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?

23 Answers 23


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. – Jacob G Dec 29 '12 at 4:33
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    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
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    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
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    That's the classic technique for thickening beans in Brazil :) Works like a charm everytime – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 29 '19 at 17:31

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). – Cascabel Dec 29 '12 at 18:24
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    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

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

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 – 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
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    @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

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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    Welcome to the Stack Exchange universe, especially Seasoned Advice, Mad Martian! It’s nice to see such an elaborate a first post. If you have a bit of time, consider taking the tour and browsing our help center to learn more about how the site works. I’m looking forward to more posts! – Stephie Feb 17 '18 at 22:25
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    you're absolutely insane by i am definitely putting broccoli in my next chili. – Sdarb Oct 28 '19 at 21:57
  • “remove the crunchy and fatty bits” hurt my heart – Preston Dec 19 '20 at 7:27
  • Preston, I eat the crunchy bits as I'm doing that. :) – Mad Martian Dec 20 '20 at 19:15

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. – Cascabel Dec 29 '12 at 18:25
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    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'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. – Joe Dec 11 '18 at 12:32
  • I really like to include actual potatoes in my chili – Sdarb Oct 28 '19 at 21:58

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) – Joe Dec 11 '18 at 12:30

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.


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.


I added a can of refried beans. This also calmed down the heat a bit. Thick, spicy and delicious.


I've thickened chili with tomato paste. I really boosts the tomato flavor, but other than that it doesn't introduce "new" flavors to the mix and works quite well to thicken it up.


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.


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
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    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

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.

  • 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.


In desperation because I didn't have time I used an immersion blender right in the pot. After half a dozen or so pulses on low setting the thickness was near perfect.

Probably a good idea not to blend more than 15 to 20% or the texture will change too much (unless that's what you want).

Be careful about splashing, you don't want to get scalded.

  • It should be noted that this should only be done when the chili has cooled below about 60 C, otherwise it is very easy to splatter and cause burns. – bob1 Jul 18 '19 at 2:09
  • Important note @bob1; added – matt wilkie Jul 18 '19 at 4:57

Try quinoa! The red type blends in, soaks up the excess liquid and makes it more hearty. I put in about a quarter cup an hour before chili is "done" cooking on low in crockpot


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.


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


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
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    "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. – Cynthia Avishegnath Dec 31 '12 at 22:24
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    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. – Cynthia Avishegnath Jan 6 '13 at 6:12
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    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

Peanut butter....2 tbsp in a big pot will thicken and not affect the flavor.

  • How much is a "big pot" :) – Erica Dec 17 '17 at 16:40

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