I Tried the Viral Method for Thickening Stew Without Cornstarch and It Works Like a Charm

published Mar 22, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Beef, potato, carrot and pea stew that has been thickened by adding crushed potato chips in a white bowl with a spoon. The bag of chips is in the background, with crumbs spilling out
Credit: Nathan Hutsenpiller

I’ll never claim to be much of an expert when it comes to cooking. Instead, the qualities I bring to the table are a willingness to try something new and an overall lack of fear of making mistakes in the process. As someone who best learns by way of trial and error, I am a huge fan of how cooking fits into that equation and proposes a challenge with multiple solutions. It’s a great feeling when you learn something new, like a new trick or an alternative method — especially when that something was right there under your nose the entire time. 

That being said, I recently stumbled upon a video by James Strange, aka powerplantop on TikTok, demonstrating how to get your homemade stew to be a little thicker without the use of cornstarch or flour. The trick? Instant mashed potatoes. The method almost made too much sense and since I was already in the mood to make some good comfort food, I really could not wait to go ahead and put it to the test.

How to Thicken Stew Without Cornstarch or Flour

For this experiment, I decided to go with Guinness Beef Stew and I opted out of using cornstarch and flour entirely. Keep in mind, you can use this technique for any stew recipe of your liking, but remember to skip the step where you add those ingredients. 

Once your stew is prepared and you’re ready to thicken it up, mix in about 1/8 cup of instant mashed potatoes and stir well. Depending on your desired amount of liquid, add more instant mashed potatoes incrementally, making sure to not go overboard. There’s a fine line between soup and stew, and it’s all up to the maker to decide which side of that line they want to be on. 

My Honest Opinion of Thickening Stew Without Cornstarch or Flour

To be perfectly honest, this was my first attempt at stew and I really learned a lot in the process. First, I did my research — in an attempt to decipher the difference between stew and soup — but then realized that everyone has an opinion, and in the end, you just don’t want it to turn out like goop. I leaned a little more toward the thicker side with my end product and was quite pleased with how the instant mashed potatoes worked out. After all, how can you say no to more potatoes? 

Secondly, this instant mashed potatoes method 100 percent works as a thickener for stew. With this trick, I learned that it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. Of course, I know what you’re thinking. And yes, you can totally reach the exact same outcome by using cornstarch and flour. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have those two ingredients, however, that random bag of instant taters in the pantry is absolutely going to do the trick. Plus it adds to the flavor, so why not have some fun with it?

2 Tips for Thickening Stew Without Cornstarch or Flour

  1. Take it easy. Since a little bit makes a big difference, you’ll want to go easy on the instant mashed potato application. I would recommend adding a tiny bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency. 
  2. Have fun with it. Why stop at plain old instant mashed potatoes? Think about the flavors you want to get out of your stew, and try adding any of the flavored versions of instant mashed potatoes available at your grocery store to see if it elevates your recipe.