Chili is a popular and incredibly comforting dish that has been enjoyed by people all over the world for years. Beans go hand in hand with chili and are a staple where this dish is concerned.
Beans provide a fantastic source of protein (great for vegetarians), nutrients, and fiber. Packed with carbs, too, beans make a healthy contribution to our diets.
If you’re trying to figure out which beans go best in chili, here is a guideline on which beans work in chili to help you.
Why are beans an important part of chili?
Besides their nutritive value, beans help by thickening the sauce and giving it a little body. They make the dish a little more filling, great as a hearty and satisfying lunch or dinner. They add depth and richness to the dish and balance out its spiciness.
The heat from the spice in your chili can be dialed up or down, and adding beans to your sauce is a great way to temper the whole dish.
There are several kinds of beans that can be used in chili, each with its own set of merits. It’s a pretty personal decision, which beans to use in your chili, but here is some guidance around what will work really well.
Which are the best beans for chili?
Whether you’re looking for a rich and dark or a creamy buttery taste, there’s a bean for your chili! Here are four popular bean options to choose from:
- Kidney beans: these are an absolute staple in chili; these tasty beans just deliver. They have a buttery texture and don’t disintegrate into the sauce, making them a great option for a thicker chili consistency. They have a wonderfully sweet, nutty taste that goes really well with the lovely spices in this dish.
- Pinto beans: a popular choice for chili, these have a nice nutty flavor and a tender texture that softens in the sauce. If you’re looking for a creamy texture, this is your bean.
- Black beans: these pretty pops of dark beans have a sturdy texture and a lovely smoky, grounded flavor that works perfectly in chili. They are a fierce source of protein and fiber, making them a great choice for vegetarians.
- White beans: also known as cannellini or navy beans, these beauties have a soft mouthfeel and a mild flavor, making them a versatile option for chili. These little beans soak up all the flavors and spices the chili has to offer.
In the end, the best bean for the job is based on your own personal preference. Some people prefer a bean that holds its own in the sauce, while others want a bean that will soften in the sauce. It’s a good idea to experiment a little until you find what works best for you and your palate. If you want to try a meatless option then try my Kenyan Githeri recipe.
Which are the healthiest beans for chili?
Where chili is concerned, the healthiest beans to look out for are chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans. They are all loaded with essential vitamins, protein, and fiber and are low in fat and calories. They’re a great and healthy way to bulk up a chili. In addition, they are also mild in flavor and complement the spices really well. All in all, these are healthy bean choices for a chili dish.
What are the health benefits of beans?
Here are some of the specific health benefits of beans:
- Loaded up with fiber: beans are a great source of dietary fiber, helping your digestive system regulate. They also work to lower your cholesterol level and help with weight loss.
- Protein-rich: beans are full of wonderful plant-based protein, making them a good option for people who are vegetarian or follow a vegan-based diet.
- Low-fat: many beans are low in fat and calories. They are, therefore, a good way to fill up without loading calories into your healthy meal plan.
- Dense in essential nutrients and minerals: beans are a good source of minerals and vitamins like iron, folate, magnesium, and potassium.
- Contain antioxidants: certain kinds of beans, like kidney beans and black beans, have high levels of antioxidants, which can help protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals.
- Said to help control blood sugar: research shows that some people have shown positive signs of regulating their blood sugar.
All in all, beans are a flexible, nutritious ingredient that can make a great addition to a healthy diet. Whether you’re looking to add more protein, fiber, or essential nutrients to your meals, beans are a tasty and convenient way to get nutrients to your body.
What to serve your chili with
Here are a couple of fun ideas of what to serve your chili with:
- Cornbread: make it in a skillet and serve it slap bang in the middle of the table next to the pot of chili.
- Rice: pour your chili over a steaming bowl of yellow rice, white rice, or Jamaican rice and peas. Garnish with fresh herbs, and you’re there.
- Mashed potatoes: add a scoop of creamy potato mash, and you’ll have the best comfort food ever! Check out my mashed potatoes per person Guide.
