The Best Beans For Chili: The Ultimate Guide

Jack had the right idea coveting the beans he received in exchange for selling his beloved cow. Everyone knows the story of Jack and The Beanstalk, right?

Just like Jack’s mother proved when she insisted he throw the beans away after dismissing their worth, beans are a seriously underrated and undervalued ingredient.

They probably won’t cause any beanstalks to start growing in your backyard, but they’re certainly a valuable addition to many dishes. 

Add them to soups, stews, tacos, burrito bowls, or Caribbean rice. Mash them up and shape them into a veggie burger patty, or eat refried beans straight from the can.

There are hundreds of different types of beans and hundreds of different ways to make them. 

But when there are so many different kinds of beans to choose from, how do you know which are the best to use in your home-made chili?

The great news is that there isn’t a wrong way to make a bean chili, and you can use pretty much any kind you like. However, we know from personal experience that some beans are better suited than others for a chili dish. 

Whether you’re refining your go-to recipe or preparing for your next family get together, we’re about to spill the beans on which beans are the best for chili.

We’ve chosen five of the best types of beans and reviewed them for you to make up your mind, and there’s also a buyer’s guide to help with any questions you might have. 

In a rush? Our top pick is a quick and convenient choice.

OUR TOP PICK

Bush's Best Dark Red Kidney Beans 16oz

For our top pick, we chose Bush’s Best dark red kidney beans.

It’s one of the best kinds of beans you can use in chili from a brand that has over 100 years of experience and prides itself on producing the best quality products. 

Packed full of protein, replace the red meat in your chili with these red kidney beans or use them alongside each other for a truly meaty meal.

These full-bodied beans will bulk out your dish and fill your chili with fiber and flavor.

They’re perfect for whipping up a quick chili as you can prepare them two ways: either empty the contents of the can and heat them in the microwave in a suitable container, or heat them over the hob in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. 

There’s a hint of sweetness to balance out the heat if you like your chili to have a kick to it, without overpowering the whole dish.

However, they do contain higher amounts of sodium compared to dried kidney beans, so you might want to opt for the reduced-sodium version. 

Pros

  • The steel cans’ tin packaging is recyclable  
  • 8g of protein and 5g of fiber 
  • Gluten and cholesterol-free
  • Easy to cook
  • Takes on flavor well

Cons

  • Slightly higher in sodium

EDITORS CHOICE

Goya Pinto Beans 16 oz per pack 2 Pack (Total of 32 oz/2 lbs) - Frijoles Pintos

Next up, we looked at these Goya dried pinto beans as an alternative to our top pick.

If you’re big on flavor and want the beans you use to take on every ounce of seasoning while they cook, the Goya dried pinto beans are perfect for you and your chili. 

Pinto beans take on many of the aromatic flavors and ingredients that you would use in chili, as the earthy, creamy taste and texture of this bean lends itself perfectly to this purpose.

You can also use them for a wide variety of other cooking uses, including soups, stews, burritos, and refried beans, so they’re incredibly versatile and great to stock up on. 

The fact that they’re dried does mean that they’re a less convenient option as they require a longer preparation process, although some would argue that you can skip this step by cooking the beans in a slow cooker or in an instant pot for faster results. 

They’re available in a pack of 16 oz and you get two bags of these, meaning you get an overall weight of 32 oz of pinto beans.

Despite this, they’re considered an expensive option, with a couple of customers complaining that you don’t get as much value for money as you would with a canned version of this bean. 

Pros

  • Available as a pack of 2 with a total of 32 oz 
  • They soak up flavor well 
  • Easy to clean off dirt and dust by rinsing under cold water
  • A great addition to a number of dishes

Cons

  • Expensive option 
  • Require more effort to prepare and cook

BEST VALUE

Westbrae Natural Organic Pinto Beans, 15 Ounce ( pack of 12 )

Love pinto beans but love the convenience of canned beans more than the dried version?

Then the next option we looked at might be the one for you, as these certified organic beans from Westbrae Natural are ready to go straight out of the can.

Focused on wholesome and delicious goods, Westbrae Natural is also a company that cares about supporting organic farmers and the natural foods industry.

The beans themselves are processed within 24 hours of harvest for the ultimate freshness and quality. 

They contain no added salt for an even healthier option and they’re also non-GMO.

Plus, for the environmentally conscious you’ll be pleased to know that the cans these pinto beans come in are fully recyclable with a non-BPA lining. 

You can still buy in bulk as these beans are available as a pack of 12 cans, so you won’t have to scrounge at the back of your cupboards for your final tin. 

