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Best Beans for Chili

Best Beans for ChiliBeans in chili is controversial, depending on who you ask. But since we’re talking about the best beans for chili, let’s look at each bean, and you can decide what to use in your next batch. 

A picture with three types of beans in spoons.
Photo Credit: Tijana Drndarski


Beans are a type of legume and a staple in many cultures. Beans grow in pods and are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the most common types of beans are black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and Lima beans. Add beans to salad (Piyaz), soup, stew (Beef and Chickpea Stew), hummus (Butter Bean Hummus), casseroles, and chili (of course).


Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They also contain fiber, which helps promote digestive health and regulate blood sugar, and are packed with folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium to support a healthy diet.


Kidney Beans

A close up of dried kidney beans.
Photo Credit: Arina Krasnikova

Kidney beans are one of the most common and best beans for chili. In fact, they are sometimes labeled ‘chili beans’ in mainstream grocery stores, so you can’t go wrong with them.

Three Bean Chili
Easy Three Bean Chili combines a few pantry ingredients like pinto, kidney, and white beans into one delicious pot of chili.
Three Bean Chili
A serving bowl of chili surrounded by bowls of toppings.
Chili Cheese Nachos
Chili Cheese Nachos are piled high with flavorful chili cheese deliciousness and canned kidney beans for the perfect appetizer.
Chili Cheese Nachos
A tray of chili nachos topped with cheese, jalapeños, and onion.
Turkey Chili Taco Soup
Healthy low fat, high protein, and packed with kidney beans; this chili is so delicious you'd never know it's so good for you!
Turkey Chili Taco Soup
Two bowls of chili topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and cilantro.

Black Beans

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Photo Credit: Mikey Frost

Black beans have a rich, earthy flavor making them perfect for chili. They are high in protein, so they’re ideal for vegetarian chilies and the perfect complement to hearty beef chili.

Chili Con Carne
Authentic Chili Con Carne is made with tender beef, black beans, and chilies for maximum flavor.
Chili Con Carne
A single serving of chili con carne topped with jalapeños.
Pineapple Black Bean Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
A healthy, hearty, and comforting bowl of sweet heat and black beans with simmered-all-day flavor.
Pineapple Black Bean Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
A close up of a bowl of chili topped with shredded cheese and sour cream.
Black Bean Quinoa Chili
Packed with protein and healthy veggies, this vegan Black Bean Quinoa Chili is a hearty and satisfying one pot meal!
Black Bean Quinoa Chili
A bowl of chili topped with cilantro and lime wedges.

Pinto Beans

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Photo Credit: Arina Krasnikova

Pinto beans are the most popular choice for chili, and because of their mild flavor and tenderness as they simmer, it makes sense!

Four Bean Beef and Beer Chili
Nothing says delicious like a big bowl of flavorful Four Bean Beef and Beer Chili; this recipe contains kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, and pinto beans.
Four Bean Beef and Beer Chili
A stockpot full of four bean chili.
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
A smooth and delicious chili with pumpkin, pinto beans, and a touch of pumpkin spice.
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
A crockpot of chili surrounded by bowls of toppings.

White Beans

A close up of dry white beans.
Photo Credit: Łukasz Rawa

White beans have a mild flavor and a creamy texture that’s perfect for chili, especially if your chosen protein is chicken or something other than beef (Leftover Turkey White Chili). White beans come in three varieties; cannellini, Northern beans, and navy beans are often used interchangeably in chili.

Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
Instant Pot White Chicken Chili is layered with Northern white beans and rich flavors to make a hearty and filling meal that's ready in under an hour.
Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
White Corn Chicken Chili
White Corn Chicken Chili is made with white corn, Northern white beans, shredded chicken, fresh cilantro, and warm spices.
White Corn Chicken Chili
A overview of white chili topped with cheese, lime, and tortilla strips.

Garbanzo Beans

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Photo Credit: Karyna Panchenko

Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a great addition to chili, and since they’re a good source of protein and fiber, they bulk up the chili to make it more filling.

Vegetarian White Bean Chili
Chickpeas, cannellini beans, and navy beans add interest to this simple and fast Vegetarian White Bean Chili recipe.
Vegetarian White Bean Chili
Two bowls of white bean chili topped with onions and cilantro.
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
Chock full of kidney beans and chickpeas, just one bowl of this rich plant based chili will warm you up, even on the coldest winter days!
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
Chili in a bowl with rice topped with cilantro and avocado.

Black Eyed Peas

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Photo Caption: Jasmine Waheed

Despite the name, black-eyed peas are beans with a creamy, smooth texture when cooked. They are slightly sweet and complement the spices and other ingredients featured in chili.

Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas
Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas is known for bringing good fortune. Ours is smoky and spicy. Brimming with flavor, it will leave you feeling lucky.
Instant Pot Black Eyed Peas
Instant Pot black eyed peas in a bowl with the serving bowl in the background.Instant Pot black eyed peas in a small bowl.
Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas cooked with ham and bacon! Great for celebrating the new year or any day really!
Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas
A crockpot filled with black eyed pea chili.


  • Rinse canned and dry beans under cold water and pick out debris before using them in a recipe.
  • Soak the dry beans in water overnight to reduce the cooking time and ensure they become tender.
  • Drain the soaked beans and rinse them before cooking.
  • Place dry beans in a stockpot and cover them with fresh water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 1-2 hours or until they are tender.
  • Add the cooked or canned beans to the chili and stir to combine. Let the pot simmer until the ingredients have time to incorporate.


Serve chili as a main dish alongside cornbread, corn casserole, rice, pasta, or crusty bread. But there are many other ways to enjoy chili; here are a few of our favorites.

  • Topping: Pour homemade chili over baked potatoes, french fries, or hot dogs to make Chili Dogs. You can also grab your favorite back of chips and make walking nachos. 
  • Filling: Use chili as a filling for Chili and Rice Casserole, chili spaghetti squash casserole, chili and tater tot casserole, Frito chili pie, and Chili Cornbread Casserole.
  • Sauce: Thin the chili with broth or water to use as a sauce for vegetables or pasta.
  • Dip: Warm chili and serve it as a dip with tortilla chips or crackers.


What types of beans go in chili?

The best beans for chili highly depend on personal preference and regional variations. Common types of beans used in chili include kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans. Some recipes may also include navy beans, cannellini beans, or chickpeas.

What are the best canned beans for chili?

Canned beans tend to have a softer texture than dry beans, so if you prefer them to be firm, consider using cooked dry beans or canned kidney beans since they retain their structure more than other varieties. For smooth and creamy chili, I recommend canned pinto or black beans.

What’s the best bean to meat ratio?

Ultimately, the best bean-to-meat ratio for chili is a matter of personal preference- feel free to experiment and find what you like; I tend to use one can (14 ounces) of beans for every pound of meat or vegetables.


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