A Warm Bowl of Chili

By Charleen - December 27, 2021

When the weather turns cool, nothing is more satisfying than a nice bowl of chili. And a chili bar certainly makes for stress-free entertaining, accommodating vegan, carnivore and everyone in between! These four chili recipes -- chipotle black bean chili, white bean chicken chili, chipotle red and white chili with sausage, and a hearty vegetarian chili -- have become our go-to recipes over the decades They are simple, wholesome, delicious and adaptable.  

Three of the four chili recipes below utilize canned beans as a shortcut. The fourth was the very first chili we tried making, and perhaps the most popular. With an Instant Pot, the whole world of interesting beans becomes available. We enjoy heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, and have made most of the quick chilis also using dried beans. During the summer, feel free to add in any fresh peppers that you find!

A riff on Chipotle Black Bean Chili with fresh garden fennel fronds and pickled peppers

Toppings for chili are limited only by your imagination. Some of our favorites include:

•shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, jack, crumbled cojita)
•lime juice
•cooked chopped bacon
•chopped red or yellow onion
•Sriracha sauce
•Cholula sauce
•Sarasota Heat hot sauce
•Texas Pete hot sauce
•tortilla chips
•plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (optional: mix in a tsp of lime juice or ranch seasoning to taste)

Chipotle Red and White Chili with sausage and toppings

Vegetable Chili                                   (Vegan except for optional toppings)

The chopped vegetables in this chili make for such hearty bites that no one ever notices that it is vegetarian, and it usually disappears first. If no one has dietary restrictions, we usually do not label it. More recently, we have noticed that if we do label it to accommodate our vegan friends, then some people do not let themselves have the chance to enjoy it. What a strange phenomenon. 

Dried kidney beans are the base for this chili, but I recently made it with a blend of pinto beans and kidney beans to a nice visual effect. The array of vegetables was inspired by the Vegetarian Chili in Chili Madness by Jane Butel, but I use a different method of thickening the chili and a different set of seasonings. 

Shortcut to the printable Love2Chow recipe.

Vegetable Chili using dried kidney and pinto beans

Love2Chow Vegetable Chili 

2 1/2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked overnight in 2-3" of water to cover
2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs Penzey's Chili 9000
2 Tbs Penzey's Medium Hot Chili Powder
2 tsp salt (adjust down if using chili powder with salt in it)
Optional, crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Up to 1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 green or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
Toppings (see above, or step 4 for suggestions)

Soaking half a pound each of dried red kidney and pinto beans

1. In the morning, add more water to beans if necessary to keep them submerged. Test for softness. Drain and rinse when just tender, or they will start to fall apart during cooking. Transfer to a large, heavy saucepan with water to cover. Bring to boil over high head, then lower heat and continue boiling the beans, partially covered, until tender, about 1 h. Watch the water level carefully and add to keep beans in liquid.
    OR add unsoaked beans to Instant Pot with 1 inch of water to cover. Cook at high pressure for 30 min in an Instant Pot, let sit for 20 min for natural release.  (Cook 20 min if soaked overnight).

Mise on place for Vegetable Chili

2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until translucent. Add celery, carrots, tomatoes, lemon juice, and all the spices. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are nearly tender, about 10-15 min. Add the bell peppers and cook another 10 min.

3. Add the beans and the water in which they cooked. Stir thoroughly and simmer for 30 min over low heat, adding tablespoons of either tomato paste or water as necessary to achieve desired texture, stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

This batch of Vegetable Chili was a bit soupier due to use of Instant Pot. Next time will use less water in Instant Pot, or reserve the cooking water and not add it all to the chili.

4. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with tortilla chips, chopped red onion, chopped scallions, avodaco slices, and lime to keep it vegan; add shredded cheddar and jack cheeses, plain yogurt spiked with lime juice or ranch seasoning for vegetarians. Add crumbled bacon or cooked sausage for the carnivores. 

Vegetarian chili using red kidney and yellow-eyed beans from Rancho Gordo.

The next three chili recipes were modified from Superfast Suppers by Cooking Light magazine, which was published in 2002. I almost always substitute fresh garlic or onions, and it is pretty easy to use dried beans if you have time. See Love2Chow tips, below.


Chipotle Red & White Bean Chili              Omit sausage for vegan.

This is one of my favorite quick chili recipes. It looks pretty, tastes great, and is simple to make. While it calls for crumbled sweet Italian sausage, I have also made it as a vegetarian chili. I had some fresh poblano chiles, cubanelle chiles and carrots from a friend's garden, which I added in with the the bell peppers, and served it with optional sausage on the side for toppings. 

Shortcut to the printable recipe.

Chipotle Red & White Bean Chili with sausage

Chipotle Red & White Bean Chili.  Serves 4, total time 20 min. 

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 pound pork sausage (sweet Italian)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 Tbs. Penzey's Bold Taco seasoning or 1 Tbs each Bold Taco (has salt) and Penzey's 9000 (no salt)
1 (14.5 oz) can Mexican style diced tomatoes, drained
1 (8 oz) can no-salt added tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can no salt added red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (19 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, chopped, plus 2 tsp adobe sauce from can
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Toppings (see above, or step 4 for suggestions)

1. Cook onion, sausage and peppers, Drain and return to pan.

Sauteeing orange pepper and poblano chiles (instead of green) for this batch.

2. Add seasoning, tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, cannellini beans, and chipotle peppers

Our favorite seasonings for this chili

3. Bring to boil, cover and simmer at least 5 min.

Chipotle Red & White Chili right after mixing in beans

4. Serve with fresh cilantro, and optional corn bread, avocado, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Chipotle Red & White Chili with toppings

White Bean Chicken Chili

This is my husband's favorite chili to make and eat. Part of the beans are pureed to thicken this delightful creamy chili.

Shortcut to the printable recipe

White Bean Chicken Chili

White Bean Chicken Chili.  

1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion (~150 g), chopped (~ 1 cup)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 (15.5 oz) cans cannellini beans - do NOT drain
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup of no salt added chicken broth
1.5 tsp Penzey's Arizona Dreaming seasoning (or other salt-free Mexican seasoning)
1 cup (4 oz w) shredded pepper jack cheese
~1/4 tsp salt, to taste

1. Saute onion and garlic in hot oil in Dutch oven until translucent.

2. Mash one can of beans with a fork.  Add both mashed and unmashed beans with their water and the next three ingredients to the pot. Bring to a booil and simmer 15-20 min.

3. Add cheese, stirring constantly, until melted.  Salt to taste.

4. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green onions, plain yogurt, salsa, or crushed tortilla chips.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili (Vegan except for optional toppings)

This is my husband's favorite chili to make and eat. Part of the beans are pureed to thicken this delightful creamy chili.

Shortcut to the printable recipe. 

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Chipotle Black Bean Chili                                                   (makes 6 2-cup servings).

2 tsp olive oil
10 oz (w) chopped onion
3 Tbs minced garlic
3 Tbs chili powder (Penzey's medium hot chili powder is salt-free)
2 canned chipotle chiles, minced, plus 1-2 Tbs. adobo sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt or more to taste
4 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups dried, precooked)
4 (14.5 oz) cans no salt added diced tomatoes with juice
1 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chiles with juice
Toppings (See below)

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender about 2 min. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 min, stirring occasionally.
    OR transfer sauteed onion and garlic to slow cooker, add remaining ingredients and slow cook for at least an hour. It can be kept warm and served out of the slow cooker.

A double recipe of black bean chili in slow cooker

Serve with toppings of choice (shredded cheddar, cilantro, scallions, onions, bacon bits, tortilla chips, hot sauce)

Freeze leftovers in 1 or 2 cup portions. As mentioned in Superfast Suppers, this can be used as a hamburger topper, or be incorporated into enchilada casseroles, turkey chili mac, chili pie with zucchini and corn under corn bread mix. 

A triple recipe of Chipotle Black Bean Chili with toppings bar

🐾 For each 15 oz can of beans, I usually get about 1.3-1.5 cups of drained beans. Since dry beans swell about 3x, substitute 1/2 cup of dry for each 15 oz can. Or just make a bit of extra and measure out the beans after they are cooked.

🐾 Freeze cubed leftover chicken or turkey in 1 cup portions, to be pulled out when you feel like chicken chili.

🍃 When you open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, be sure to freeze the extra peppers in an ice cube tray, with the sauce spooned on top. They usually thaw pretty quickly for chopping, or puree the whole thing and freeze tablespoons that can be added directly to the chili.

DID YOU TRY ANY OF THESE RECIPES?  What is your favorite homemade chili?

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