4 Pro Tips For How To Thicken Chili For Home Cooks

chili con carne peppers

There’s nothing more offensive to a true chili lover than a thin bowl of chili.

On the other hand, you don’t want a bowl of chili that’s so thick that the spoon stands up straight in it. It’s all about balance.

We know that getting your chili to thicken is a bit of an art form.

Thankfully, the Kitchen Authority team has learned ways to thicken chili no matter what the occasion is or what your preferred style of chili is.

Whether your chili recipe is “con carne” or a plant-based, vegan chili there are easy ways to thicken up your chili with the right ingredients.

Why Should Your Chili Be Thick?

That’s a pretty good question. After all, there are plenty of minced-based stews that aren’t thick, and they taste great.

chili is a texas food

So, what is it about this one that requires a sauce that screams “viscosity” (our word of the day)?

Chili is real Tex-Mex cooking. It originates, not from Mexico, but from Texas.

It was prepared by poor families looking to preserve and extend their meat rations.

To do that, cooks used peppers (and sometimes other ingredients like beans) to add bulk to the pot and allow it to be stretched out over several meals.

If you’re interested in the history of Chili then check out this interesting article on Food Republic: A Brief History of Chili Con Carne.

thicken chili examples

To ensure that the peppers kept their texture, the chili would be cooked for a very long period of time but over a very low heat.

This meant that it stayed edible and safe for however many meals it would be served for. Paired with tortilla chips or corn chips this was a staple in the local diet.

This kind of cooking – to let the chili simmer – naturally reduces the liquid in the pot and that means a thicker sauce.

So, chili ought to be thick because it’s traditional and authentic. It’s essential you learn how to thicken chili!

How To Thicken Chili In Your Kitchen

Believe it or not, there are a few ways of thickening chili and which one you use may be down to the circumstances you’re cooking the chili under or your personal preference.

We find that the best method is the one that you have the right ingredients on hand for.

After all, why go shopping when you don’t have to? Then you can spend more time cooking, right?

How To Thicken Chili: The Classic Methods

chili to thicken chili

The classic chili thickening techniques are ones you can employ to thicken almost any stew or soup.

They come from the classical culinary schools which originate in France.

Use A Roux To Thicken Your Chili

A roux is an easy way to get started thickening a chili. If you think your chili is looking good but are worried that it won’t thicken by the time you want to chow down, this might be the way to go.

You make a roux by popping equal parts flour and fat over a moderate heat. We recommend butter for most roux preparation, but you can always go for bacon dripping, lard or even a vegetable oil if needed.

Pro-tip: When you use a roux to thicken chili, try substituting a little of the flour for the spices you’re making the chili with. This can really help bring out the flavor of the final dish.

Use A Whitewash To Thicken Chili

Just don’t use the sort of whitewash that Tom Sawyer painted fences with. This whitewash is made using a slurry of flour and water. You add the mix to your chili pot and it will thicken the mix.

The downside? This is not as good as a roux for thickening chili. You can find that if you use too much flour it seriously impacts on the flavor of the chili.

Low carb diet tip: You can swap protein powder for the flour if you want. But be aware this will make the dish higher-calorie.

Pro-tip: You can also use cornstarch or even arrowroot flour instead of actual flour for the whitewash but be warned – you need a lot less of these starches than you need flour. You’re probably looking at no more than 2 ounces of the starch to a quart of liquid. If you add too much, this can ruin the chili completely.

Use Masa Harina To Thicken Chili

how to thicken chili con carne

No water is required here. About two or three tablespoons of Masa Harina ought to be enough to remove a ton of the excess liquid in a runny chili.

However, there’s no escaping the fact that Masa Harina will change the taste of your chili.

We’d recommend boiling the mix for about 10 minutes after adding the Masa Harina to minimize the damage.

Use An Emulsifier To Thicken Chili

You can pick these up in any health food store. Lecithin is the most popular emulsifying agent. You need to add the emulsifier to the chili a teaspoon at a time. It’s best used when the chili is already quite thick, and you just need to finish it off – don’t use this technique with a watery chili.

Consider Using A Blender

If all else fails, you can always blend your chili in an immersion blender. Take about a third of your chili and blend it.

This works best when the chili has corn, potatoes, or another substantive vegetable ingredient in it.

Whatever you do, learn how to properly thicken the chili. It’s worth it! Now, you can look forward to thick, tasty chili whenever you want it!