Chili should be thick and hearty! But what if you end up with a bowl that’s thin and soupy?
Do you just give up? Wash away your dreams of thick and delicious chili? Of course not!
There are many ways to transform thin chili into a hearty and satisfying stew. Here are 15 simple ways to turn that watery mess into a thick, mouthwatering chili.
Remove The Lid
Let’s start with a method that requires the least amount of effort: just take the lid off the pot and let your chili simmer.
Put it on low heat and stir. Give it 20-30 minutes, maybe even more. Soon, all that excess liquid will turn into vapor, thickening your chili.
Remember, the key here is the low temperature. If you turn the heat too high, you’ll get a burnt and bitter chili. Keep the temperature below 212 degrees Fahrenheit and you’re good.
Add More Beans
Still not thick enough? Add a cup of beans and mash some of them!
When you break down beans, they release their natural starches, helping to thicken the chili.
You can mash them while they’re in the pot, but it’s much better to transfer some of them into a different container and mash. You don’t want the rest of the ingredients to turn into pulp!
Then return the beans to the pot and stir vigorously. Let the soup sit for 30 minutes and it will thicken up.
Add Masa Harina
Masa harina is a corn-based flour that’s often used as a thickening agent in Latin American cooking. Don’t mistake it for cornmeal, though, because they’re not the same. Masa harina has a whiter shade and a flour-like texture.
Be patient, though, because it takes a while for its effects to kick in. If you put too much right away, then you might end up with a solid stew.
Also, it gives off a bit of corn-like flavor, so if you’re not a fan, go easy on it. Start by adding 2 tablespoons of masa harina to your chili. Wait 5-10 minutes and check the consistency. Repeat the process if needed.
Add Cornmeal or Polenta
Apart from masa harina, cornmeal and polenta can also work well. These ingredients help absorb the excess liquid in the chili, making it thicker.
It will give the chili a bit of graininess, though. It’s like having cornbread crumbles in your chili. But that never bothered me!
To use, mix a tablespoon with water and then pour the mixture into the chili. Diluting it beforehand will ensure you won’t get a lumpy stew.
You can add corn or tortilla chips to help absorb the liquid in your chili and make it thicker. Just a few handfuls of crushed chips will go a long way. Wait for 10 minutes and you’ll start to notice your chili getting thicker.
Add Tomato Paste
Adding tomato paste is an easy way to quickly thicken your chili. Not only does it improve the texture, but it also enhances the flavor as well.
To use, add 6 ounces of paste, 2 ounces every few minutes, during the last 60 minutes of cooking.
Adding it gradually makes it easier to mix it in smoothly. If the paste makes your chili bitter, just add a tablespoon of sugar to counterbalance it.
Add Quick Oats
Sounds crazy, but it works! Aside from thickening your chili, oats are also incredibly nutritious. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and soluble fiber.
Start with a teaspoon of oats and stir. You should start seeing results immediately. Just keep adding more and stirring until you achieve your desired consistency.
Add Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum is a type of sugar extracted from soy, wheat, or corn, and works as an amazing thickening agent. If it sounds familiar to you, that could be because it’s an ingredient in bubblegum, toothpaste, and ice cream.
The great thing about xanthan gum is, unlike most of my other suggestions on this list, it won’t affect the flavor of your chili.
It’s not the cheapest ingredient. An 8-oz. pack costs $15. But this ingredient works wonders in thickening a variety of foods, including smoothies!
To use xanthan gum, dilute a few tablespoons in cold water and then add it to the mix.
Cornstarch is another great thickening agent that has instant effects, making it an ideal ingredient if you’re in a rush.
No time to simmer your chili? Just dilute two tablespoons of cornstarch in cold water and add it to the stew.
Make sure it’s mixed in well, otherwise you’ll get lumps in your chili. Let the chili cook for 10 more minutes and it will thicken up.
Just like xanthan gum, cornstarch also has no effect on the flavor of your chili.
Aside from cornstarch, flour can also help thicken things up. Make a slurry with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cold water.
Mix well and add the mixture to the chili. Let it cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes and watch the stew thicken in front of your eyes.
Keep stirring for a few more minutes just to make sure the flour won’t form any lumps.
Add More Veggies
I love this technique because aside from improving the texture, it also adds nutrition to the dish.
There are many veggies to choose from, such as tomatoes and beans, corn kernels, peppers, onions, and potatoes. Whether they’re smashed, diced, or blended, they’ll do a fine job of thickening your chili.
Arrowroot is a great leavening agent made from the arrowroot plant. It’s flavorless, so there’s no need to worry about it affecting the taste of your chili. And it’s so potent you only need to use a little bit.
To use, add a teaspoon of arrowroot with a teaspoon of cold water. Give it a good stir and add it to the chili. Let it simmer until the chili thickens to your desired consistency.
Add Protein Powder
Aside from being a health supplement, protein powder can also help thicken your chili.
To use, ladle out some of the soup from the chili into a bowl. Add one to two tablespoons of protein powder and stir until combined. Place it back to the mix and stir. Let it simmer for a few minutes and see the difference.
Aside from being a flavor enhancer, beer also does a fine job at thickening chili. That’s because it contains starch.
To use, cook your beer on medium heat for a few minutes and then mix it with the chili. Give it a few minutes to simmer and thicken. Or, you can just pour the beer without cooking it, but you must wait longer, about an hour, to see results.
Thicken it Post Cooking
Instead of waiting for your chili to thicken up while cooking, you can also just serve it with crackers on top. Crumbled saltine crackers, oyster crackers, or other flavored crackers work great for this technique. Potato flakes, cornbread, and grated cheese work fine too!