The Best Beans For Chili – The Ultimate Guide

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Chili is another savory meal that can be personalized to just about any tastes and preferences. You can make chili with various types of meat and beans and it’s so easy to just throw together. There are so many secret chili recipes out there you simply can’t go wrong making it any way you want to. 

Chili is perhaps one of the most customizable dishes you will find. If you don’t like beans, you can make it without. If you don’t have hamburger, you can use venison or just use beans. The options are pretty much endless.

The thing is what are the best beans for chili? There are so many different types of beans out there so how do you know which ones to use? Pinto beans are one of the best options, but you can use several different kinds. You can also use more than one kind of bean in a single chili dish. We recommend a 3-bean mix of pinto, black, and kidney beans for the ultimate chili.

In this guide, we will cover all things chili, particularly sharing with you our top recommendations for the best beans for chili. We will share many different options and give you some specific recommendations to try out.

In addition, we will cover many various things you should know when you’re making chili. 

Keep reading to learn the best beans for chili and so much more. 

The Ultimate Guide to the Very Best Chili

Chili is a universal American dish that combines a variety of things. You can regard chili as a spicy stew if you please. The best thing about chili is you can make it just about any way you please. 

Your chili can be spicy or sweet, mild or warm, full of veggies, or full of beans. The great thing is you can add just about anything.

That’s not even touching on the multiple ways you can use your leftover chili when you’re done just eating chili. 

And there’s more. You can dress up your chili any way you like to serve it. Some people top their chili with sour cream while others just use cheese.

You can dip crackers in your chili or crumble them in. Then, there is also the option of making a Frito chili pie.

One more option, popular in the Midwest, is cinnamon rolls and chili. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!

How Chili is Made

It’s essential to understand that there are numerous ways to make chili. You can find varying recipes across the board that make chili many different ways. Of course, there are some recipes that are considered more traditional than others. 

As a reference, we are going to share a quick walkthrough of how to make chili. This recipe is for a traditional meat and bean chili dish but keep in mind you can personalize these dishes and make them in your own way. 

There is nothing that says you have to have three types of beans or that you must use a certain bean or meat or tomato additive.

You can do it your own way but this recipe is meant to provide you with a general reference of the process and the most common way to make chili in a traditional manner. 

  1. You will need some olive oil, diced onions, ground beef (or meat of your choice), beans of your choice, cumin, chili powder, granulated sugar, garlic powder, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, beef broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans of your choice. You can also use pre-made chili seasoning packets if you prefer. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. You can make everything in the same pot. Add onion to heated oil and sauté for about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add ground beef to pot. Cook for 6-7 minutes, breaking apart as it cooks. Cook until browned. 
  4. Add spices and stir well. Add the tomato paste here as well. 
  5. Add broth, drained beans, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce and stir well. You can use water if you prefer instead of broth. 
  6. Bring mixture to a low boil. 
  7. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors are drawn out. 
  8. Remove from heat and let chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Don’t forget your homemade cornbread to accompany that delicious chili. If you like it spicy, you can add some hot salsa or some jalapenos to the chili to give it some extra kick.

If you like it more mild, you can always do away with the cayenne pepper. 

Uses for Chili

There are a lot of things you can do with chili that don’t require just eating chili. It’s amazing the number of people who don’t care for chili as a meal but they will eat things that are topped with chili or even mixed with chili. 

Here are a few great ideas for great ways to use your chili. 

  • Chili cheese fries
  • Loaded baked potato
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Empanadas
  • Chili mac and cheese
  • Picadillo
  • Use for enchiladas
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Tamale pie
  • Chili cheese dogs
  • Chili cheese burritos
  • Chili dip with cheese
  • Shakshuka 
  • Tator tot casserole
  • Sloppy chili joes

These are just a few simple recipes for using your chili in unique ways. There are plenty of ways to use chili and be able to enjoy it or not waste it when that big pot of chili you made seems to stretch on forever and ever. 

The Best Beans for Chili

There are so many kinds of beans out there, it can be quite challenging to pinpoint which kind should be used for what. 

Here are just a few that people are commonly familiar with. 

  • Navy
  • Green beans
  • Pinto
  • Kidney
  • Fava
  • Great Northern
  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas

If you do the research, you see there are thousands of varieties of beans. Many of them are very similar while others have quite unique uses tied to them. 

The most popular beans that are used in chili dishes include pinto, kidney, and black beans. Of course, others can be used in chili as well. Obviously, you wouldn’t use green beans in your chili but they are still a notable form of bean. 

Now, let’s talk about the best options for making chili. 

Pinto beans are the number one recommendation for making chili. The next most popular type of bean for chili is the kidney bean. Both of these make a great option, as do several other types of beans. When it comes down to it, our recommendations lie with the 3 most popular chili options listed previously.  

1. Goya Pinto Beans

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These pinto beans from Goya come dried in a 2-pound selection.

You will need to cook and prepare these pinto beans before you use them but they are high-quality beans that are simple to work with. 

