Three-Bean Chili

January/February 1995

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (55 votes)

This rib-sticking bean chili is richly flavored with cumin, chili, paprika, oregano and an assortment of peppers. Use whatever beans you have in your pantry. Make it a meal: Bake up a batch of Salsa Cornbread while the chili simmers.

"This is a gr8 recipe. You do not need beer & chocolate to experience the beautiful flavours of chilli beans. Masego, Bloemfontein, South Africa "
Three-Bean Chili

Makes: 8 servings, 1 1/2 cups each

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  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 pound beef round, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, (not packed in oil), snipped into small pieces
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed, snipped into thin strips (optional; see Note)
  • 12 ounces dark beer, such as porter or stout
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 tablespoon grated unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 19-ounce can white beans, such as Great Northern, rinsed
  • 1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Nonfat plain yogurt, chopped scallion greens and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, for garnish


  1. Toast cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring, until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder; grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl; add chili powder, paprika, oregano and cayenne. Stir to combine; set aside.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Add beef, in batches if necessary, and sauté until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions have softened and are golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, ancho chiles (if using), and the reserved spice mixture. Stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add beer, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, scraping up any brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and their juices, chocolate, sugar, bay leaves and the browned beef. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Add kidney beans, white beans and black beans and cook until the chili is thick, 30 to 45 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in cilantro, if using, and lime juice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnishes.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up 2 days or freeze for up to 6 weeks.
  • Note: Ancho chiles, one of the most popular dried chiles used in Mexico, are dried poblano peppers. They have a mild, sweet, spicy flavor. Ground ancho chile can be found with other spices in large supermarkets, or substitute ground chili powder with a pinch of cayenne.


Per serving: 358 calories; 8 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 33 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrates; 1 g added sugars; 26 g protein; 14 g fiber; 455 mg sodium; 797 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (39% daily value), Iron (35% dv), Vitamin A (26% dv), Potassium (23% dv), Selenium (19% dv), Zinc (18% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 2

Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 very lean meat, 1 1/2 lean meat

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