Picture this: you're simmering a pot of chili on your stovetop over low heat but something's not right. It looks more like a bowl of watery soup than thick chili. You dramatically throw yourself down on the chair and place your hand on your head like a damsel in distress. Dinner is ruined...or is it?
In the haste of panic, you add a cornmeal slurry and the contents in the chili pot start to thicken. Dinner is saved!
How do you make chili thicker?
But what if you don't have cornmeal to use as a thickening agent? Thankfully there are many easy ways to thicken chili with items you probably already have in your pantry and most of them will not affect the flavor of your chili. Excess liquid-- be gone!
?Used to make cornbread, cornmeal can be added to chili to get to your desired thickness. It can alter the taste of your chili as well as the consistency (grittier), so this is one of our least favorite options.
Is your chili too thin? Add more beans! Pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans all release natural starches when they break down. You can also mash beans in a separate bowl with a potato masher to thicken as well. Add some jalapenos, sour cream, and diced green onion for that extra kick until it reaches your desired consistency!
Add Xanthan Gum
Used in a lot of gluten-free recipes, Xanthan gum is a great thickener. The only downside is the price ($8 for 8 ounces). So unless you already have this on hand, this technique is expensive compared to the others.
Use Tomato Paste
This technique takes a little bit of planning. During the last hour of cooking, add tomato paste gradually, stirring the chili to prevent clumping.
Add Tortilla Chips
Some people like to add corn chips to their bowl of chili to add a crunch, but did you know you can add crumbled chips to your chili to thicken it? Add small pieces and like the chili cook for about 10-15 minutes. You can also do this with cornbread!
Remove the Lid
This is the easiest method. Simply remove the lid off the pot and let your chili simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes of cooking. The evaporation takes some time, so this trick isn't for the hungry.
Add Masa Harina
Found in Latin American cuisine in dishes such as tamales, masa harina is a corn-based flour. Add a little bit to your pot of chili and wait 10 minutes to see how it thickens. It does add a corn flavor to your chili recipe, so if that's something you aren't a fan of, skip this technique.
One of the quickest options is mixing a cornstarch slurry of a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water and stirring it into the hot chili.
Add Quick Oats
This one might seem a little weird but it works; trust us! Add about a tablespoon of oats into your pot and watch as it thickens immediately. Plus, it's healthy!
Add Arrowroot powder
Flavorless and easy to use, arrowroot is a great way to thicken chili. Like cornstarch and flour, it needs to be added to water to help emulsify it into the dish.
Like cornstarch, you'll need to add water to your flour for it to emulsify smoothly into the chili. 1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp cold water usually does the trick. When you use flour, make sure the chili simmers, otherwise, you'll taste the uncooked flour.
Crumble in Crackers
What if you realized your chili was watery after you ladled it out? No fear, add potato flakes, grated cheese, or crushed crackers to thicken it up quickly.
This article was originally published on October 5, 2021. Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.