This rich, warming three bean chili is super easy to make, using only one pan. It's suitable for the dietary requirements of those who are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy free.
We've been perfecting this three bean chili for the last decade or more and it's only got better and better. It's super simple to make, but most importantly, it is PACKED with flavour. Honestly, it's so rich and delicious! There are so many variations of chili out there but we feel after having made this regularly for as long as we have, we are biased to say it's the best. Ha!
You won't miss meat in this; it's filling, satisfying and oh so moreish. Depending on what toppings and broth you use, this is completely vegan if you wish it to be. It can easily be made in a slow cooker too if you want, we share all the tips how to do so below. If you fancy another warming option our slow cooker chicken corn chowder or butternut squash and red pepper soup.
Regardless of what dietary requirements you have, the two most important things you get from this chili are flavour and nourishing ingredients. We know you'll love this recipe so you'll have to leave us a comment and rating on the recipe card below. Follow the links here to get where you need.
Why you'll love this recipe
Here are some reasons why you need this three bean chili recipe in your life:
Flavour - we pride ourselves on this chili that's been with us for a long time. It's just packed with flavour, you definitely won't be missing anything in here!
Make ahead - this chili is great to make ahead and scale up to feed the whole family. In fact, chili is often even tastier after a few days as the flavours meld even more.
Healthy - this recipe is packed with highly nutritious ingredients, is naturally high in fibre and has plenty of protein, making this a well rounded meal.
Customisable - make this vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, change up the beans and so on; we offer suggestions on how to best customise this chili to your needs.
You only need simple ingredients for this three bean chili recipe, this is what you'll need:
Chipotle - we make our own chipotles en adobo as we think it's far superior in taste to the bought stuff and lasts forever. We use Thomasina Miers' recipe from Mexican Food Made Simple. You can buy it quite easily now though if you don't feel like making your own! Blend the chillies into a paste if you buy whole chipotles en adobo in a can, or you can use a jar of chipotle paste.
Broth - this chili is primarily vegetarian or vegan, dependent on the broth you use. We use beef broth as it makes it super rich and flavourful. You can use vegetable broth or even just water if you wish.
Cocoa - adding in a mole-esque touch, all good chilis should have some form of chocolate; it adds to the flavour, richness and colour of the dish. We use a nice rich cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate). It's definitely needed.
We know you love to mix things up with customisations and substitutions so here are some of our recommendations for this three bean chili recipe:
Vegan - to make this chili solely vegan friendly, use vegetable stock and just keep an eye on the toppings or garnishes you use alongside.
Heat - if you are serving this chili to those who don't handle heat so much you can omit the jalapeño and halve the chipotle paste. Either that or offer a good spoonful of sour cream to cool things down, chili needs some spice!
Beans - you can mix it up with the beans, use whatever you have on hand, you can even throw in chickpeas if you wish.
More protein - if you want to load this chili with protein, we recommend throwing in some browned ground turkey, leftover shredded chicken or even some chickpeas. We've even done smoked venison shanks. Mmmm.
How to make three bean chili
Follow these simple step by step guides to success for this easy chili recipe:
- Start by sautéing the diced onion, carrots, red pepper and celery in a large casserole with some oil and the salt and pepper until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and jalapeño and fry for a minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and oregano. Stir to coat and fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chipotles en adobo, beans, broth, sugar, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and cocoa powder. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer and simmer over a medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
Make sure to read and follow these expert tips to ensure complete success with this three bean chili recipe:
Prepare - do all the mise en place first. Spend 10 or so minutes just preparing and chopping the vegetables, draining and rinsing the beans and measuring out your spices. This makes the whole process when you start cooking a lot quicker.
Slow cooker - you can absolutely make this chili in the slow cooker if you want a more hands off approach.
Thicker - the three bean chili thickens up slightly as it simmers, but if you want an even thicker chili to serve with other things simmer it for longer to reduce the sauce.
Next day - this chili is incredible anyway but it is even better the next day as the flavours meld together even more.
How to make it in the slow cooker
Follow these adjustments to make this three bean chili recipe in your slow cooker or crockpot:
- Sauté the onion, red pepper, celery and carrot in a skillet with the garlic to ensure the onion has its raw flavour cooked out.
- Add everything to the slow cooker and only use 1.5 cups of broth for liquid as it won't simmer off as the lid will be on.
- Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
How to store leftovers
If you are lucky enough to have leftovers of this three bean chili you can store them in the following ways:
Fridge - once the chili has cooled, store in a freezer bag or air tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The chili will continue to develop and deepen its flavour over time.
Freezer - once cooled, store in portion-sized airtight containers appropriate for you to consume. Freeze for up to 3 months - though we have had it longer than this and it is still good. Defrost before reheating.
How to reheat chili
Make sure to follow these tips to ensure you safely reheat your three bean chili:
Defrost - if you have frozen the chili, you will need to defrost it first, you can either do this overnight in the fridge or in the microwave on the defrost setting. If defrosting in the microwave you'll need to reheat the chilli immediately afterwards.
Microwave - from the fridge, you can reheat your chili in a microwave safe container for 2.5-3 minutes on full power. Stir half way through and ensure the food is piping hot at the centre. If from frozen, defrost thoroughly first.
Stove top - place the chilled or defrosted chili in a saucepan and reheat over a medium heat for 10 minutes until the food is piping hot in the centre.
Slow cooker - place the chilled or defrosted chilli in the slow cooker on high for 1-2 hours and make sure it is piping hot throughout before serving.
Sous vide - if you have a sous vide and have frozen or chilled chili in a vacuum bag or ziploc bag (double bagged). You can reheat at 150F for 45 minutes per inch of thickness of the chili in the bag.
What to serve with chili
Here are some options for you to serve with your three bean chili, in case you don't want to eat a steaming bowlful with some tortilla chips:
Jacket potato - a lovely steaming buttery jacket potato filled with this chilli topped with cheese, sour cream and green onions is all you need. YUM!
Hot dogs - For a good old loaded hot dog, be sure you reduce the chilli to be thicker otherwise your hot dog will become impossible to eat.
Loaded fries - we already have a Loaded Sweet Potato Fries recipe, but if you have leftovers of this chili we highly recommend serving on top of fries!
Veggies - if you haven't got enough of the veggies in this chili, you can serve with extras such as steamed broccoli or even mashed potato.
Rice - quintessentially the British way to eat chili con carne, serve with rice.
What garnishes to serve
Have fun with what you want to serve garnish-wise with your chili, we have some suggestions here for you:
Sliced green onions
We use black, kidney and pinto, as they are a good size and don't disintegrate as your simmer your chilli. You could go a different route and use cannellini, butter beans or even chickpeas if you wish but the three originally suggested are the most common to use.
The flavours will develop more the longer the chili cooks or even rests in the fridge. Chili is great the next day as the flavours have even longer to meld and develop whilst resting.
Love this three bean chili recipe? Then you may want more of our vegetarian recipes, here are some suggestions to get you started:
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Easy Three Bean Chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced onion, 1 medium onion
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 cup celery, finely diced, 2 sticks
- 1 cup red bell pepper, finely diced, 1 pepper
- 1 cup carrot, finely diced, 1 large carrot
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons chipotles en adobo
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste, purée
- 14 ounce can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed, 400g
- 14 ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed, 400g
- 14 ounce can pinto beans, drained & rinsed, 400g
- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, 400g
- 2 cups stock, beef or vegetable
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
- ½ cup shredded cheddar
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 cups tortilla chips
- Heat a large dutch oven over a medium-high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrot and red pepper with the salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes until the onion has softened.2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup finely diced onion, 1 cup celery, 1 cup red bell pepper, 1 cup carrot, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Add the garlic and jalapeño and fry for a minute. Add the chilli powder, cumin, paprika, smoked paprika, cinnamon and oregano and fry for a further 2 minutes.3 garlic cloves, 1 jalapeño, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Add the beans, canned tomatoes, chipotles en adobo, tomato paste, stock, bay leaf, stock, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, cocoa powder and give it a good stir.2 tablespoons chipotles en adobo, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 14 ounce can red kidney beans, 14 ounce can black beans, 14 ounce can pinto beans, 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, 2 cups stock, 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat and allow to simmer until the veggies are cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit, about 30 minutes. Serve with your choice of garnish.2 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, ½ cup shredded cheddar, ¼ cup sour cream, 2 green onions, 2 cups tortilla chips
- To make this more kid friendly, deseed the jalapeño and halve the amount of chipotle paste.
- We make our own chipotles en adobo, it is easy enough to make if you have the ingredients - recipe from Mexican Food Made Simple. If you don't want to, it's available at most shops or online.