- Baked sweet potato: a lovely and healthy carb to go with your chili. Bake the sweet potato in some foil with a little garlic and ginger for some extra flavor.
- Salad: chopped cucumber, tomato, cheese, lettuce, and avocado. This is such a fresh salad combination that can really settle your rich chili right down.
- Chips and salsa: serve a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa for some serious chip and dip action.
- Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich: I love the idea of scooping your chili up with a classic grilled cheese and tomato, guys!
- Garlic bread: you’re going to need a pitcher of iced tea to wash this combination down!
- Guacamole: just spoon it on top with a load of chopped cilantro, lime wedge, and sour cream.
- Sweet corn: hot, buttered, and steaming. Serve a bowl of these alongside your chili.
- Bowl of creamy polenta: a great alternative to mashed potato. This will go down a treat.
Problems that can occur when cooking chili with beans
Here are a couple of problems people sometimes come up against with beans when making chili:
- Beans are tough and hard: if you’re using dried beans, you need to ensure they soak properly and for long enough before cooking them. If they aren’t soaked properly, they won’t soften and will ruin the chili as they’ll be inedible. Simmer the sauce until they are totally tender.
- Chili is too watery: you might need to let it simmer a little longer or stir in some cornstarch to thicken the sauce up.
- Chili is too thick: dilute the thick sauce with a little broth or tomato sauce.
- Chili tastes too bland: dial up the flavor by cooking in a little more spice and adding in either fresh or dried herbs. A little squeeze of fresh lime will balance the dish out well.
Wrapping it up
To end off, beans and chili make the perfect dynamic duo! Not only are they delicious, but they also pack a nutritious punch with their high fiber and protein content.
Whether you prefer your chili with kidney beans, black beans, or pinto beans, the options are endless. So, the next time you’re in the mood for a warm and comforting meal, whip up a batch of chili, and don’t be afraid to add an extra helping of beans. Let’s raise a bowl to this tasty and versatile combination!
Chili Con Carne – A Delicious Homemade Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and cubed
- 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cubed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
- 1-2 tsp chili powder of your choice (play around with the heat level here)
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (regular is fine too)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
- 14 ounces (1 can) diced tomatoes
- 1 cup beef stock (low-sodium)
- 14 ounces (1 can) red kidney beans
- 1 block (10 grams) dark chocolate, or to taste
- Sea salt flakes, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- Sour cream, for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat.
- Once heated, add the onions and diced red pepper. Leave them to sweat for 5 minutes while stirring often. Then, add the garlic and allow it to toast for 30 seconds.
- Next, add the tomato paste (not puree) and mix it well so it covers all of the ingredients.
- Once your base is made, add the spices and dried herbs. Again, mix them very well so that they coat the onions and peppers well. You can let them toast for a minute.
- When all of the spices become super aromatic, add the ground beef. Allow the ground beef to cook over medium-high heat until it becomes evenly brown, about 5 minutes.
- Next, add the canned tomatoes and beef stock. Stir the ingredients together very well. Bring the ingredients to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat slightly and allow the chili con carne to simmer for about 20 minutes. You should cover the pot with an airtight lid to prevent the sauce from evaporating or reducing too much.
- Check the progress of the chili often and stir it. This will just prevent the mixture from burning at the bottom, imparting a terrible flavor. If need be, add a bit of extra water to ensure the chili remains saucy.
- Finally, drain the red kidney beans and rinse them under cold running water. Add them to your chili and bring the stew to a boil again. Once boiling, lower the heat and leave the mixture to cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Keep adding some water if the mixture looks too dry.
- Stir in the chocolate and season your homemade chili con carne to taste with salt and pepper. You can also adjust the spiciness here if you would like to.
- Cover the pot and leave the chili to rest for 10 minutes. This helps the flavors blend together even further and develop some more.
- When you are ready, serve your homemade chili while it's still warm alongside your favorite accompaniments.