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We like to make our own chili and it seems like masa harina is pretty traditionally used as a thickening agent. However, I don't particularly like the flavor it adds and I always have to add more spices after using it.

Does anyone know of other ingredients that can be used in place of the masa harina?

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There are several ways you can thicken Chili than adding Masa Harina:

  • Add another thickening agent: flour and cornstarch are both widely used, you can also try other flours like graham flour, chickpea flour, or arrowroot. Note that if you use flour you'll want to fry it in oil or butter or risk a raw flour taste in the dish
  • Add refried beans: this adds thickening and a richness. It does dilute the spices some so you'll want to make the chili more powerful to compensate
  • Cook it down: Why add a thickener when simply simmering with the lid off will do it for you? It takes some time (an hour or so depending on the water content of the ingredients you add), but it will concentrate the flavors and give you a nice, thick chili without any additional ingredients at all
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  • Tomato paste will add a little bit of thickening power, but you'll need to cook it down for a while. Finely crushed corn chips or tostadas can work, too, but also add salt (especially the chips), and may be similar to the flavor that she objects to. – Joe Jul 29 '14 at 13:40
  • I agree @Joe, anything corn based is likely to be the same flavor. – GdD Jul 29 '14 at 18:35
  • it's possible that because it's cooked, it'll be better (eg, the issues w/ raw flour vs. in a roux), and the salt might help ... it's just a question of if it's worth trying. I guess if you're willing to clean a lot of pots, you could divide the batch up, and try a few and have a taste testing. – Joe Jul 29 '14 at 18:44

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