Chili, a hearty and comforting dish, has earned its place in the hearts and kitchens of many. Its versatility allows for endless variations, making it a canvas for creativity. One key ingredient that often takes center stage in chili recipes is tomato paste. This concentrated tomato product brings a burst of flavor and a luscious thickness that transforms ordinary chili into a culinary masterpiece. In this guide, we will delve into the art of using tomato paste in chili, uncovering the techniques that can take your chili game to a whole new level.

How to Use Tomato Paste in Chili

Understanding Tomato Paste in Chili

What is Tomato Paste?

At its core, tomato paste is a reduction of tomatoes, intensifying their natural flavor while providing a thick consistency that works wonders in recipes. This thick, rich, and deeply colored ingredient brings a concentrated tomato essence to dishes, which is why it finds its perfect home in chili.

Why Use Tomato Paste in Chili?

Tomato paste serves as a catalyst in chili, contributing to its vibrant color and rich taste. Beyond aesthetics, tomato paste imparts complexity and depth to the dish, elevating its flavor profile to new heights. Moreover, its thickening properties work as a binding agent, ensuring the chili reaches the desired consistency. By using tomato paste, you’re not just adding a flavor, but enhancing the very essence of your chili.

Incorporating Tomato Paste into Your Chili Recipe

Choosing the Right Tomato Paste

When embarking on your chili-making adventure, selecting the right tomato paste can make a significant difference. It’s advisable to opt for high-quality options that are free from unnecessary additives. You can choose between canned or tube-packaged tomato paste, both of which have their advantages. Canned tomato paste offers convenience, while tube-packaged options allow you to use just the amount you need and store the rest for later.

Proper Measurements

The key to using tomato paste effectively in chili lies in proper measurement. Generally, a tablespoon or two of tomato paste for every pound of meat or vegetables should suffice. However, taste is subjective, so feel free to adjust the quantity to match your preferences. Remember, a little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it.

When to Add Tomato Paste

Timing is crucial when it comes to incorporating tomato paste into your chili. Add it after sautéing your aromatics and browning your meat, allowing it to cook and meld with the other ingredients. This enables the tomato paste to fully infuse its flavors into the chili, creating a harmonious blend.

Techniques for Enhancing Flavor

Sautéing Tomato Paste

To extract the maximum flavor from tomato paste, consider sautéing it. In a hot pan, add the tomato paste and cook it for a minute or two until it darkens slightly and releases a deep, rich aroma. This simple step intensifies its taste, adding a wonderful complexity to your chili.

Combining Tomato Paste with Aromatics

Elevate your chili’s flavor foundation by pairing tomato paste with aromatic ingredients like garlic, onions, and bell peppers. Sautéing these aromatics alongside tomato paste creates a flavorful base that will set the tone for your chili.

Balancing Acidity

Tomato paste brings a hint of acidity to the dish. To strike the perfect balance, consider incorporating a touch of sweetness from ingredients like a pinch of sugar or a splash of balsamic vinegar. This ensures that the chili’s overall flavor profile is harmonious and well-rounded.

Achieving the Perfect Texture

Thickening the Chili

The thickness of chili is crucial to its overall appeal. Tomato paste, with its natural thickening properties, helps you achieve that ideal consistency. As the chili simmers, the tomato paste will meld with the other ingredients, resulting in a hearty, velvety texture.

Mixing and Incorporating

When adding tomato paste, be sure to mix it thoroughly with the other ingredients to ensure an even distribution. This guarantees that every bite of your chili is infused with its rich tomato goodness.

Variations and Creative Uses

Tomato-Based Chili Variations

While classic tomato-based chili is a staple, don’t shy away from exploring variations. Whether it’s a white chicken chili, a vegetarian version, or even a spicy turkey chili, tomato paste can be adapted to suit a variety of styles. Its versatility makes it a perfect match for any chili creation you can dream up.

Beyond Chili: Other Culinary Uses

Tomato paste’s utility extends beyond chili. Don’t let any leftover tomato paste go to waste – it can enhance various dishes. Use it to add depth to stews, soups, pasta sauces, and even marinades. Its concentrated flavor can be a secret ingredient that transforms your cooking.

How to Use Tomato Paste in Chili


In the world of chili-making, tomato paste is a valuable asset that can elevate your culinary creations to a whole new level. The techniques and insights provided in this guide empower you to use tomato paste effectively, resulting in chili that’s bursting with rich, layered flavors and a sumptuously thick texture. From choosing the right tomato paste to experimenting with different variations, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to master the art of incorporating tomato paste into your chili recipes.

So, the next time you’re ready to create a pot of chili goodness, remember the power of tomato paste and how to use it in chili – as a sautéed flavor enhancer, a thickening agent, and a vital ingredient that transforms your chili from ordinary to extraordinary. Let your creativity flow, and enjoy the delightful journey of crafting chili that’s a true testament to the magic of tomato paste.