How to Thicken Chili With Potatoes

by Nannette Richford

Simmering homemade chili for hours over slow heat enhances the flavor and reduces the liquid, but there are times when you may want to hurry the process along. When this happens, your chili may be too watery and need to be thickened. While there are a number of techniques for thickening chili, such as using corn flour or cornstarch, they often require cooking and can leave your chili tasting floury or pasty. Adding cooked potatoes or potato flakes thickens the chili with potato starch, which cooks quickly and doesn’t compromise the flavor of the chili.

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of instant potato flakes to your chili. Stir gently until the flakes dissolve and begin to thicken. Check the consistency of the chili and adjust by adding more potato flakes until you reach the desired consistency. The amount of flakes needed to thicken the chili depends on the amount of chili you are cooking and the consistency of the sauce. A tablespoon or two may be enough for a small batch, while chili for company may require 1/4 cup or more of potato flakes.

Stir in scoops of leftover mashed potatoes to thicken the sauce in your chili, if you do not have potato flakes. Stir until the mashed potatoes dissolve into the chili. Check the consistency and add mashed potatoes a little at a time until your sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Cook one or two potatoes in the microwave. Mash them with a potato masher or put them through a ricer. Add the freshly mashed potatoes to the chili to thicken the sauce. Adjust as necessary to make a smooth, creamy sauce.

Items you will need

  • Potato flakes
  • Spoon
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Potato masher or ricer


  • Tomato paste makes an excellent thickener for chili as it imparts tomato flavor and creates a rich sauce.
  • Add mashed or refried beans to your chili to thicken the sauce and add flavor. You may need to adjust the spices to compensate for the increased volume of beans.
  • Try crumbling corn chips in your chili and allowing them to soften and thicken your chili while adding a toasty corn flavor.


  • Avoid adding mashed potatoes with seasonings such as garlic and chives to your chili, as this will alter the flavor of your chili.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

Photo Credits

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