Pros

  • Recyclable can with non-BPA lining 
  • Low sodium content 
  • Non-GMO 
  • Certified organic beans 
  • Convenient option compared to dry beans

Cons 

  • Some customers report receiving dented or damaged cans

RUNNER UP

Iberia Black Beans, Dry Beans 4 lbs, Bulk Dry Black Beans Bag, Fiber & Protein Source, Farm Fresh# 1 Grade Black Beans

Next, we looked at another option for dried beans but this time, we looked at these black beans from the Iberia store.

This is a hugely popular type of bean commonly used in Latin cuisines and can be added to salads, soups, stews, as a side dish, or of course, in chili. 

Stock up and store them easily as this 4 lbs bag of black beans is the perfect pantry staple. The rich dark color adds depth to your dish, and they have a beautifully dense, meaty texture which makes them perfect for adding to chili. 

They’re gluten and cholesterol-free, and they’re harvested at just the right time to ensure the best quality and flavor.

There’s also less sodium than you’d get in a can of black beans, making them an all-around healthier choice. 

Pros

  • Free from gluten and cholesterol 
  • Take on flavors extremely well with a refreshingly mild taste on their own
  • Dense, meaty texture
  • Less sodium 
  • Easy to store with a long shelf life

Cons 

  • Soaking the beans is required 

RUNNER UP

RANCH STYLE Black Label Black Beans, 15 oz. (Pack of 12)

Last but not least, we have the Ranch Style Black Label black beans which are a canned alternative to the previous option we looked at.

Super convenient and easy to cook with, these would make a great addition to your pantry. 

Heat them in the microwave or over the stove, then add them to a range of dishes including nachos, tacos, or in your favorite dips.

They’re a nutritious option with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, so they’re great for making healthier meals or if you’re trying to cut down on your red meat consumption. 

The great thing about these beans is that they come in a can with a unique blend of flavors and seasonings and will bring a bold, Southwestern taste to your chili.

This might not be what you’re looking for if you’re fussy about flavor, or if you prefer to add your own, but it’s a great way to bring bold flavor to your dish if you’re less confident with spices. 

Pros

  • Convenient and easy to prepare 
  • Can cook them in the microwave 
  • High in fiber and protein 
  • Long expiration dates

Cons

  • The pre-added seasoning might not be to everyone’s tastes

The Best Beans For Chili Buying Guide

The Best Beans For Chili

Trying to decide between all the different options that are available to you when choosing what type of beans to use in your chili can be a daunting task.

All beans are delicious, and a lot of them are quite similar in some ways, but certain types do vary in terms of taste, texture, shape, and size.

Some of the most commonly known types of beans include the following: 

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

Which Beans Are The Healthiest Choice?

Beans, like legumes, are members of the Fabaceae family, which means they’re high in fiber and B vitamins.

We’ve already mentioned that they make a great replacement for meat in meals like chili because they’re such a good source of protein, which is extra important for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet. 

Some of the other health benefits of beans include reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving the good bacteria in your gut, among many other things!

Here are some of the benefits of some of our favorite beans. 

Pinto Beans

If you’ve ever been to Mexico or enjoy Mexican cuisine, you’ll likely have run into pinto beans before. They can be consumed whole or mashed up a little bit and fried.

However they’re prepared, pinto beans help to maintain more consistent blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as improving gut health.

In one cup of cooked pinto beans (171 grams) you’ll find approximately:

  • Calories: 245
  • Protein: 15.4 grams 
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 15.4 grams 
  • Manganese: 39% of the RDI 
  • Copper: 29% of the RDI 
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 22% of the RDI 

Kidney Beans

As one of the most popular and commonly consumed types of beans, kidney beans can also benefit your health in a number of ways.

They’re high in fiber which helps to lower blood sugar levels so they’re a great choice for anyone with diabetes, and they can also aid with weight loss. 

In one cup of cooked kidney beans (256 grams) you’ll find approximately:

  • Calories: 215
  • Protein: 13.4 grams
  • Fiber: 13.6 grams 
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 23% of the RDI 
  • Manganese: 22% of the RDI 
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 20% of the RDI 
  • Copper: 17% of the RDI 
  • Iron: 17% of the RDI

Black Beans

Another common option for chilis is black beans, which contain good sources of fiber and protein.

They have a low glycemic index which, when you compare this to other high-carb foods, is hugely beneficial as there’s less of a spike in blood sugar levels after eating. 

In one cup of cooked black beans (172 grams) you’ll find approximately:

  • Calories: 227
  • Protein: 15.2 grams 
  • Fiber 15 grams 
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 64% of the RDI 
  • Manganese: 38% of the RDI 
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDI 
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 28% of the RDI 
  • Iron: 20% of the RDI 

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are hugely beneficial if you’re trying to watch your weight or control spikes in your blood sugar, as they help to improve insulin sensitivity far better than other types of high-carb foods.

