How to thicken Chili without compromising flavor

  • I enjoy adding beer to a pot of chili for taste, but at times find the end result is too soupy. What's a good way to thicken it without overcooking or compromising the flavor?

  • As noted above, reducing the liquid through evaporation will thicken up the chili but you run the risk of burning/scorching the bottom and it can take a long time at lower temperatures. What I like to do is to take some of the beans (I prefer black beans in mine) and mash them up into a thick paste and then stir that into the chili. The starches from the beans will help thicken up the chili and you aren't adding anything that isn't already there. I have also seen people do similar things with cornbread.

    That's a good idea. Will have to remember that when I don't have time for protracted simmering.

    Scorching the bottom (a bit) is not a problem – it actually adds flavour (some recipes even *demand* for it, especially in Bolognese). Just scrape off the burnt bit in regular intervals to avoid burning it too much.

    well what your talking about isn't what i would call scorching, when i think of scorching i think of burning. What your talking about I call creating fond, which I agree adds a lot of excellent flavor.

    That's the classic technique for thickening beans in Brazil :) Works like a charm everytime

  • I use instant Corn Masa Flour as thickener. It seems to hold onto water better over time than does corn meal. That's likely because unlike corn meal, it's precooked, nixtamalized. Either way, you'll get a bit of a corny taste.

    +1 This is the canonical way to thicken chili in Texas. The flavor isn't really that strong (most people probably won't notice).

    Come to think of it, if you don't mind being thought a heathen, you could pour your beer into another pot, boil it down hard and fast to about 25% of its original volume, then add that flavor concentrate to your chili.

  • I add beer to my chili and simply let it simmer with the lid off for an hour or two so the liquid evaporates. I've never had a problem with overcooking.

    You could also reduce the beer separately first, then add to the chili.

  • If you want to thicken it fast use flour, just don't add it directly to the pot (If you do, the flour will clump and you'll spend the next couple of hours trying to de-clump the clumps).

    Use a bowl. To the bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and a cup of hot liquid from the chili. Mix/whisk both until combined. Add this mixture to your chili and stir until combined. It'll thicken in 20-30 minutes.

    You can also use cornstarch, xantham gum, and many other thickeners or liaisons.

    Good videos on reduction and thickening using thickeners/liaisons.

    Another good video: Sauce Thickening Agents

    Confirmed - just used this method and it worked like a charm

    I thought you always stir flour or corn starch into cold water to prevent clumping, not into hot liquid from the pot.

    @Robert: flour and cornstarch are opposites in this respect. Cornstarch you always stir into cold liquid. Flour actually dissolves better (fewer clumps) if you add hot liquid. (If you mix flour and cold water, you get glue.)

  • I don't like using masa flour as it affects both texture and flavor. I have come up with some less conventional ways to thicken chili that work:

    1. Brisket torn into small pieces. Buy some pre-cooked from your local BBQ house, remove the crunchy and fatty parts, and tear the rest into very small pieces. These bitty brisket bits will fill the voids and make your sauce both thicker and meatier. The smokey brisket flavor may even improve the taste. This is also good as a last-minute remedy since the brisket is already cooked. Alternatively if you are planning ahead you can cook brisket in the chili.

    2. Broccoli. Don't laugh - I won a chili cook-off THREE YEARS IN A ROW with broccoli in my chili! Use raw broccoli and only the florets. Chop the broccoli very small. At first it will look like you made a mistake, but let it simmer for an hour - the broccoli cooks down and shrinks to the point you can hardly see it anymore, but you end up with thicker chili since the raw broccoli soaks up a lot of the liquid as it cooks. Just use chopped broccoli instead of beans in any recipe. Again, try it before you say nay! The broccoli pieces take on the flavor of the sauce and taste great.

    3. Unsweetened cocoa. Just one tablespoon - too much will make your chili look like a muddy swamp. This works if you just need a little thickening and I like what it adds to the flavor.

    4. Finely chopped bell red pepper. I recommend stir frying the chopped peppers before adding to the chili or it will affect the texture.

    5. Finely chopped mushrooms. Stir frying is optional - depends on how long you slow cook your chili. If not long, then stir fry the chopped mushrooms before adding to the chili.

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    you're absolutely insane by i am definitely putting broccoli in my next chili.

  • Depending on whether you'd consider this a compromise (I consider it a feature), corn meal or crushed tortilla chips not only thicken it but also add a flavor that usually complements the chili.

    The tortilla chips will work much better than the corn meal; they're cooked already, while the corn meal will take a long time to get soft enough to blend in and not make your chili gritty.

    Yeah, that is an important distinction. The corn meal is good to plan for and add early, but tortilla chips can adjust the consistency near the end.

    As a matter of fact, my favorite chili casserole recipe has layers of Frito corn chips. Yum!

  • I've seen some of the usual answers like ground tortilla chips (unsalted if you can find them), and masa harina, but potato flakes (the instant ones in a box) are a great way to thicken your chili (or any soup). You can also do a quick cornstarch slurry by mixing a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of corn starch and add as needed. Always add either of them slowly and wait about 3-5 minutes. They don't need heat to be activated either.

    If you can't find unsalted tortillas, tostadas are typically salted less than chips.

    I really like to include actual potatoes in my chili

  • I add roux in two stages. First, after sweating the peppers and onions and browning the meat(s) and before adding the beer, with the pot over a medium-high heat add flour approximately equal to the amount of oils (I would have used bacon grease, butter and olive oil to sweat the peppers and onions, your recipe will probably very, but I hope you get the idea...) and stir the mixture until the flour has absorbed the oils and the roux is clinging to the rest of the mixture. Then add the beer. This will thicken the mix, but not 'thoroughly'. The second stage comes at the end. When you are 1 - 1½ hours from 'done' mix 4 ounces each of oil (peanut, corn, olive, lard dealers choice) with 4 ounces of flour in and oven safe dish and bake this roux for about 1 hour at 350°. (This is not quite 'red brick' roux, you want to be short of that...) After baking mix the roux into to the chili, stir and cook for another 30 minutes.

    Your mileage may vary based on the batch size and the amount of grease run-off from the meat, but this practice leaves me with a nice thick chili.

  • How about reducing the beer (and other possible fluids) separately before adding them? That should give you the desired flavor effect without the excess water.

    Part of the benefit of the beer is the alcohol helps to extract the flavor of other items. You're better off adding the beer as the first liquid addition, reducing it, then adding any other liquid ingredients. (although this may change the texture, as the acid in tomatoes will slow the breakdown of onions and some other vegetables)

  • Whenever I need to thicken some kind of stew or soup I add chia seeds. They act as a binder for baked goods too. They don't have a flavor but will get a gel coating on the outside after a bit. Plus they reheat well.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM