Three bean chili

Three bean chili

As meaty (or vegetarian or vegan) as you’d like. As spicy as you want it. In the oven or on the stove top. It’s chili, don’t make it complicated.


  • 1 to 1.5 lbs meat or tofu, optional (pork shoulder, ground beef, cubed chicken, etc)
  • 2 or 3 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (or about 3 fresh cloves)
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
  • Some water (2-3 cups or so)
  • 0.75 cups red kidney beans (measured dry, soak them the night before)
  • 0.5 cup navy beans (dry)
  • 0.5 cup black beans (dry)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 0.5 tsp cumin
  • 0.25 tsp chipotle chili powder (to taste)
  • 0.25 tsp ancho chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 (12 oz.) can of beer (dark and malty is my preference, but a good bitter IPA makes the chili flavor quite bright)
  • 2 or 3 tbsp oil/fat (complimentary flavor like rendered bacon fat, or neutral flavor)
  • Dash or two of liquid smoke
  • Salt to taste

For serving

  • Mexican cheese blend, for topping
  • Cornbread or corn chips, for serving
  • Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Heat your oil of choice in a big dutch oven.
  2. If using whole muscle cut meat, sear the meat, set aside.
  3. Cook onions until translucent in oil, about 5-10 minutes. Scrape up all the nice brown bits from the meat.
  4. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, maybe a minute.
  5. Add everything else into the big dutch oven (including whole muscle cut meat, but not tofu or ground meat if using).
  6. Simmer for around 6 hours (on low on the stove and stir or in a 250°F oven with the pot’s lid cracked), adding water as needed.
  7. (about 30 minutes before serving) If using whole muscle cut meat, shred the meat and return to dutch oven.  If using ground meat, brown and toss into the chili.  If using tofu, crumble or cut and add to the pot.
  8. Serve with cheese, cornbread, and any other toppings.


  • If omitting meat/tofu entirely, simmer a little longer and/or add extra tomato paste in to thicken the chili.
  • If I’m making this for vegans, I use vegetable oil and don’t add tofu or other meat alternatives at all. Just the beans and vegetables are fabulous.
  • If I’m making this for folks who eat meat, I tend to use rendered bacon fat and cubed pork shoulder.
  • Sometimes it helps to use a pinch or two of baking soda in the water used to soak beans, especially if the beans are older. Rinse all of the beans and pick them over for debris before cooking.
  • 🌶️ I think this is quite mild, flavorful but not at all spicy.