How to Thicken Chili With Cornstarch & Other Methods

I can’t think of enough good things to say about chili. It is a great all around food with a wide range of variations to help it please any palate. It’s nutritious, with a great balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables, making a complete meal in one dish.

Chili is one of my favorite dinners after a long day at work, because it can easily cook in the crockpot while I’m busy. It’s also a favorite food of mine for entertaining because everybody loves it and it’s easy to feed a crowd. Here are some of the chili variations I make on a regular basis:

  • Traditional Chili with Ground Beef, Kidney Beans and Tomatoes
  • Spicy Andouille Chili with Black Beans and Chocolate
  • Vegetarian Chili with Kidney Beans, Tomatoes and Mushrooms
  • White Chicken Chili with Cannelloni Beans
  • No Bean Chili with Ground Beef

As you can see, there are lots of different kinds of chili you can make, but there is one feature that is critical no matter what variety you choose; good chili is nice and thick.
How to thicken chili - Chili peppers
There are a few different ways to thicken chili. Choose the one that works for you, based on the way you’re cooking your chili and the ingredients you have on hand.

  • Method 1 – Natural Reduction
  • Method 2 – Thickening With Flour
  • Method 3 – Thickening with Cornstarch
  • Method 4 – Thickening with Cornmeal

Any of these methods will thicken your chili nicely. My favorite method is natural reduction because it adds nothing to the chili that isn’t already there. The downside to this method is that you really have to attend the chili for an hour or two to monitor the progress and prevent overcooking. This method also doesn’t work as well if you are making chili without beans, because it involves using some of the natural bean starch for thickening. However, simmering can thicken any chili, with or without beans, if you have the time.

If I’m away from home during the bulk of the time my chili is cooking, I will use method two or three, depending upon what I have on hand. Each of these methods works equally well, and thickens your chili fairly quickly.
How to thicken chili - Red chili peppers chopped
I use the cornmeal method only as a last resort, such as if I happen to be out of both flour and cornstarch. This is personal preference, because I can taste the cornmeal in the chili, and it is not appealing to me. However, some people prefer this method over the others because they like the taste the cornmeal imparts to the chili.

Fortunately, none of these methods requires a lot of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Method 1 – A bowl, a slotted spoon, a fork or potato masher and some time.
  • Method 2 – Measuring cup, water, bowl, spoon, flour and a whisk
  • Method 3 – Measuring Cup, water, bowl, cornstarch and a whisk
  • Method 4 – Cornmeal and a measuring spoon.

How to thicken chili? Let’s Get Started

– Method One: Natural Reduction

Step One: Remove the lid and some of the beans

How to thicken chili - Natural Reduction
Natural Reduction – Photo from

After cooking your chili covered to about 80% done, remove the lid. Using a slotted spoon , remove a big spoonful of beans, and transfer to another bowl.

Step Two: Mash the Beans

Using the fork or potato masher, thoroughly mash the beans. Add the mashed beans back to the chili and stir in thoroughly.

Photo from Lana's Cooking
Photo from

Step Three: Allow Chili to Simmer

Allow the chili to continue to cook, until done, uncovered. As the starches from the beans release into the chili, it will begin to thicken. Allowing it to continue to cook uncovered will reduce the liquid, thickening it further. Allow the chili to just simmer. Boiling the chili too hard will cause it to reduce too quickly, and possibly scorch or stick to the pan. Keep an eye on the chili; do not allow it to thicken too much.

Photo from Budget Bytes -
Photo from Budget Bytes –

– Method Two: Thickening with Flour

Step One: Mix flour with water

Mix ¼ cup of cold water with 2 T of flour in a bowl until smooth. This is called a slurry. This amount is enough to thicken about two cups of excess liquid. If you have more than two cups of excess liquid, double the amount of flour and water.

How to thicken chili - Thickening with Flour
Thickening with Flour –

Step Two: Add Liquid from the Chili

Add a large spoonful of hot liquid from the chili to the bowl with the flour and water. Mix until smooth, mashing out lumps as needed.

Step Three: Add the mixture back to the chili

Add the slurry mixture back to the pot. Stir until the slurry is mixed thoroughly back into the chili. The slurry will cause the chili to thicken as it continues to cook. Let the chili simmer for at least ten minutes to ensure that you cannot taste the four. Allow the chili to simmer until it reaches desired thickness.

– Method Three: How to Thicken Chili With Cornstarch

Step One: Make Cornstarch Slurry

Can you use cornstarch to thicken chili? The answer is yes! This method is very similar to using flour slurry. Mix 1T cornstarch with 1T cold water. Mix until combined. This amount of slurry will thicken up to two cups of excess liquid in your chili. If your chili has more than two cups of excess liquid, double the amount of slurry.

How to thicken chili - Make Cornstarch Slurry
Make Cornstarch Slurry –

Step Two: Mix in the Slurry

With cornstarch slurry, it is not necessary to add liquid from the chili to the slurry first. Just be sure the cornstarch is thoroughly dissolved into the cold water before adding it to the chili.

Step Three: Simmer until thickened

Bring the chili back to a boil. Continue boiling slowly until chili reaches desired thickness. Cornstarch is not as likely to flavor your chili, even if you only let it boil for a minute or two.

How to thicken chili - Simmer until thickened
Simmer until thickened – Photo from MMM Foodies

– Method Four: Thickening with Cornmeal

Step One: Add Cornmeal to the Chili

Measure two to three tablespoons of cornmeal directly into the chili and stir thoroughly.

How to thicken chili - Add Cornmeal to the Chili
Add Cornmeal to the Chili –

Step Two: Simmer

Allow the chili to simmer for another 10 minutes. If the chili is not sufficiently thickened, add another tablespoon of cornmeal, and thicken another 10 minutes.

How to thicken chili - chili-simmer
Chili Simmer – Photo from Eatbelive


Do you usually have to thicken your chili? I find that mine always needs a little help to thicken properly, and all of these tricks make it easy to get my chili to the perfect thickness every time. It makes a great meal even better!

Which of the methods for thickening chili do you think you will use? Do you have other tricks for thickening chili? Let us know in the comments section

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