This hearty and flavorful three-bean chili is ready in just 30 minutes using healthy pantry staples. This cozy recipe is perfect for weeknight meals!
This vegan three-bean chili is made with black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. The variety of beans adds a double punch of nutrition and flavor!
What sets this three bean chili apart from other chili recipes is a secret ingredient: red curry paste. This ingredient is key to a warming, flavorful chili.
Ingredients you'll need
Like any good soup recipe, we're relying heavily on pantry staples and a few veggies.
- Beans: This chili uses black beans, light red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Feel free to use any kind of bean!
- Spices: Chili powder, cumin, and chipotle chili powder add classic chili flavor and a bit of smokiness. Ann equal amount of chili powder can be used if you don't have chipotle chili powder on hand.
- Onions and garlic make the aromatic base. Yellow onion is my go-to but red or white onions also work.
- Red bell pepper and green bell pepper are added for extra veggies and a touch of sweetness. Feel free to use yellow or orange if that's what you have on hand.
- Vegetable broth: I use Better than Bouillon for a very flavorful base, but any kind of vegetable broth works. Water works in a pinch but will make the chili less flavorful.
- Red curry paste is my "secret ingredient" that gives this three bean chili a lot of warmth and depth. I use Thai Kitchen brand which is available at most major grocery stores. Use leftover curry paste in these red curry noodle bowls.
This three bean chili is made just like any classic chili or soup recipe.
Start by sauteing the onions and bell pepper until softened. The onions should be golden and tender.
Add in the curry paste and saute for another minute. Toasting the curry paste enhances its flavor.
Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a rapid simmer over high heat, then reduce to a low simmer. This means that only 1-2 bubbles are popping on the soup surface at a time.
Place the lid on the chili so that it is mostly covered. Simmer for 15-20 minutes and for up to several hours. The longer the chili simmers, the more flavorful it becomes!
For a "meatier" texture I recommend blending or immersion blending just ⅓ of the soup. This is optional but keeps the soup from being just broth and beans.
Expert tips and FAQ
- Serving ideas: I always add cornbread, biscuits, or corn chips to three bean chili and call it a meal. This chili is great for chili cheese dogs (trust me, I've tried it!).
- Toppings: Avocado, shredded cheddar, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, scallions, and cilantro are my go-to's. Don't forget the lime wedges!
- Heat: Feel free to add extra heat by adding minced jalapeno or serrano pepper along with the garlic.
- Like most chili recipes, this chili is even better the next day! You can make it up to 24 hours in advance.
Leftovers are best enjoyed within 3-4 days. Keep refrigerated in a closed container. Reheat individual portions in the microwave in just 1-2 minutes. Reheat on the stovetop covered over medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
Yes, you can freeze this recipe for up to 3 months. Let the chili cool to room temperature before transferring to a freezer-safe container.
I think that this is open to interpretation. I use light red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans for a variety of flavors and colors. Dark red kidney beans, small red beans, and chickpeas would also work.
You can definitely use dry beans but they need to be cooked first! Don't add dry beans directly to the chili or they won't cook through. If you're looking for a recipe that uses dry beans, you might like my black bean soup recipe.
Looking for more soup recipes?
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Three Bean Vegetarian Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red bell pepper diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper diced
- 1 medium red onion diced
- ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
- 1 jalapeno minced; optional
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder see note #1
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 15 ounce can light red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- toppings: chopped cilantro, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese
- Place a 4 quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. To the hot oil add diced bell pepper, onion, and salt. Saute 5-6 minutes, until softened and golden.
- Add garlic and jalapeno and saute a minute more, until aromatic.
- Add curry paste and cook another minute, stirring frequently to avoid burning the paste. Add the chili powders and cumin, stirring to combine.
- Add the drained beans, canned tomatoes with juices, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth. Bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. Once simmering, reduce to a low simmer over medium-low.
- Cover with the lid, leaving a small gap. Simmer at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
- Taste for salt and seasonings. Optional: immersion blend or blend ⅓ of the soup for a thicker texture.
- Top with your favorite chili toppings (cheese, cilantro, more jalapenos, etc.) and enjoy!
- Chipotle chili powder adds smokiness. Use an equal amount of regular chili powder if chipotle chili powder is not available.
- Leftovers and reheating: Leftovers are best within 3-4 days. Keep refrigerated in a closed container. Reheat individual portions in the microwave in just 1-2 minutes. Reheat on the stove top covered over medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
- Freezing: You can freeze this recipe for up to 3 months. Let the chili cool to room temperature before transferring to a freezer-safe container.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared in August 2018. It was updated in January 2022 with new photos, a video, and an improved recipe.