3 Bean Chili is a chunky, flavorful, hearty bowl of comfort food goodness loaded with savory ground beef and three kinds of beans...and it's easy to make on the stovetop or in the slow cooker!
3 Bean Chili is a family-favorite recipe that originally debuted in my Real Food Slow Cooker Suppers cookbook, and it's been a regular staple on our fall and winter recipe rotation ever since!
Now don't get me wrong...I'm a Texas girl through and through, and I will attest that "true Texas chili" is made with big chunks of beef and no beans. This 3 Bean Chili, on the other hand, is loaded with ground beef as well as three different types of beans -- pintos, kidneys, and black beans. So no, it's not Texas chili, but it is completely delicious...hearty, comforting, and full of flavor!
While the list may look rather lengthy, the ingredients required to make 3 Bean Chili are all simple and common. You probably have most of them in your pantry already! And each one contributes to the amazing depth of flavor that this recipe boasts.
- Ground beef. You could opt to leave it out for a vegetarian version of 3 Bean Chili.
- Garlic. I must confess that I always add extra.
- Salt + pepper.
- Three types of beans. Shocker, I know. 😉 This recipe utilizes three cans of beans to keep things easy. I prefer using black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans, as they lend nice variety of color and flavor and they tend to hold their shape through lots of stirring. But you could honestly use any combo of beans you like!
- Diced tomatoes. Fire-roasted tomatoes contribute extra flavor, if you've got 'em.
- Dark beer. Adds yet another delicious layer of flavor but doesn't end up tasting like beer. Being in Texas, I typically use Negra Modelo or Shiner Bock, but any dark lager will do. Or feel free to substitute beef broth if you wish to avoid using beer.
- Chipotle in adobo sauce. Optional but recommended. Chipotles in adobo are basically dried, smoked jalapeños in a zippy sauce. They add both smokiness and heat to this 3 Bean Chili recipe. You can control the spice level of your chili by how many peppers/how much sauce you add (keep scrolling down for details).
- Any leftover chipotles in adobo can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. To freeze, place individual peppers topped with a dollop of sauce on a sheet pan lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Allow to freeze until solid, then peel each pepper blob off the paper and store all of them in a freezer bag. Thaw individual peppers as needed.
- You can also substitute some chipotle chile pepper powder if you don't have any canned chipotles on hand. I would start with ½ teaspoon chipotle chile pepper powder (it's very spicy!), taste, and then increase accordingly to your preferences.
- Dried herbs + spices. A combination of chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, coriander, and smoked paprika give this 3 Bean Chili perfectly balanced, amazing flavor.
To Substitute Homemade Chili Seasoning
If you already happen to have a time-saving jar of my Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix in your pantry, it's easy to swap it into this 3 Bean Chili!
Simply omit the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano from this recipe's ingredient list. Substitute 4 tablespoons Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix instead.
The 1 tablespoon coriander + ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika are extra additions to this 3 Bean Chili, so you can still add them on top of the Chili Seasoning Mix, if you wish.
How to Make 3 Bean Chili
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
This 3 Bean Chili recipe comes together in a matter of minutes. And it's super easy! You can make it completely on the stove if you're in a hurry, or you can let it cook in the slow cooker all day to let it really develop its flavor...which is my preference, so that's what I'm showing below. 🙂
- Brown ground beef in a skillet and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the cooked ground beef to a large slow cooker.
- Add three kinds of beans to the crockpot, along with the remaining ingredients.
- Stir to combine everything, cover, and cook.
- Serve hot, garnished with your favorite toppings.
To Make 3 Bean Chili on the Stove
In case you're short on time and prefer to make 3 Bean Chili in a pot on the stove, it's a cinch to convert this recipe!
- Brown the ground beef and garlic in a large pot as directed. Drain the grease.
- Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, but also add an additional 1 cup of beef broth. This is necessary since some of the liquid will evaporate while cooking on the stove.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir, cover, and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and keeping an eye on the liquid level. You may need to stir in extra broth or water during cooking, if necessary.
You Can't Handle the Heat! (Or Can You?)
It's actually easy to customize the spice level of your 3-Bean Chili by adding your chipotle accordingly.
For mild chili, simply stir a spoonful of adobo sauce into your chili and forgo the chipotle pepper itself.
For slightly spicy chili, slice open a chipotle, scrape out and discard the seeds, and then mince up the pepper to add to the chili.
And for chili with more kick, add some extra adobo sauce, leave the chipotle seeds intact, or increase the number of peppers used.
Garnishes + Sides
One of my favorite things about chili is dressing it up with lots of yummy toppings. My crew enjoys this 3 Bean Chili with a dollop of sour cream, a pinch of grated cheddar, and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro on top. But feel free to go crazy with your favorite garnishes -- diced avocado, crumbled cotija cheese, a squeeze of lime...the world is your chili bowl!
And of course, nothing goes with chili like cornbread! Whether you whip up a batch from scratch using my Homemade Cornbread Mix or go for a jazzed up version -- such as Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread with Bacon -- cornbread is perfect for serving alongside or crumbling over the top.
So who's ready to ring in crisp fall weather with a steamy bowl of 3 Bean Chili? This beef- and bean-loaded slow cooker version is not only tasty and satisfying, but it makes the whole house smell incredible as it pretty much cooks itself. Hope your whole family loves it as much as mine does!
More Crockpot Soups
- Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Soup
- Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- The Best Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
- Slow Cooker Ham & Bean Soup
The BEST 3-Bean Chili
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (scrape out & discard the seeds for less heat)
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, more or less to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (OR regular diced tomatoes)
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer, such as Shiner Bock or Negra Modelo (OR you may substitute beef broth)
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh chopped cilantro
- Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it is cooked through. Drain the grease and season with the salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large slow cooker, combine the cooked ground beef, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, garlic, diced tomatoes, beer, chili powder, cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, and paprika. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Adjust the seasonings with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, a pinch of shredded cheese, and a sprinkle of cilantro.
- Recipe reprinted from Real Food Slow Cooker Suppers cookbook, Page Street Publishing Company, by Samantha Skaggs.
- TO MAKE 3 BEAN CHILI ON THE STOVETOP:
- Brown the ground beef with the garlic in a large pot; drain.
- Stir in all of the other ingredients, plus add an additional 1 cup of beef broth (since some liquid will be lost to evaporation during stovetop cooking).
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding extra broth or water, as necessary.
- TO SUBSTITUTE HOMEMADE CHILI SEASONING MIX FOR THE HERBS/SPICES IN THIS RECIPE:
- Omit the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and instead use 4 tablespoons Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix. If you wish, you can still add the 1 tablespoon coriander + ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika called for in this 3 Bean Chili recipe.
Recipe originally shared at Yellow Bliss Road. Post originally published on November 8, 2016, and updated on April 13, 2020, April 18, 2023, and September 21, 2023.