You can buy these in bulk for a reasonable price. Pinto beans work really well as the #1 recommended bean for chili but you can also use them in many other things as well, including burritos and refried beans. 

These beans are very clean which simplifies the cooking process just a tad. You can even cook these beans in a slow-cooker or an instant pot if you don’t want to mess with the soaking procedures that can be quite time-consuming. 

2. Bush’s Best Canned Pinto Beans

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If you like to have a quick and easy option for your chili, try out these canned pinto beans from Bush’s.

Save yourself the hassle of soaking and draining and washing. While there is nothing wrong with this process, it can be quite time-consuming and using pre-canned beans saves a lot of time. 

When you use canned pinto beans, you rely on Bush’s to have appropriately soaked and processed your beans for you.

This option of pinto beans comes in a pack of 3 cans. Bush’s is a reliable family-owned source that has been producing beans for many years. 

The sauce for these beans is not odd with any added flavor, it’s mostly bean water for canning preservation purposes. The flavor is good and the sodium levels are not too awful. You can purchase pinto beans such as this that are low sodium as well. 

3. Fillo’s Tex Mex Pinto Beans

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Here is a healthy pinto bean option. These cost considerably more but they come in a nicely packaged small packaging.

Each package contains two servings of already prepared beans. The measurements are 10 ounces. 

This option comes with 6 packs and you may need to use multiple packs depending on the size of your pot of chili.

However, they are prepared and ready to be used. These packets can even be microwaved and used for other things as well. 

These beans are seasoned with Tex-Mex style flavoring so that may affect your chili but probably not in a negative way. These beans are non-GMO, vegan-friendly, and American made to top it off. 

If you’re looking for a healthier option, that is well-sourced, these are a really great find and despite the seasoning blended into them, they will work quite well for any type of chili dish. 

4. Iberia Black Beans

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Black beans are another great option for chili.

They have deep, bold flavor when cooked and they are especially great in chili when you pair them with other types of beans.

Most people do not make chili with black beans alone but it is always an option. 

On the other hand, if you make three-bean chili, black beans are almost always the third type of bean, although there are other beans that may be used instead. 

Black beans can be used for a lot of other things as well. Many people season black beans and use them as a side dish or in companion with Mexican cuisine dishes as well. There are a lot of uses for black beans, and chili is just one of them. 

These beans come in a bulk 4-pound bag and they are dried so you will need to soak and prepare them prior to using. However, you get a large number of beans for a little price and the beans will last on the shelf for quite some time. 

5. Jack’s Organic Kidney Beans

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Kidney beans are the second most popular type of bean to use in chili. These big red beans are flavorful and wholesome.

Kidney beans offer a lot of health benefits and they taste great. They are typically pretty easy to work with. 

This particular option comes in sustainable packaging and they are health-friendly with Non-GMO labeling as well as low-sodium promises that you simply can’t beat.

You get an 8-pack of ready-to-eat or use beans so you don’t have to worry about cooking, soaking, or anything else. 

Each box in the pack has slightly more beans than what you get in most cans. It’s a very similar measurement. These kidney beans will make a great addition to your pot of chili. 

Why Don’t You Just Use Chili Beans?

We know what you’re thinking. You’ve been down that canned good aisle at the store plenty of times and you’ve seen the labels that say chili beans. It only makes sense that chili beans would be the best beans for chili, right?

Here’s the thing, you can use chili beans if you want. Just be aware that chili beans are actually usually kidney beans. Sometimes chili beans are pinto beans.

The primary difference is that chili beans are soaked in a chili-seasoned sauce in their can. 

It’s up to you really. You can totally use chili beans if you want to, just be aware that they were seasoned with a sauce that has some sort of chili flavor that you have no control over. You may or may not notice this sauce and the flavors when you make your chili. 

If you prefer your own flavor controls and fresh items that you can adapt to your flavor wills, then chili beans are not the solution for you.

However, if you really just want to grab some canned beans and be done with it, you should absolutely give chili beans a try! If nothing else, they will add some additional flavor. 


We’ve shared several bean options here for you to consider as you plan your chili-making endeavors. 

There are just a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure that your chili is the best chili in the end. Remember that pinto beans and kidney beans are the most popular types of beans for chili. You can use any bean you want but these have tried and true great results. 

You can also use chili beans if you don’t mind the beans you are using being pre-seasoned to a standard chili flavor. They are in some sort of chili sauce that you have no control over. 

Related Questions

We hope that you find this guide to the best beans for chili to be a helpful resource for making the perfect chili. There are so many options to consider. 

We invite you to review the following question and answer section for some additional information. 

Are All Canned Beans High in Sodium?

You can read the labels and look for low-sodium canned beans. As an alternative, you can also drain and rinse canned beans to reduce sodium. 

Do Canned Beans Cause Gas?

Beans are notorious for their gassy side effects. You can often reduce these effects by soaking dry beans. Canned beans are not necessarily more likely to cause gas but you can have this side effect.

Up Next: The 7 Best Canned Chili For Hot Dogs

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