Three Bean Chili
on Feb 07, 2022, Updated Jul 08, 2022
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With black beans, pinto beans and kidney beans, this easy three bean chili is seasoned with a mix of dried spices, minced jalapenos and garlic. It’s a great make-ahead recipe for lunch or dinner.
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Even though I’m from Cincinnati, home to a very specific chili without beans, unless you ask for them, and spooned on top of spaghetti, I am firmly in the chili in a bowl camp. In my world, the more beans the better in a thick spicy, tomato-stew broth. No offense to my birthplace.
Call it indecision or my love of legumes, but I get really excited about chili that not only packs in lots of beans, but also has different varieties all in the same soup pot. When I make chili, I want it to be a filling, standalone meal that’s full of wholesome ingredients with protein and fiber.
Chili always satisfies the cravings I have for soup on cold days. Made with mostly pantry ingredients, it’s the kind of thing you can whip up at a moment’s notice without much planning. You can even make it in advance of when you plan to serve it. Just rewarm the chili on the stove. That extra time gives the flavors more of a chance to develop.
The Best Beans For Chili
Some people say dried beans are better than canned. While I wouldn’t disagree, the convenience of canned beans can’t be beat, especially if that’s going to be the difference between you cooking a recipe or not. There is nothing wrong taking advantage of this.
Black, pinto and kidney beans are my picks for this chili. First, appearance does count. I like the look of the different colors. Second, and definitely most important, are taste and texture. With their red color and mild flavor, kidney beans are probably the most common bean found in chili. Black beans are smooth and almost creamy when they are cooked, and pinto beans have an earthy flavor.
Ingredients & Substitutions
For this bean chili recipe you will need:
- Beans: The recipe calls for 3 cans of beans. I recommend this trio, but you can swap out kidney beans for cannellini beans instead. And if you reach into your pantry and have only one or two kinds, go ahead and still make the chili. Just remember that you need three 15-ounce cans.
- Onions: You can use a white, red or yellow onion.
- Bell peppers give the chili some crispness variety besides just beans and tomatoes. I prefer red, orange or yellow peppers.
- Jalapenos add fresh spicy heat to go with the chili powder.
- Garlic is an important, but secondary aromatic ingredient. Both the minced jalapenos and minced garlic are added to the sautéed onions at the same time.
- Spices: I season the chili with a combination of dried spices including cumin, paprika, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Tomatoes: A can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes are my first choice for chili no matter the rest of the ingredients.
- Vegetable broth: Use low-sodium vegetable broth. Then you can control the amount of salt.
- Olive oil is for sauteing the onions and aromatics.
Toppings for Chili
At its base, this is a vegan chili recipe. What takes it from vegan to vegetarian is how you top it, like if you add dairy versions of cheese, sour cream or yogurt. I like a shredded Mexican cheese blend or cheddar cheese.
Other good toppings include sliced scallions, crumbled tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro and sliced jalapenos. You could also add sliced or diced avocados if you want.
How To Make Three-Bean Chili
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions. Cook them for about 5 minutes until they turn soft and translucent.
2. Add the jalapenos, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. The onions will become very fragrant in a minute or so.
3. Sauté the diced bell peppers for a few minutes.
4. Pour in the tomatoes and vegetable broth along with the beans. Bring the chili to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until it thickens slightly, about 20-25 minutes. Serve the chili. Ladle it into bowls and garnish with your desired toppings.
Leftovers & Freezing
You can keep the chili in an airtight in the container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. If you want to store it longer, the chili can be frozen up to 1 month. I recommend putting it in the freezer in individual portions, so it is easier to thaw and you don’t have to eat a big saved batch all at once.
What To Serve With Chili
Buttermilk cornbread or crusty bread are the most obvious choices because they are good for dunking. You can also keep it super simple by going with tortilla chips or warmed flour or corn tortillas.
More Chili and Soup Recipes
Black Bean Chili
Sweet Potato Chili
Chile Verde with White Beans and Corn
Vegan Poblano White Bean Chili
Slow Cooker Lentil Tortilla Soup
One Pot Quinoa Chili
White Bean Sweet Potato Tomato Kale Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-15 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-28 ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- For serving: thinly sliced scallions crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Mexican blend cheese, yogurt or sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapenos
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the jalapenos, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes to let the ingredients turn fragrant.
- Add the bell peppers, sautéing for a few minutes.
- Stir in the beans, tomatoes and vegetable broth. Bring the chili to a boil and reduce the heat. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes over medium to low heat until the chili has thickened slightly.
- Divide the soup into bowls and garnish with desired toppings.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.