Chickpeas are also great for lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. 

In one cup of cooked chickpeas (164 grams) you’ll find approximately: 

  • Calories: 269
  • Protein: 14.5 grams
  • Fiber: 12.5 grams 
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 71% of the RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake) 
  • Manganese: 84% of the RDI 
  • Copper: 29% of the RDI 
  • Iron: 26% of the RDI

There’s plenty of other beans we could take a look at, but you’ll probably have started to notice a common theme with each of these examples, which is that they’re all excellent sources of fiber, protein, B vitamins, and a number of other essential nutrients. 

Considering how similar their health benefits are, it might not be a dealbreaker of a factor when trying to decide which are the best beans for chili.

However, one thing you might want to look at is the sodium and salt content found in tinned cans of beans, as it tends to be higher than dried beans, which leads us to the next point...

Canned Vs. Dried Beans

The Dried Beans Debate

There are benefits to using both canned or dried beans in chili, such as convenience, taste, and cost, so this decision will largely come down to what your personal preference is. 

Dried beans are undoubtedly more cost-effective than canned as they’re less expensive to buy. They also tend to be the tastier choice, although this is partially a result of their lengthy cook time which is hardly ideal if you’re hoping to whip something up in under an hour. 

Although they do require a little bit more preparation and cooking than canned beans, they’re not particularly difficult to work with. They’re actually easier to clean as you don’t have to drain them from the juices they were stored with in the can. 

However, most dried beans require soaking overnight or at least a few hours before you’re planning on cooking them, so they’re not a great choice for a last-minute weeknight dinner.

The time spent soaking and cooking dried beans is certainly not time wasted, as you’ll end up with richly flavored, delicious beans that take on the taste of whichever herbs and ingredients you throw into the pot. 

The Case for Canned Beans

Canned beans are actually just dried beans that have been previously cooked and stored in a can. This means you can skip a step in the preparation process which makes them a quicker and more convenient choice. 

There’s a certain comfort that comes with knowing you have a bunch of these tins lying around at the back of your cupboard for an easy throw-together meal, but they will never produce the same complex flavors found in a dish made with dried beans.

Our recommendation? If you have the time and inclination to use dried beans then you definitely should.

There’s no denying that they’re the superior choice when it comes to taste, and it’s easier to tell by sight if they’re fresh or if they’ve been stuck on the supermarket shelf for a while.

However, if you value ease and convenience over creating culinary masterpieces then canned is the better option for you. 

Do They Retain Their Shape?

Chili benefits from being simmered over a low heat for a long period of time so that the seasonings and flavors have a chance to develop, therefore you might want to think about whether the beans you’re using will retain their shape and texture.

Nobody wants a bowl of mushy chili. No matter how good it tastes, the texture should be just as inviting. 

Kidney beans, for example, can handle the heat in the kitchen and don’t fall apart as they cook through. Even leaving your chili to sit and stew won’t result in mushy, soggy beans if you’re using kidney beans as part of the mix. 

Pinto beans and black beans also hold up well in a chili due to their firm nature, whereas navy beans and Great Northern beans are more likely to break down slightly if cooked for extended periods of time.

Beans With Beef Or On Their Own?

Beans are so good that, in our humble opinion, the vegetarian version actually tastes better than a regular chili made with minced beef, although we’re sure there are a few Texans who would disagree.

You can choose one type of bean and bulk it out with vegetables, or combine a number of different beans in one bowl for a hearty, filling meal. 

Alternatively, use beef and beans in your chili for the best of both worlds!

If you’re choosing to add beans to a chili base that contains meat as well, they’ll need to be meaty enough to fit in with the rest of the ingredients.

If you’re not using beef or another kind of meat to bulk out your chili, you’ll need to make sure you’ve chosen beans that are hearty and filling enough to stand well on their own. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do beans make you gassy?

Beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you… 

We all know how the rhyme ends! You can limit this particular side effect of beans by soaking them (if they’re dried) in water first.

Canned beans don’t necessarily cause gas any more than dry beans, but they’re capable of producing the same effect. 

Are chili beans and pinto beans the same?

Often when you buy a tin of chili beans you’ll discover that they are, in fact, pinto beans that have been stored in a chili flavored sauce. 

Are white kidney beans the same as red kidney beans?

There are a few slight differences between red and white kidney beans, but they’re not hugely different.

The red variety tends to have a nuttier taste compared to white kidney beans, and are commonly used in dishes with a longer cooking time as a result. 

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