How to Thicken Chili

Whether your chili recipe is meat or vegetarian, spicy or mild, white or red, the reception can be completely thrown off if it is presented as soup. Texture and visual are partners to taste in all gastronomic experiences. If you've accidentally added too much water or forgot to drain that can of tomatoes, don't sweat it, there are a variety of ways in which you can thicken up the pot, either by adding a thickener, cooking out the moisture, or adding more “chili” to counterbalance the liquid.

Things You'll Need

  • Cornstarch
  • All purpose flour
  • Masa harina (corn flour)
  • Beans and meat
  • Tortilla chips
  • Cornbread
  • Flour tortillas

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Step 1

Cook longer. If your chili is too thin, it is because there is too much water in it. Most chili calls for an added 1 cup of water-based liquid like beer; however if you have also added canned or undrained stewed tomatoes, you are adding a lot more water to the pot. If you like the flavor of your chili exactly as it is, the most unobtrusive method to thicken it is to allow some of the water to cook off. To do so, cook uncovered over a medium to low heat for 30 minutes to an hour more. Don't let it boil or you will turn the beans to a mush, but you do want it hot enough to see steam. More steam means more water is evaporating.

Step 2

Add more beans or meat. If you've added too much liquid, counter it by adding more solids. If your chili contains meat and or beans, consider adding more, such as one more can of beans, to make the mix a little thicker in proportion to the liquid.

Step 3

Stir in a thickener such as corn starch, flour, or masa harina. Cornstarch and flour thicken whatever they are put into. Cornstarch is commonly used as a gravy thickener and is fine enough in texture to not be noticed. Mix the cornstarch or flour in a little dish with a few tablespoons of water before adding it to the chili to avoid clumps. Masa harina, or corn flour (the same type used for tortillas) is a common additive to chili because not only does it thicken the chili, but the corn flour taste enhances the chili flavor for the better. Chili is often served with cornbread or tortilla chips.

Step 4

Crush tortilla chips or even flour tortilla shells and allow to hydrate. If you are somewhat desperate and need to use what's on hand, throwing anything into the chili pot that will absorb the liquid is a bona fide way to thicken it. Crushed tortilla chips, crumbled cornbread, or ripped tortillas stirred in and cooked for a few minutes will soak up the water and give the chili more structure.


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