You will never need or want to add meat to your chili again once you taste this 3 bean chili recipe! Naturally vegan and gluten-free, depending on the toppings you choose, it's perfect for a crowd because the carnivores won't even miss the meat! Now everyone is happy!
Nothing beats sitting down to a nice hearty bowl of chili on a cold day! This nutrient-rich 3 bean version might be missing the meat but it more than makes up for it in flavor and nutrients. It is packed with protein and fibre and will keep you satisfied for hours. It makes the absolute best leftovers and freezes beautifully. When I make a batch I will eat it every day for a week, sometimes for both lunch and dinner, until it was gone! It's that good.
My two "secret" ingredients are olives and cocoa powder. My mom always put olives in her chili and I just can't live without them now. That little hit of salty goodness every so often is just perfect. A touch of cocoa powder adds an earthy, umami flavor. The sugar, in addition to the sweet corn, balances out the acidity from the tomatoes.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- For the chili powder: sweet paprika, ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and cayenne pepper. Play around with the quantities to make it your own or simply replace with equal amount of pre-packaged chili powder.
- Spanish onion - white or yellow onions will work for this recipe too. You will need approximately 2 cups diced.
- Celery - carrots can also be used here.
- Fresh garlic
- Brown or white mushrooms - pick up the packs or sliced mushrooms to make chopping a breeze!
- Green and red bell pepper - any combination of bell peppers can be used.
- Jalapeno peppers - if you don't like the heat feel free to omit these altogether. Or add more if you want to turn it up!
- Cocoa powder - adds depth of flavor. Adding ½ oz/14 g of dark chocolate will also do the trick. This ingredient can also be omitted but I recommend giving it a try.
- Whole canned tomatoes - can be substituted with diced or pureed tomatoes. Look for brands that don't include calcium chloride (see below). If using tomatoes with calcium chloride, add an extra tablespoon of sugar to compensate for the extra acidity.
- Beans - You can use any combination of beans you like or all the same kind. If you would like to add meat, replace one can of beans with 1 lb/454g of ground meat and cook with the onions and celery in Step 3.
- Corn - fresh, frozen or canned corn can be used. No need to thaw frozen corn before adding to the chili.
- Green olives - another ingredient adding depth of flavor. Feel free to leave them out if you don't like olives.
- Fresh cilantro - fresh parsley can be used in place of cilantro.
- Fresh lime juice
- Worcestershire sauce - can be replaced with an equal quantity of soy sauce.
Mise en place
Which is a fancy French kitchen term for "get your sh** together! It's always best practice, especially when working with a lot of ingredients, to get everything ready before you start. Including draining and rinsing the beans, chopping or pureeing the tomatoes, etc. You don't want to be scrambling around looking for that one thing you forgot to get ready when it's time to add it to the pot. Then you can just relax and cook.
Why use whole, peeled canned tomatoes
- They are more versatile. Whole tomatoes can be turned into puree, diced, crushed etc. so you always have what you need.
- Crushed and diced tomatoes contain calcium chloride which helps them keep their shape while cooking. I prefer the tomatoes to be soft and break down in my dishes but this is a personal preference.
- Higher grade tomatoes are typically chosen to pack whole while the more inferior qualities are left for the crushed and chopped.
- Chop with a knife, crush with your hands and puree with a hand blender, regular blender, food processor or a magic bullet.
- Pay attention to the ingredients listed. You want as few as possible. There will usually be some citric acid and salt which are both used in the canning process but avoid other flavourings and additives.
- The highest quality are imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes.
How to core and chop a bell pepper
Stand the pepper upright and cut one side off. Rotate the pepper cutting the sides off in 3 or 4 pieces. Avoid the white core as much as possible. Ideally, you end up with the top, bottom, and core + seeds all in one piece at the end. Remove any white pith leftover by sliding your knife underneath and cutting away from yourself. Wipe off any seeds. Slice into strips and then cut across to dice. For step by step photos of how to dice an onion check out this post: White Bean Sausage and Arugula Soup
How to make 3 bean chili
This recipe includes homemade chili powder. It's so easy to put together with spices you probably already have on hand. I like to mix my own so I can control the flavours and the heat level. You can adjust anything to your liking. Add more or less cayenne, depending on your preferred spice level. This spice mix has a mild to medium heat. If you are a cumin lover bump that up too. Play around with it and make it your own.
- Cook the onions and celery first, because they take the longest to soften up. Always do this on a medium-low heat to avoid burning.
- Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, spices, peppers, salt, sugar and cocoa powder are next.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer. Everything gets to know each other here so they can become one cohesive, yummy dish!
- After 30 minutes add the beans, corn and olives. Simmer again for about 30 minutes and remove from the heat.
- Now you can add the fresh lime juice, cilantro, Worcestershire sauce (another hit of umami flavour). Give it a taste and decide if it needs more salt.
- This chili lasts in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 6 months.
Optional toppings for 3 bean chili
- Sour cream or yogurt. For a great sour cream substitute mix together equal parts plain yogurt and mayonnaise.
- Grated cheddar cheese.
- Sliced or diced avocado or guacamole
- Tortilla chips
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh lime juice
- Hot sauce for an extra kick
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3 Bean Chili
- 2 tablespoon paprika, sweet
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander, ground
- 2 ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or more to taste
For the chili
- 2 tbps olive oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 4 tablespoon chili powder, recipe above
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon salt, Kosher, plus more to taste
- 450 grams/1lb brown or white mushrooms, diced
- 1 large green bell pepper, core and seeds removed, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 2 jalapeno peppers, minced, add seeds to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 (796ml/28oz) cans whole tomatoes, chopped or pureed, with juices
- 1 (540ml/19oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (540ml/19oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (540ml/19oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups corn, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup green olives, sliced
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- avocado slices or chunks
- Sour cream or yogurt
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Fresh lime wedges
- extra cilantro leaves
- hot sauce
- tortilla chips
- For the chili powder, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and celery and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until soft and glossy. Adjust heat as necessary.
- Stir in 4 tbsp. chili powder mixture, garlic, and salt. Stir and cook for one minute, until spices are fragrant. Stir in mushrooms, peppers, jalapenos, sugar and cocoa powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add pureed, canned tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Add beans, corn and olives. Continue cooking, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Chili will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days and freeze for 6 months.
- Any combination of beans work in this recipe. Or add 1 lb of ground meat and omit one can of beans. Saute the meat after the onions and celery have cooked for 5 minutes in step 3. Cook meat until no longer pink then proceed with instructions.
- Use any type of beans you like.
- Make extra chili powder and store in a sealed container for another time.