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Do you have watery chili that needs fixing?  Don’t worry; I have 17 quick and easy ways to make your watery chili thick and hearty.  The best part is, you probably have most of the ingredents already in your pantry. 

I’ll provide you with step-by-step tips on how to make your chili rich and thick. You might be surprised at how easy it is to thicken up your chili using everyday pantry items. Your chili is going to be great!

You get home from a busy day at work to the aroma of homemade chili that has been simmering in your slow cooker all day. Or maybe your kids helped make dinner and had chili simmering on the stovetop. However, when you lift the lid, the chili is very watery for some reason. You need to find an easy and quick way to thicken your chili – after all, you are making chili, not soup! 

Five bowls of party cook chili and one pan on the stove during

Sometimes excess moisture gathers on your lid and drips into your chili throughout cooking time. If you want your chili to be thick and hardy without compromising the taste, I have several ideas for you using simple pantry staples. 

What Is The Best Thickener For Chili?

Good news, there are many great ways to thicken chili easily if it has too much liquid. In this post, I provide a comprehensive list of thickening options for chili. Each method has its own benefits, so it’s about finding the one that suits your taste and preferences.

With 17 different ways to thicken chili, you can easily find the best method for you. There’s no one best way, but many that will be easy and tasty.

big pot of rich thick chili with a spoon of it being scooped out

How To Thicken Chili

After cooking your chili all day in your slow cooker or simmering on your stovetop, it’s disappointing to lift the lid and find out it’s too watery. Don’t worry. I have 17 great tips for how to thicken chili and soup. Here, you will find several different ways to make your watery chili become thick and hearty. 

Tortilla Chips

This is my personal favorite way to thicken chili. To thicken chili with tortilla chips, crush 5 to 6 ounces of tortilla chips into tiny crumbly pieces and sprinkle them into your chili recipe. Place your slow cooker on high with the lid off and stir every 5 minutes for 30 minutes. For the stovetop method, add the chips and cook on medium. The crushed tortilla chips will absorb some of the liquid and help to thicken the chili. If you are cooking your chili on a stovetop, turn it to medium-low and let it simmer.  Stir every few minutes until your chili reaches the desired thickness.

Xanthan Gum

To thicken chili with xanthan gum, you can sprinkle a small amount of xanthan gum into the chili and stir it thoroughly. Xanthan gum is a powerful thickening agent, so start with a small amount and gradually add more if needed. Remember to allow it to simmer for a few minutes to thicken fully. I was surprised at how well just a pinch of this powder was able to thicken chili. 


A great way to make your chili thicker is to add pinto beans, chili beans, black beans, cannellini beans, white beans (navy), or kidney beans. You can add one variety or all of them. If you are a bean lover then be sure to visit my how to can beans post. It saves you money, and they are more flavorful than grocery store canned beans.

pint jars of canned beans

Blend Beans

You could also scoop out a few cups of the beans and chili, run them through the blender, and then return them to the pot of chili.  This will guarantee no change in flavor.

If you desire a chunkier consistency, use a potato masher to press on the beans right in the slow cooker or pot of chili, then stir well. The beans will break into small pieces, and the starch in them will help thicken the chili.

Tomato Paste As A Thickener

Tomato paste is a great way to add a tangy thickening agent to your chili. The thick paste is very concentrated, so it will help thicken the chili. However, you might need to add more seasonings if you want less tomato flavor. Start with a small 6 oz can, whisk it in, and then simmer on high for an hour.

Cornmeal As A Thickener

To use cornmeal as a thickener for your chili, simply add a tablespoon of cornmeal to the chili and cook on high for 20 minutes. If it is not thick enough, you can repeat the process. The drawback is that the chili can be a bit gritty from the cornmeal.

Remove The Lid

Removing the lid from your slow cooker or a pot of chili on the stove allows excess liquid to evaporate, naturally thickening the chili. This method may take some time, but it’s an easy way to achieve the desired consistency without adding extra ingredients. Bring your pot of chili toa medium simmer. Keep an eye on it for sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir often. If you’re using a slow cooker, simply remove the lid and switch it to high; the excess water will evaporate as steam. Keep in mind that this process might take a few hours.


To thicken your chili, whether on the stovetop or in a slow cooker, try a cornstarch slurry. Mix in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and a cup of cold water and set aside. Scoop out 4 cups of chili liquid and put them in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat. When the pan of chili boils, whisk in the cornstarch water until thickened. Then, pour this thickened chili back into your slow cooker or pot of chili and whisk together.

Use Flour To Thicken Chili

 Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium-high heat and whisk in two tablespoons of all-purpose flour to form a thick, creamy flour paste. This step will eliminate lumps of flour in your chili.  Then, using a large measuring cup, pull out the watery juice from the chili and whisk it into the butter and flour over medium heat. Once thickened, return the mixture to the slow cooker or pan of chili, stirring well, and cook on high for 30 minutes. This method will work for stovetop pans or crock pot chili. 

Potato Flakes

The starch from potatoes is a natural thickener. You can add a 1/2 cup of instant potato flakes to your crock pot chili to help thicken it up. Sprinkle in the flakes and gently whisk them throughout. Leave the lid off and turn the crock pot to high. The potato starch will start ticking your chili, but it is best to simmer for 30 minutes.

Potato Starch Thickener

Potato Starch can be used to replace cornstarch in most baking recipes. Potato starch powder tolerates higher temperatures than cornstarch, making it an excellent thickener for sauces, soups, and stews. It adds moistness to many baked goods and is an essential ingredient in gluten-free baking.

Crushed Tortilla Chips For Thickening Chili

Tortilla chips are one of my favorite ways to thicken my white bean chili or white chicken chili recipe. After the soup is cooked for several hours in the crockpot, crush 5 to 6 oz of corn tortillas in a zip-lock bag. They should be tiny crumbly pieces. Sprinkle the crushed chips into your chili recipe. Place your slow cooker on high with the lid off and stir every 5 minutes for 30 minutes. 

Masa Harina

Masa harina is the secret to my Texas Roadhouse Chili!  Masa flour is corn flour. Turn your crockpot to high, then add two tablespoons at a time to your chili. Wait 10 minutes to see if it is thick enough. If not, repeat the process. It does add a bit of corn flavor to your chili recipe.

pouring masa and beef broth into the chili to thicken
Whisk in mesa and beef broth mixture.


My husband’s favorite way to eat his chili is with crushed saltine crackers. You could also serve oyster crackers. The crackers absorbed the juice to make a thicker chili. Nobody will know it was a bit too watery.

Arrowroot Powder

To use arrowroot powder as a thickener for your chili, you can make a slurry by mixing a teaspoon of arrowroot powder with cold water. Then, gradually add this mixture to your chili and allow it to simmer for a few minutes to thicken fully. Arrowroot powder is a powerful thickening agent, so start with a small amount and gradually add more if needed. Remember to allow it to simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes to ensure proper thickening.

Stir In Refried Beans

If you do not like the texture of beans in your chili, you could add a can of refried beans. They give it great flavor and thickness without the texture.

Add More Meat

If your chili seems thin and watery, then adding more meat to an already-cooked pot of chili can help. It’s best to sauté the meat in a pan until done. Remove excess grease and then add it to your chili.  Ground beef, ground sausage, or ground turkey can be used as additional meat options. After adding the meat, heat the chili on high for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.

Thick Chili Recipes and Party Ideas

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