We can all agree on the same thing: there is nothing as better in overcoming your hunger pangs as a thick, hearty bowl of chili. Whether you serve it with cornbread, baked potatoes, or on its own, chili is the ultimate hearty meal that is surefire to warm your soul.
However, your chili may turn too watery – and that’s normal. The good news is that you can always turn your thin pot of chili into a thick one in several easy ways.
This post will look at the several causes of thin chili and how to thicken them.
What is chili
Chili is a thick sauce with beans, meat, and spices, although you may add your favorite ingredients for a personal touch. Whichever ingredients you decide to add to your chili recipe, a longer cooking time can benefit your meal.
The best chili recipes allow for flexibility and versatility of the ingredients to produce the best flavors. The typical chili includes white chicken chili, turkey, and classic beef chili.
How you cook your chili may vary depending on your preferred equipment – like a Dutch oven, stockpot, slower cooker, or pressure cooker – and the time you have available. This is because every method demands different levels of cooking time and attention.
What causes thin chili?
Although several factors contribute to a thin chili, they all trace back to one main problem: lack of liquid evaporation, which occurs because of:
Too much stock:
Yes, beef or chicken stock will add flavor to your chili, but it can also make your mixture thin. Add solid ingredients like meat, veggies, and beans or let the chili cook for a longer time.
Short cooking times:
A short cooking time means that not all the water in your chili will evaporate. You may fix this problem by allowing the chili to simmer for longer, which works best to enhance your meal’s flavor.
Too many fresh tomatoes:
Fresh tomatoes are perfect for adding color and flavor to your chili recipes. However, the tomatoes may make your dish runny when heated.
If you find yourself with thin chili, you may fix the problem in several great ways, as we’ll see below.
How to Thicken Chili
Chili is personal, and everyone can have their favorite recipe. But whichever recipe you use, ensure you make the final product thick – it allows you to achieve the best flavors.
Here are 13 easy ways to turn your thin chili into a thick, flavorful dish:
Method #1: Remove the Lid
This is perhaps the easiest way to thicken your chili; remove the lid from the pot and allow your chili to simmer. Leave the meal to cook for about 20-30 minutes on low heat so that the excess liquid can evaporate.
Remember to maintain a low temperature, as too much heat will burn your chili into a bitter substance. Specifically, temperatures below 212 degrees F are recommended.
Method #2: Thicken your chili post cooking
You can serve your chili with crackers to make it less runny if you can’t wait for it to thicken up while cooking. Oyster crackers, crumbled saltine crackers, or other flavored crackers will be perfect for improving your meal.
You may use grated cheese, potato flakes, or cornbread, too.
Method #3: Add oats
Yup, oats, too, can serve your purpose to thicken the chili dish. In fact, it’s recommended over all-purpose flour or cornstarch, as it is healthier.
Add a tablespoon of quick oats to your chili dish and leave it to cook on medium-high heat for about three minutes. The oat will absorb the excess liquid, leaving you with a thick chili dish.
Method #4: Add xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is a sugar extracted from corn, wheat, and soy. The ingredient is mainly found in toothpaste, ice cream or bubblegum, although it’s also used as a stabilizer or thickening agent.
Xanthan is entirely flavorless, meaning it won’t affect the flavor of your chili.
To use the thickening agent, dilute a few tablespoons in cold water and add it to your runny chili meal. Adding the xanthan gum directly to the meal will create small lumps.
Method #5: Use masa harina
Masa harina is a type of flour obtained from dried corn kernels cooked and soaked in a lime solution to form hominy. The flour works perfectly to make your runny chili thicker.
Don’t mistake masa harina for cornmeal, however. Masa harina has a flour-like texture and a white shade.
To thicken your chili dish:
- Add two tablespoons of masa harina to your meal. Too much specialty corn flour can turn your chili dish into a solid stew.
- Wait for about 5-10 minutes and check for consistency
- Repeat the process if the chili is still watery
Method #6: Use cornmeal or polenta
Cornmeal or polenta is another perfect alternative to masa harina – they, too, absorb the excess liquid in the chili dish, leaving it thicker. Unlike masa harina, this alternative will leave your meal with graininess.
Mix one tablespoon of cornmeal or polenta with water and add it to the chili mix. Diluting it before adding it to the mix helps avoid a lumpy stew.
Method #7: Add corn chips
You may also use corn or tortilla chips to absorb the excess liquid in your chili and make it thicker. To use this method:
- Crumble the corn or tortilla chips
- Boil your chili and cook it over low heat
- Add the crushed tortilla or corn chips
- Stir for about 10 minutes, and the chili will have thickened.
Method #8: Add beans to your chili
Beans are also ideal thickening agents for chili. It’s a perfect alternative for individuals that don’t like using cornstarch or wheat flour.
To use beans as thickening agents:
- Grind them using a potato masher or a spoon. This will help the beans to release more starch to soak up the excess liquid
- If your beans have water, drain it
- Add the crushed beans to your chili
- Cook with low heat until your chili becomes thick.
Large beans like black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are the best thickening agents. Ensure you taste your chili and adjust your season to maintain a balanced flavor.
Method #9: Use wheat or corn starch
Corn starch and wheat flour have high levels of starch that will absorb the excess liquid in your chili, making it thicker. And the best thing about this method is that it doesn’t change your meal’s flavor.
To thicken your chili:
- Mix wheat flour or corn starch with water in a ratio of 1:2. Adding the powder directly will make your chili lumpy.
- Add the viscous mixture to the chili and stir.
- Heat it until the dough is cooked and the chili thickens.
Method 10: Use tomato paste
Using tomato paste is yet another best way to thicken your runny chili. In addition to enhancing your chili’s texture, this method improves its flavor.
To get started:
- Add about 6 ounces of paste, 2 ounces after several minutes, during the last 60 minutes of cooking
- If the paste makes your chili bitter, add a tablespoon of sugar to counterbalance it.
Method #11: Add cornflour
Corn flour is a refined form of cornmeal but with a rougher texture than masa harina. This product may also be used to thicken your chili.
To get started:
- Add about two tablespoons of flour (all-purpose flour) to a bowl and pour ¼ cup of cold water into the bowl.
- Stir well and add the mixture to your chili
- Allow it to cook on medium-high heat for several minutes. Keep stirring to avoid lumps in your chili
Method #12: Add more vegetables
This is one of the best methods because it improves your meal’s texture and adds nutrition. You may choose from various veggies, including onions, tomatoes, corn kernels, potatoes, and peppers.
Whether it’s mashed potatoes, small pieces of diced onions, or blended tomatoes, they’ll work perfectly to thicken your chili. The vegetable release starches as they cook, which works as a thickener agent and boost the meal’s flavors.
Method #13: Use pasta
If your chili isn’t thick enough, you may add uncooked noodles to soak up the excess liquid. For instance, you may add pasta to simmering chili to absorb the extra chili liquid.
Elbow macaroni, small shells, curly spirals, ziti, and penne are some pasta varieties to consider. Note that the pasta will cook for 8 to 12 minutes and become less effective after cooking.
Expectation vs. Reality
Knowing how to thicken your chili is one thing and actually doing it is another. If you want to have the best chili meal that tastes better, you should consider your ingredients and do it carefully.
Remember, you may not get the perfectly cooked chili the first time!
The bottom line
There you have it, folks – the 13 best, easiest ways to thicken your chili. Removing the lid and cooking your chili at a low temperature is the easiest, but all methods work perfectly to thicken your chili.
Good luck as you purpose to use this post to finesse your chili cooking skills.