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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?

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16 Answers 16

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.

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That's a good idea. Will have to remember that when I don't have time for protracted simmering. – Jacob G Dec 29 '12 at 4:33
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. – Konrad Rudolph Dec 29 '12 at 11:53
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. – Brendan Dec 30 '12 at 2:51

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.

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You could also reduce the beer separately first, then add to the chili. – Steve D Dec 29 '12 at 22:24

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.

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+1 This is the canonical way to thicken chili in Texas. The flavor isn't really that strong (most people probably won't notice). – Jefromi Dec 29 '12 at 18:24
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. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 21 '15 at 19:30

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.

  • Part 1. Thickeners and Liaisons (
  • Part 2. Thickeners and Liaisons (
  • Part 3. Thickeners and Liaisons (

Another good video: Sauce Thickening Agents (

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Confirmed - just used this method and it worked like a charm – Ron Dahlgren Jan 13 '15 at 1:35
I thought you always stir flour or corn starch into cold water to prevent clumping, not into hot liquid from the pot. – Robert Sep 7 '15 at 21:38
@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.) – Marti Sep 8 '15 at 20:09

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.

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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. – Jefromi Dec 29 '12 at 18:25
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. – Doug Kavendek Dec 30 '12 at 3:40
As a matter of fact, my favorite chili casserole recipe has layers of Frito corn chips. Yum! – Kristina Lopez Jan 1 '13 at 0:26

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.

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Flour, Cornstarch, amd Tortillia chips all work fine, but they will all mute the beef-y flavor of the chili. To avoid any muting at all, use a gum like Xanthen Gum to thicken your pot of goodness. 1 tsp will tighten up a quart of chili, with no reduction of chili flavor.

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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.

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I use flour to thicken my chili, but I put a half of cup in my sifter (2-3 sifts at a time) and stir so it doesn't clump together. This has soaked up some of the saltiness as well when I over season it.

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Sifting is a good trick. Thanks for the inspiration :) – Erica Dec 19 '15 at 20:37

To thicken a sauce without changing the flavour, I use powdered arrowroot. In a bowl, put a tablespoon of arrowroot powder with a small amount of cold water. Mix well then slowly add a few tablespoons of the excess liquid from your chilli. when thoroughly blended, add the mix to your chilli and allow to cook through.

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I start with a roux. Bacon grease is the best but butter will work too. Or you can put some beans in the food processor if you are health minded.

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Use kuzu root starch.. It comes in rock-like granules. Mix 1 Tb kuzu with 1 Tb water first, then add to simmering chili until thickened. I use a lot of onions and peppers that give up a lot of water and kuzu works best! No change in flavor, texture or mouth-feel. Re-heats perfectly as original.

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You can use blood - fresh cow, goat, or lamb companies sell it. Soups, chilis, and many other things used blood as thickener before B.C. even became A.D.

Its used for so many things like blood pudding, even brownies. It enhances the flavor and no this stuff will cause more problems not used it is not evil and any meat including fish has at least some sort of blood in it anyway if think on it everything has its own blood, sap of tree, plants.

A lot of restaurants including Indonesian, African and Asian gourmet use blood as thickener and meats.

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Welcome! Please, for the sake of cleanliness, attempt to use proper spelling and grammar as much as possible. – Catija Sep 8 '15 at 17:49
And while your are at it, please get down from your soap box - simply suggesting the use of blood as thickener is sufficient, no need to go back to B.C. or getting plants involved! – Stephie Sep 8 '15 at 19:54

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.

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Stir in one can of refried beans. Or blend one can of whatever beans you are using in your chilli. Wash them off first.

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I can't boil to evaporate because my chili recipe requires the ground chili paste. garlic, ginger, cilantro, etc to remain fresh and uncooked.

My family tradition has been to add tapioca or corn starch. Boil half a cup of water in the microwave, and then stir in tapioca/corn flour gradually until the paste is super-saturated. I might even try to microwave the paste further. Tapioca flour is easier to deal with. Corn flour imo tastes better.

When the hot flour paste has chilled to a warm state, gradually mix it into the chili paste until desired thickness is achieved.

I have added brandy, rice wine or chardonnay to the chili paste but never beer.

As absorbent thickener, I am even thinking of cream cheese, or home-made sour yogurt on the verge of becoming cottage cheese. I have never tried but perhaps I should one of these days.

Or apple pulp.

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Just out of curiosity, what kind of chili are you making??? That doesn't sound like any chili recipe I've ever seen or heard of... I believe OP is referring to American-style chili, which doesn't usually have ginger, or "chili paste" – TJ Ellis Dec 31 '12 at 1:09
"American" style? Quite a number of Asian or European foods are actually American inventions. "American" recipes are a very diverse collection. "American" chili is just as "american" as Panda Chinese food you find at the mall. – Blessed Geek Dec 31 '12 at 22:24
ok, sure, but if you google "chili recipe", there are lots of hits, and none of them have those ingredients you were using -- I was just wondering if it was some kind of regional variation or something -- I'm intrigued!! – TJ Ellis Jan 5 '13 at 19:23
Google chili salsa. – Blessed Geek Jan 6 '13 at 6:12
OP wasn't asking about chili salsa, raw chili chutney or whatever it is you make, but about the kind of chili most Americans make - a thoroughly cooked stew with beef. – Kareen Jan 30 '13 at 16:50

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