It’s finally fall which means it’s also chili season! This hearty autumnal staple is a classic choice for almost any occasion, from game day to cold weather dinner parties to a tasty weeknight meal. But what’s the main bummer when making chili at home? Sometimes it can end up watery and thinner than anticipated. So, we’ve curated an exhaustive list of all the best ways to thicken chili to your tastes. After all, it’s the ultimate comfort food for this time of year and deserves a little extra love. Read on for our favorite methods to thicken chili.
Starch is a great place to start for our thickening purposes as it is a classic method. The most commonly used is cornstarch. To use, combine one tablespoon cornstarch with one tablespoon of cool water in a separate container from the chili. Beat with fork until there are no more lumps remaining, then add to chili and heat over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it thickens. Be sure to cook for a full two minutes more after thickening so the starch breaks all the way down. This method is totally flavorless but does add a little sheen or glossy appearance to the dish.
Tapioca starch is an alternative thickening agent that we recommend for food intolerances since it’s naturally gluten-free. It also produces a clearer, less shiny sauce that is also flavor-free. Use it the same way as the cornstarch steps explained above by creating a slurry to add to your chili. Extra bonus? Tapioca starch is often used for paleo recipes.
Our next way to thicken chili to your tastes is perhaps the easiest: mashing. It requires a kitchen tool usually reserved for mashing potatoes. Simply smash some of the chili, just not the entire pot, so some of the vegetables and beans remain intact. Doing this will help those ingredients release their natural starches which will naturally thicken your chili. Plus, it doesn’t require extra cooking time. How soup-er!
Reducing the chili is a surefire way to not alter the flavor significantly, since you aren’t adding any ingredients or new components. With reduction, you can expect to have a more concentrated flavor since you are lessening the liquid in the dish through evaporation. To reduce to thicken, we recommend removing the lid from your Dutch oven or pot and letting it simmer for an extra thirty to sixty minutes more. Keep an eye on it during this time, stirring occasionally. The downside to this approach is it does require additional cooking time. Just remember, patience is a virtue.
Flour is another flavorless classic method to thicken dishes like chili. It is an option, though not our favorite way, since it can dull the flavor and adds carbs to the chili. To thicken using flour, create a slurry in a separate container much like the starch method. We suggest adding two tablespoons of all-purpose flour to 1/4 cup of cold or room temperature water. Then, mix until combined and add to your pot over medium-high heat. Stir constantly for a few minutes until the mixture thickens to your liking.
5. Chili Ingredients
Another cool option that doesn’t involve any additional ingredients is simply using items already in the chili to thicken it to your likening. One such example is tomato paste; this is especially helpful for a tomato-based red chili, which is the only type we recommend for this approach. To thicken with tomato paste, add 1/3 of a 6 ounce can to chili when about half an hour remains of cooking time. Then let simmer with occasional stirring.
To thicken chili with another ingredient that is already present, we have another idea. Carefully measure about 1/2 cup of the beans from your chili. Next, puree them in food processor or blender. You can then re-add the bean mixture to the chili. Much like the mashing mentioned above, the natural starches from the beans will release into the chili and thicken it. Plus, it doesn’t affect the flavor since beans are already a major part of the dish. Pro tip: be careful with your food processor when using it with warm liquid.
6. Thicken Individual Portions
Our final suggestion for thickening chili to your tastes is to focus on the texture of each individual bowl. You can adjust it with a number of delicious toppings. Shredded cheese will up the gooey factor; we like sharp cheddar for a little bite or Monterey Jack for a more mild option. You could also crumble homemade cornbread to help absorb some of the excess liquid and provide another yummy level of flavor. Or, you can do the basic version of crumbling saltine crackers into the chili to help thicken it.
Whichever way you choose, we are happy to have shared some helpful tips for thickening chili to your tastes. Hopefully it’ll be “chili” out so you can tackle our suggestions soon!