure that it is smooth. Then add the mixture to your chili. Cook over medium heat stirring the mixture constantly until your sauce thickens. This should take a couple of minutes and your chili will be ready to serve

4. Cornmeal flour

Some flours can be mixed directly into the chili. This is the case with cornmeal flour. But in small amounts and mixed immediately to prevent the flour from forming clumps. The amount of flour used depends on the amount of chili. Using too much flour may make the chili lose its power.

5. Arrowroot flour to thicken chili

Take arrowroot flour and mix it with a little water. The flour amount largely depends on how much chili you cooked. You can start with one tablespoon of the arrowroot flour. Mix the flour with a tablespoon of water in a separate bowl. Mix them well until it is a smooth paste. Add the paste to your chili cooking, stirring to ensure that they mix well. Arrowroot will work well to thicken your chili because it has no flavor and it is potent. Only a small amount is needed.

6. Use Beans

If beans are one of the ingredients that are in your chili, then you have an easy way of thickening your chili. Take out a portion of the beans. Mash them using a blender or food processor into a thick paste. Add the beans paste back into your chili, stir the mixture well and let it cook for a few minutes.

You can mash between a half a cup of beans to one cup depending on how much chili you made and how much beans you have in your chili sauce.

7. Altering the chili recipe to thicken chili

Alternatively, you can alter your recipe in order to thicken your chili. Do this by adding some ingredients. If you do not have some ingredients in your chili, you can introduce them as a way of thickening your chili. And if you have some, you can add some more. Since your chili is already cooked, you need precooked ingredients. Some of the ingredients you can use include canned or home-cooked beans, onion, corn, okra, noodles or drained tomatoes. You can use only one ingredient or several of the ingredients.

Add these items towards the end of your cooking. The result will be a thick chili sauce. As for beans or ingredients that can be mashed, start by adding a cup to your chili mixture. If the chili is still runny, you can mash up some more beans and add them too. The beans not only thicken the chili but makes your sauce delicious.

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8. Tomato paste to thicken chili

The ingredients used in making chili depends on an individual’s personal tastes and preferences. Most of the time, tomato paste is used as a basic ingredient in making chili sauce.

Therefore when you end up with a dilute chili, you may want to consider adding some of the ingredients you used to make the chili.

Tomato paste works wonders in thickening pastes, stews, and soups. Mix the tomato paste just before serving, in the final half hour of your cooking. The tomato paste will not introduce any new flavor to your chili but can slightly alter the power of the chili. To avoid making the chili becoming less potent you can add some seasoning to your sauce.

Add the tomato paste, a little at a time, stirring and checking the thickness to ensure that you achieve your desired thickness level.

Taste your chili, if the tomato paste has altered the flavor a bit, consider adding granulated sugar to the mixture.

9. Use oats

Dried oats are a good way of thickening your chili. Use parboiled oats. Normal oats will take longer than 30 minutes to cook. Therefore if you only have normal oats, then you will need to cook the chili for much longer. The oats work by absorbing the liquid in the chili, thickening the sauce.

10. Use beer as a thickening agent

Beer can be used to do wonders in your cooking. It is a baking agent, it tenderizes marinades, and it is a thickening agent. Beer introduces new flavors to your cooking adding bitterness from the hop and sweetness from the malt.

To thicken your chili using beer, take a clean pan. Put beer in your pan and cook it before adding the chili sauce. Or alternatively, let the beer cook separately in a pan, then add the cooked beer into your chili. You can also add the beer directly into your chili sauce, and let it simmer for one to two hours. The result will be a thick chili recipe.

Beer has starch in it. It thickens sauces by releasing the starch into the chili.

11. Thicken during serving

There are great ways of thickening your chili during serving. It depends on your personal tastes and preferences. Consider the many great chili thickeners that can be mixed into your hot chili without requiring to be cooked or boiled because they are ready to eat.

12. Use crackers to thicken chili

Add crackers to your chili to thicken the chili sauce to your desired preference. You can use different flavors and types of crackers. Try garlic crackers, onion crackers, oyster crackers, cheese crackers among other flavors. Simply crush the crackers into your chili serving and mix them up well with a spoon.

13. Use Cheese to thicken chili

If you have cheese, then you can use it to thicken your chili sauce. Add in grated or soft cheese into your sauce while it is still hot and mix it up with a spoon. You will achieve a smooth texture.

14. Cornbread

Add a slice of cornbread or a single muffin into your chili serving. Crumble the cornbread and stir it in the chili. The cornbread thickens the chili by absorbing some of the liquid.

15. Corn Chips

Another way to thicken your chili after it is cooked is to add corn chips into your chili. Corn chips have a great flavor improving the overall taste of your chili. Crush the corn chips and stir them well with your chili sauce.

16. With Potato flakes thicken chili

Add potato flakes to your chili sauce to thicken it. Add the dried potato flakes into the chili while it is still hot and stir it well. The potato flakes will add some delicious flavor to your chili altering the original flavor slightly while at the same time thicken your sauce.


There are many ways of thickening a chili. It depends on your personal tastes and preferences, how much time you have at hand and what ingredients you have. If you are done with your cooking, then consider thickening your chili while serving.

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