How to Thicken Chili with Cornmeal

by Natalie Smith, Ph.D.

Chilli with cheese in a bowl with a napkin and spoon.

bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

The beauty of homemade chili is that you can make it any way you like. You can make your chili with a thin broth, like a soup, or whip it up Texas style with a thick broth that sticks to the ingredients. The secret to a thick, hearty broth is cornmeal. Cornmeal, when added to water and stirred into the chili, thickens the chili and gives it a slight flavor of corn, which blends pleasantly with the spices and beef.

Pour 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Whisk in 2 tsp. cornmeal. When the cornmeal is integrated, the water will appear cloudy.

Stir the cornmeal mixture into the chili. It will make the chili slightly cloudy when it is fully integrated; this is normal.

Simmer the chili for 5 minutes. If the chili is still not adequately thickened, repeat the process of adding cornmeal and simmer for 5 more minutes.


  • If you are making a large amount of chili, use 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon cornmeal for every 8 cups of chili. Cornmeal makes the chili slightly gritty. If You don't like the texture, substitute masa harina, a thick corn flour used in tamales and in Texas-style chili. Only add as much cornmeal as you need to thicken the chili. Too much corn meal will change the flavor of the chili.

Photo Credits

  • bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.