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Three bean chili is a delicious vegetarian chili loaded with flavor. This hearty meal is ready in just 30 minutes.
When we lived in Texas I was surrounded by the argument of whether beans belong in chili. I’m not a purist — as long as it tastes good, add what you like!
Ou chilis almost always contain meat, but one year I was a chili cookoff judge and was impressed by the vegetarian chili we tried.
It can be a risk to serve vegetarian chili in Texas, but I’m glad they did! Years later, I’ve now come up with my own recipe for three bean chili.
This recipe comes together in a flash thanks to canned beans. You just need some spices and veggies, and you’re on your way to a cozy meat-free meal.
Ingredients for 3 bean chili
Grab everything you need for this easy chili!
Onion – Use yellow onion or white onion. If you like more of a bite, you can use red onion. I do not recommend sweet onions for chili.
Garlic – Garlic cloves vary a lot in size. I like lots of garlic, but you might want less (or more!).
Jalapeño – Jalapeños can vary a lot in size and heat level. Use the amount you prefer in your chili.
For less heat, remove the seeds before chopping.
Bell pepper – I like to use red or orange bell pepper for the sweeter flavor. You can use green, yellow, or even purple bell peppers.
Tomatoes – I use diced tomatoes in this chili. Both regular and petite cut will work well; choose based on how large you like your tomato pieces.
For a more saucy chili, use crushed tomatoes.
If using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, you’ll need about 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes. Remember to peel the tomatoes first!
Spices – I recommend using a blend of spices and not just a “chili powder” mix. Many commercial spice blends have salt as the main ingredient.
Beans – Canned beans will save you a lot of time with this recipe, but dried cooked beans can be used, too.
In this recipe, I use black beans, white beans, and red kidney beans.
Make sure your beans are rinsed and well drained.
Broth – To keep this chili vegetarian/vegan, make sure to use vegetable broth. I’ve noticed it is getting harder to find at the grocery store, so I recommend cooking your own homemade vegetable stock.
How to make three bean chili
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil to a stock pot or Dutch oven. Set over medium heat.
Once the oil is shimmering, add your chopped onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño.
Saute 5 minutes, then add chopped garlic and saute another minute or so, until fragrant.
Mix together the spices and sprinkle over the sauteed vegetables, then stir very well and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic.
Add in the tomatoes (with their juices) and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any stuck bits.
Add the drained beans and stir, then pour in 2 to 3 cups of vegetable stock.
The amount of stock/broth you use will depend on how thick you like your chili.
Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
If you prefer to cook this for longer (such as in a slow cooker), cook over low heat while covered. Add more liquid as desired to prevent the chili from becoming too thick.
What kind of beans go in chili?
There are countless beans out there — many more than are usually available in the grocery store!
I recommend going with your favorites to make chili.
I like to have a variety of bean textures. Some are meatier, while some are softer with a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Good options for chili include black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white (northern) beans, navy beans, chickpeas, or even lentils.
Can you freeze chili?
Yes! This vegetarian chili is perfect for freezing.
Portion the chili into individual containers. Make sure to leave some room, as the chili will expand as it freezes.
Let it cool to room temperature, then store in the freezer for 3 months.
Make sure to label the container with the contents and date. A piece of painter’s tape works well for nonpermanent labels.
To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight before rewarming, or pop out of the freezer container and heat gently on the stove.
There are so many ways to serve chili! It really just depends on how you feel that day.
This vegetarian chili is great served over baked halved sweet potatoes or buttermilk cornbread.
Or, try any of these toppings:
- Pickled jalapeños
- Sour cream or vegan sour cream
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Corn chips
- Pickled red onions
- Shredded cheese or vegan cheese
No matter how you top it, this cozy meal is a winner any night of the week!
Three Bean Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 jalapeño, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
- 15 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
- 15 ounces white beans, rinsed and drained
- 15 ounces kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth
- Set a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil. Once hot, add onion and peppers and sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.
- Mix together spices and add to pot, stirring and cooking 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add tomatoes with their juices and stir well, scraping any stuck bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the beans and stir well, then add 2 cups vegetable broth. Add more broth if you like for a less thick chili.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Serve with your favorite toppings.