Home Articles How to Thicken Chili (8 Easy Ways)

How to Thicken Chili (8 Easy Ways)

Wondering how to thicken chili that’s too thin and maybe even a little soupy?

Then you’ve come to the right place because I have eight simple ways to make chili hearty, thick, and delicious!

How to Thicken Chili (8 Easy Ways)

How to Thicken Chili Fast 

The good news is a batch of runny chili isn’t the end of the world.

In fact, it’s easier than you think to make it thick and satisfying, including adding veggies or mixing in a thickener like cornstarch.

So say goodbye to soupy chili once and for all! Because after reading this post, you’ll never have to wonder how to thicken chili again.

Chili Con Carne with Beans and Chips

1. Remove The Lid

Let’s start with a method requiring the least effort: just take the lid off the pot!

It’s simple science, really.

Hot chili bubbling in a pot creates steam. And when that steam hits the lid, it turns into condensation.

With the lid on, that liquid has nowhere to go but back into your chili.

But if you turn the heat to low, remove the lid, and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, it should thicken right up.

How to Thicken Chili with Beans or Corn

2. Add More Beans

Still not thick enough? Add a cup of beans and mash some of them for good measure!

When you break down beans, they release their natural starches, helping to thicken the chili.

It’s just like adding potatoes to stew!

Just be sure to mash them before adding them to the pot. Otherwise, you’ll mash the other ingredients too!

Cook the chili for another 30 minutes, and it will thicken up.

Homemade Masa Harina Tamales with Ground Beef

3. Add Masa Harina

If you’ve ever made tamales, you’ll know masa harina is a corn-based flour that’s often used as a thickening agent.

So it makes total sense to add it to a pot of meaty stew!

Don’t mistake it for cornmeal, though, because they’re not the same. Masa harina has a lighter shade and a flour-like texture. 

Use it slowly, adding just a tablespoon at a time, then wait for 10-15 minutes to see how it works.

Also, keep in mind it gives off a bit of corn-like flavor. So if you’re not a fan, maybe choose another thickener.

How to Thicken Chili with Tortilla Chips

4. Add Tortilla Chips

Believe it or not, 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. And be sure to wait for 10 minutes before adding more.

I suggest plain corn chips so it doesn’t affect the stew’s flavor. But you could try something spicy if you want a kick of heat.

How to Thicken Chili with Tomato Paste

5. 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.

You’ll need about 6 ounces of paste for one regular pot. Add 2 ounces every few minutes during the last 60 minutes of cooking.

Don’t add it all at once, or it may not blend properly.

Also, remember that tomato paste is quite bitter. So taste as you go, and add sugar if needed.

How to Thicken Chili with Cornstarch

6. Add Cornstarch, Flour, Cornmeal, or Arrowroot

Chances are you have a thickener in your pantry as we speak. And while they all get the job done, they are different and shouldn’t be used the same.


Cornstarch is a terrific thickening agent that has instant effects. So it’s ideal if you’re in a rush.

But you don’t want to add it right into the pot, or you’ll end up with little lumps.

Instead, make a slurry with two tablespoons of cornstarch and cold water. Add enough liquid, so the cornstarch dissolves.

Then, add it to the stew and mix it well. You should see it thicken within 10 minutes or so, and it won’t change the flavor.


Aside from cornstarch, flour can also help thicken things up.

Make a slurry like we discussed above (two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cold water), then mix it into the chili.

It should begin to work after about five minutes.


Arrowroot is a flavorless plant-based thickener that’s pretty potent. So you won’t need a lot to get your chili to thicken.

And it’s so potent, you’ll only need to use a little bit.

To use, add a teaspoon of arrowroot to a teaspoon of cold water. Give it a good stir, then add it to the chili.

Cornmeal (or Polenta)

I mentioned cornmeal above, and as you might guess, it’s a great thickener.

Cornmeal and polenta absorb moisture really well, so you won’t need a lot. A tablespoon should do the trick, and be sure to add it slowly!

Unfortunately, they will leave the chili with a slightly grainy texture. I don’t mind it, but if you’re a texture person, you might want to avoid it.

How to Thicken Chili with Tomatoes

7. Add More Veggies

I love this technique because aside from improving the texture, it also brings a slew of nutrients!

There are no wrong answers. So tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, onions, potatoes, pumpkin…you get the picture.

Whether they’re smashed, diced, or blended, they’ll do a fine job of thickening your chili.

How to Thicken Chili with Oyster Crackers

8. Add Crackers After Serving

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 well, too!

How to Thicken Chili (8 Easy Ways)

Wondering how to thicken chili that’s too thin and maybe even a little soupy? Here are eight simple ways to make chili hearty, thick, and delicious!


  • Chili

  • Beans

  • Masa Harina

  • Tortilla Chips

  • Tomato Paste

  • Cornstarch, Flour, Cornmeal, or Arrowroot

  • Extra Vegetables

  • Crackers


  • Method 1: Remove the lid and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes.
  • Method 2: Add more beans to the pot. Mash half to let the starches thicken the stew.
  • Method 3: Add 1 tablespoon of masa harina, stir well, and cook for 10 minutes. Add more as needed.
  • Method 4: Add crushed tortilla chips and mix well.
  • Method 5: Add 6 ounces of tomato paste in 2-ounce intervals. Then stir, taste, and add sugar as needed.
  • Method 6: Add a thickener – cornstarch, flour, cornmeal, or arrowroot. Make a slurry with water, mix it well, then cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • Method 7: Add more veggies. Mash them, puree them, or add them in chunks. (Use whatever you like, such as beans, potatoes, corn, peppers, pumpkin, etc.)
  • Method 8: Thicken the chili after serving with crackers. Just sprinkle them over the top, and they’ll soak up some of the excess moisture.
How to Thicken Chili

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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