Need to learn how to thicken chili? Here are 10+ methods to absorb or reduce excess liquid (fun fact—one of them uses tortilla chips!). Ultimately, the best way to thicken a pot of chili is up to you, based on what you have on hand, your recipe, and your own personal preference.

A ladle scoops a thick pumpkin chili out of a pot.

Best Ways to Thicken Chili

There are many different ways to thicken thin chili, including simmering over time or adding ingredients that absorb liquid. Chili is best when it’s hearty, chunky, and packed with your favorite vegetables and protein. No one likes it too runny!

The good news is, there are plenty of options for thickening it up. You’ll find the best method based on what you have on hand, the type of recipe you’re cooking, and ultimately what tastes best to you!

(There are a few different ways that work if you’re wondering how to thicken soup, too!)

Slowly Simmer

If your chili is too watery, simmering excess liquid off at a low heat will do just the trick. It might take a long time over other solutions, but you can make Sweet Mini Cornbread Muffins or Jalapeño Cornbread with Honey while you wait. 

All-Purpose Flour

The easiest way to thicken chili is with a pantry staple: all-purpose flour. You’ll want to make a flour slurry, where you stir flour into a bit of water, before adding it to the pot over medium heat.

The slurry will reduce random flour chunks in your chili, and it will not affect the overall taste. Cook your chili for 10-15 minutes after adding in the slurry for the best thickening results.

Cornstarch in a small, glass bowl on the countertop with the original cornstarch container in the background.
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Cornstarch Slurry / Arrowroot Powder

A great way to create a thicker and creamier chili is to add cornstarch or arrowroot powder. These thickening agents will add body and texture. Like with flour, create a cornstarch slurry by adding a tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot powder in a small bowl with water (about a half cup).

Like with flour, simmer your chili for 10-15 minutes after you add your slurry, or until it starts to thicken up.

Perfectly baked and healthy chips made from yellow corn tortillas.

Tortilla Chips

Oddly enough, tortilla chips or even corn chips can be great thickening agents to your chili! By crushing them up in a way that’ll resemble breadcrumbs, you’ll add mild crunch and texture.

The chips will soak up the extra liquid when you do this. You won’t have to simmer afterwards—all you’ll need to do is stir and you’ll see the results instantly. You could even go the extra mile and make your own Baked Tortilla Chips!

Three cans of 6oz tomato pastes on the counter.

Tomato Paste

One of the simplest ways to thicken a chili is to add tomato paste. Tomato paste will add richness and a thicker consistency and easily integrate with the existing flavor base.

If you don’t have tomato paste on hand, adding tomato sauce mixed with a slurry (using flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot) is a great alternative, or check out this Best Tomato Paste Substitute post. Stir for a few minutes to see results. 

Finely diced onions, green bell pepper, and celery on a wooden cutting board.


Using additional ingredients like vegetables is a really great way to thicken chili. Plus, it adds more nutrition to your meal—win-win! Incorporating vegetables like boiled sweet potatoes, bell peppers or even zucchini can easily make your chili feel heartier in a matter of minutes.

A light brown roux is made on the stove.


Roux acts like a thick paste when you add it to your chili. Roux is simply made out of flour and fat. Cooked on low for a few minutes, these two ingredients add thickness and richness and only take a few minutes to come together. Use this How to Make a Roux recipe for the best results!

Black beans draining in a metal strainer with the original can in the background.

Beans (Extra, Blended, or Refried)

Beans make up the the body of chili, so why not add more? No matter the type, whether pinto beans, black beans, refried beans, or kidney beans, you can add as much as you like based on your personal preference.

You can also incorporate a refried black beans or use a potato masher to mash them up before adding to your chili—this will also create a creamier consistency.

Bread Crumbs or Quick Oats

Like the tortilla chips, adding breadcrumbs or even quick oats will definitely thicken your chili. Add ¼ cup of either substitute and stir to see instant results. If you have flavored breadcrumbs, it can add to or take away from the flavor of your chili, so make sure you taste as you go.

Multiple potatoes sitting on the countertop.

Potatoes (Diced or Mashed)

Adding potatoes to your chili is a great option because there are many ways to do it! If you incorporate diced potatoes, you’ll need to give them time to cook in your chili. You can also add mashed potatoes, which is a fun twist, or even boiled potatoes. The addition of potato flakes will have an instant effect on your chili.


A common way to thicken any kind of soup, stew, or chili is to add a tablespoon of cornmeal per cup of liquid. You can use any liquid that your recipe already calls for, or just water. If you use water, be sure to have your other spices on hand because the overall flavor might get watered down. Adding cornmeal achieves a heartier consistency that’ll enhance the overall texture of your chili.

Heavy whipping cream poured in a glass measuring cup with the original containers in the background.

Heavy Cream / Milk / Sour Cream / Cheese

Another great thickening agent is dairy, whether heavy cream, milk, sour cream, or even shredded cheese. You’ll want to incorporate these ingredients on low heat.

With the heavy cream or milk, you’ll add that to your whole pot of chili before serving. With the sour cream and cheese, you can add it to individual bowls as toppings if you don’t want to add it to your whole pot. When it comes to how much, it all depends on your personal preference.

Nutritional Yeast

If you are vegan, nutritional yeast is a common ingredient to use as a thickening agent! It delivers a cheesy flavor with hints of nuttiness and savory notes. Nutritional yeast is also a complete protein, so you’ll be fuller even longer. 

A white bowl full of chili is a healthy fall dish.

How to Thicken Chili FAQ

What do I do if I have watery chili?

To achieve desired consistency, add a slurry, vegetables, beans, dairy, or tomato paste to thicken your chili.

What do I do if my chili is too thick?

Add broth or water to thin out your chili.

How can I thicken my chili without losing its taste?

The best way to maximize flavor AND thicken your chili is to simmer it over time so some of the liquid evaporates.

Does chili thicken as it cooks in a slow cooker?

Yes, chili can thicken as it cooks in a slow cooker as the ingredients absorb some of the liquid.

What is the best thickening agent for chili?

The best method to thicken your chili is either adding tomato paste, a slurry, or more ingredients that the recipe already calls for.

When do I know I need to thicken my chili?

If your chili is watery, then you might need to thicken it.

Will chili thicken overnight?

After adding your chili to an airtight container, it can thicken overnight in the fridge as the flavors and ingredients meld together.

A big bowl full of healthy ground turkey chili that is made in a pressure cooker.

The Best Chili Recipes

When the temps drop, there’s nothing like a big bowl of chili! Try out one of these chili recipes for your next cook-off, weeknight dinner, or BBQ:

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Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

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