Three Bean and Beef Chili Recipe

Updated on September 29, 2017
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Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over twenty years, and has cooked on multiple television stations, including Food Network.

Three Bean and Beef Chili Recipe

This Chili Is a LIfesaver

I love chili. I love all kinds, but I find myself coming back to the simple recipes over and over again. The whole family loves it, and it takes almost no effort.

Make a big pot of chili on the weekend, and you have culinary gold in the fridge for the rest of the week. Chili reheats beautifully, so it's perfect to pull out on a busy weeknight. It's also wonderful to use in other meals.

Make omelets and top them with a little diced tomato and chili. Or top baked potato with chili and sour cream. Or serve it with tortilla chips for over the top nachos. One of our favorites is to use fresh, cut Romaine lettuce, top it with a little chili, and use fresh salsa as a dressing for an amazing salad.

However you serve it, this three bean and beef chili recipe is a favorite. Although the ingredients are simple, the results are delicious. We love how the tomatoes, vegetables and beans come together in the incredible sauce. And I love how this dish is a nutritional powerhouse - the kids happily eat vitamin, mineral and fiber loaded beans and tomatoes without a blink. Talk about a win-win!

Three Bean and Beef Chili Ingredients

Don't be intimidated by what seems like a long list of ingredients - you really just throw everything into the pot and let the chili simmer. It's not difficult, and the flavor results are well worth a couple extra spices!

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper - this is optional! Cayenne pepper carries a lot of heat and distinctive flavor, so be careful here. Add just a little at first, and let the flavor really develop as the chili cooks. It tends to 'awaken' as the chili simmers and you can find you've added too much really quickly. It's best to be very cautious, or you may find you've created a pot of nuclear power.

For serving: sour cream, cilantro, diced tomatoes, black olives, shredded Cheddar, tortilla chips, minced cilantro or minced parsley - or anything else you like!

Three Bean and Beef Chili Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, brown the ground beef, stirring to crumble. Drain excess fat.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, and garlic to the pot, and stir.
  3. Add pinto beans, red beans, and black beans. Stir in tomatoes and seasonings.
  4. Bring pot up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer for about half an hour. If you let it go for an hour, even better.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese - anything you like! It's really nice sprinkled with a little fresh minced parsley or cilantro.

The Spices!

The spices are simple, but important. Each one brings something critical to the party. I used two tablespoons of chili powder - just the regular grocery store stuff. But feel free to use more or less based on your family's tastes.
The spices are simple, but important. Each one brings something critical to the party. I used two tablespoons of chili powder - just the regular grocery store stuff. But feel free to use more or less based on your family's tastes.

Lean Ground Beef

This is the perfect time to use lean ground beef. There are so many additional big flavors that the fat isn't really needed - in fact, can make the final dish greasy. So use leaner ground beef or drain it really well. Or both!
This is the perfect time to use lean ground beef. There are so many additional big flavors that the fat isn't really needed - in fact, can make the final dish greasy. So use leaner ground beef or drain it really well. Or both!

Onion, Pepper, Jalapenos and Garlic

One onion, one bell pepper, a couple of jalapenos and some garlic form the flavor base for the vegetables.
One onion, one bell pepper, a couple of jalapenos and some garlic form the flavor base for the vegetables.

Types of Peppers for Chili

One of the most versatile aspects of this recipe is the peppers. You can swap them out for whatever you like, whatever you find, or what you prefer.

The simplest substitution is to exchange one type of bell pepper for another. If you like the sweeter, milder flavor of red, yellow or orange bell peppers, feel free to use those.The colors are actually gorgeous in the finished dish, and I love to find ways to increase the colors of the veggies in our diet.

You can also use Anaheim or poblano peppers if you like, and I often do. You can find these in most grocery stores, and you treat them exactly as you would a bell pepper. Take out the seeds and white ribs, and they're good to go. They have a mild but distinctive flavor and make the dish more complex and full in flavor.

Finally, you can, of course, add or subtract jalapenos as well. If you love the heat and the flavor, knock yourself out. Add as much as you want. Or if you have someone sensitive to heat at your house, cut them back or leave them out entirely. It's your food - make it the way you like!

Control the Heat of Jalapenos

You can control the heat of jalapeno peppers by removing the seeds and white membranes, where the capsaicin is stored. Be careful not to touch your eyes!
You can control the heat of jalapeno peppers by removing the seeds and white membranes, where the capsaicin is stored. Be careful not to touch your eyes!

Add Veggies to the Pot

Add veggies to the drained ground beef, and stir. Let them cook while you prep the beans.
Add veggies to the drained ground beef, and stir. Let them cook while you prep the beans.

Add Spices

Adding the spices to the beef and veggies before the other ingredients are added helps toast them a little and bring out their flavors.
Adding the spices to the beef and veggies before the other ingredients are added helps toast them a little and bring out their flavors.

Pinto Beans

Drain and rinse one can of pinto beans - or feel free to use home cooked if you have them.Homemade beans wouldn't need to be rinsed as canned, commercial beans do.
Drain and rinse one can of pinto beans - or feel free to use home cooked if you have them.Homemade beans wouldn't need to be rinsed as canned, commercial beans do.

Red Beans

The second type of beans in this chili recipe are red beans. Make sure to rinse them.
The second type of beans in this chili recipe are red beans. Make sure to rinse them.

Black Beans

Loaded with fiber and minerals, black beans bring a great Tex-Mex flair to the party.
Loaded with fiber and minerals, black beans bring a great Tex-Mex flair to the party.

The Original Texas Chili...

Did not contain beans, and the inclusion of beans in chili has been a hotly contested and controversial thing in chili circles for years.

Texas chili was made with just beef and chilies, and the pot simmered until the beef was tender and incredibly flavorful. The result was known as a 'Texas bowl of red' for the color resulting from the chilies. Original Texas chili is delicious, but this recipe isn't that -not by a long shot.

This recipe of course uses the much more economical and available ground beef instead of chuck. Several types of beans are used because of their incredible flavor and for their nutritional punch. Tomatoes bring color, and onion and bell pepper lend their flavors to the sauce.

So yes, this is chili, but not the traditional kind. Sorry, Texas, but this stuff is just as good as the original!

Diced Tomatoes

You can certainly use fresh tomatoes if you have them or they are in season - no problem! Or use 4 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes. This brings flavor and liquid both, plus a pretty hefty nutritional punch.
You can certainly use fresh tomatoes if you have them or they are in season - no problem! Or use 4 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes. This brings flavor and liquid both, plus a pretty hefty nutritional punch.

Simmer - 1/2 to 1 hour

Stir well, bring the pot up to a simmer, and let it simmer about 1/2 hour minimum. It gets better with time, so if you can keep it on low heat for longer, it will be even better. It also reheats beautifully.
Stir well, bring the pot up to a simmer, and let it simmer about 1/2 hour minimum. It gets better with time, so if you can keep it on low heat for longer, it will be even better. It also reheats beautifully.

Serve with Chips, Sour Cream, Green Onion - You Choose!

Top with whatever toppings you like, and serve. This keeps really well, and reheats beautifully, so make a big batch!
Top with whatever toppings you like, and serve. This keeps really well, and reheats beautifully, so make a big batch!

Three Bean and Beef Chili - Tutorial

How to Brown Ground Beef

© 2017 Jan Charles

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