Mom’s Chili Beans

A staple in our home growing up was my mother’s chili beans, which she still makes several times a month with either ground beef or turkey. Many chilis I’ve encountered seem almost designed to give you heartburn. This one isn’t. These chili beans are more mild and less fatty than most, especially if you use ground turkey. Yet they are very flavorful, hearty, and filling. My mom learned this method of preparing chili beans years ago, when she was still teaching school, from a fellow teacher from Louisiana.

Mom’s Chili Beans Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

Can be prepared in 1 hour or less. If using dry beans, older beans may take longer to cook to become tender. If you soak the dry beans for several hours ahead of time, they will require less cooking time. Make sure if you do this to drain the soaking water and replace with fresh water before cooking the beans.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Pinto beans (uncooked, can also used canned)
  • 1 lb ground beef (ground round) or ground turkey
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 yellow onion - chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 can of tomatoes (14 oz)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper (cooked, canned) -sliced (Note concerning the tomatoes and Jalapeno pepper: mom will substitute these on occasion with a cup of Pace brand salsa - works fine)
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro leaves

Method

1 Start with the pinto beans. (If using canned beans, rinse them and skip to step 2.) Put the beans into a large pot and cover with at least 3 inches of water (about 3 quarts of water). Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

By the way, my mother uses a pressure cooker to cook pinto beans. To cook beans with a pressure cooker, cook no more than 2 cups of beans in a 4 quart pressure cooker, with the water added until it reaches the fill line indicated for the capacity of the pressure cooker. Cook the beans for 35 minutes with 15 pounds of pressure and low heat. After 35 minutes, allow the pressure cooker to cool completely. Make sure that the pressure cooker has completely cooled before opening, and if there is any resistance when opening, do not open it. Follow the directions for your particular brand of pressure cooker. (See safety tips on pressure cookers.)

2 While the beans are cooking cook the rice according to the instructions on the rice package. Add a Tbsp of butter to the rice while it is cooking for flavor.

3 In a large skillet, sauté onions and garlic in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until translucent on medium high heat. Move the onions over to one side of the pan, turn up the heat to high, and brown the meat away from the onions in the same pan. (If you do not have a large enough skillet, use two separate smaller skillets for the onions and beef.) Add chili powder to meat as it is cooking. Start with one tablespoon, and add more as needed to taste. Stir in the onions and garlic. Add chopped parsley. Add one can of tomatoes. Add sliced Jalapeno pepper. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.

4 Once the beans are cooked, drain them. Add the beans to the meat and onions, adding another teaspoon of salt to the beans as they go in. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, tasting and adding more salt if needed to taste. Stir in cilantro leaves right before serving, or sprinkle on top.

Serve over rice or with warm corn tortillas.

38 Comments

  1. Karen Lane

    I have been making this for 8 months. I add a small can of tomato sauce and use ham cubes in place of the ground beef. I also use lots of black pepper. Thanks for the great recipe. This is definitely a hit with my family and friends.

  2. Iron Chef Ceejay

    I am new to cooking and now I’m considered a top chef, am requested all over. Your site really helps. Occasionally I brag and then I have to cook something but I never panic. I just visit your site and BAM I’m Iron Chef. THANK YOU.

    Love it with ham; it gives it a boosted flavor.

  3. jenn

    Great simple recipe. My nearly 2-year-old gobbled up two kiddie sized bowls of this. We served it over steamed brown rice, with sides of tossed salad and corn muffins. The only change I made was to use canned pintos, in an attempt to use up the canned beans I have on hand.

  4. Nancy

    It looks delicious. Funny how family recipes like this have little quirks and traditions; in my house we don’t go to the trouble of non-canned beans, and we add precisely 5 whole cloves to the mix. And the jalapeno would be replaced by a sweet bell pepper. No matter. Great dish!

  5. Amy C

    Yuuum. Is your mom available to come over my house and just make me delicious, delicious food all day? I’ve made nearly every recipe of hers you post on here, and they are all to-die-for :)
    I have a bunch of cilantro in the garden that is pleading to be used – this recipe is going on my menu this week, I’ll let you know how it went!

  6. betsythegreat

    I notice the recipe does not say to drain the fat off the meat after frying. Should you not?

    Good question. We usually make this with ground turkey, so there is very little fat. If you find that browning your meat leaves more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan, drain the excess if you want. ~Elise

  7. Lisa Goad

    Hello,
    I can’t wait to make this recipe! Would canned beans change the flavor/texture too much?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

    Hi Lisa, you can use canned beans without a problem. ~Elise

  8. Meeta

    I love chili always have. In my attempt to eat more vegetarian I recently made a great black bean chili – it was something I would exchange the beef chili for any day.

  9. Laura

    Looks awesome, simple, and delicious.

    Just curious, what’s the theory behind moving the onions to one side while doing the ground meat, to cook them more so they are almost carmelized?

    Thanks!

    Saves dirtying another pan! ~Elise

  10. Sharon

    In regard to draining the meat, I not only drain the ground beef, but I rinse it in hot water. It eliminates all the grease from the meat making it a bit healthier. (And it doesn’t affect the flavor when using in a dish like this.)

    If you are going to go that route, I would just start with extra-lean ground meat to begin with. I also challenge the assumption that getting rid of the fat in this case is healthier. But this isn’t a debate I’m willing to get into on this site or in this post, other than to say that what is unhealthy for one person isn’t necessarily unhealthy for another. ~Elise

  11. shabiya

    I am an asian, and our foods are very different from this. But when I tried this one, wow. It was simply delicious. My husband enjoyed it very much, it’s easy to make, less prep time, no hard to find ingredients. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Kyle Cachora

    Thanks! I’m really down in the gutter and have only pinto beans, ground beef, chili powder, and tomato sauce. I haven’t eaten in 2 days because there is nothing to eat in my house. But I looked all over and have found what is needed to make some food. Thank you!

  13. Zoe

    Just made this tonight–very yummy and easy! I used ground turkey and kidney beans because I had no pinto beans. Pintos would have been creamier, I’m sure, but kidney beans worked fine. I also replaced all of the parsley with a lot more cilantro, because I’m a cilantro fiend!

  14. ~M

    YUM! Have you ever made this with black beans instead of the the pintos? My husband and I prefer black beans.

    Thanks for the idea/substitution to use salsa!

    When you make this with ground turkey, do you usually use white meat ground turkey or dark meat ground turkey? I’ve never cooked with ground turkey before and wonder whether you would need to drain fat off if you used dark meat ground turkey (which I prefer, taste-wise).

    Thanks!

    You could easily make this with black beans. We also have a good black beans and rice recipe btw. Regarding dark vs white turkey meat, I think we use a mix. We don’t drain off the fat because there isn’t enough to drain off; turkey is quite lean. ~Elise

  15. connie

    I would like to try your recipe, but have one question re the beans. How many cans of beans are needed for the 2 cups of uncooked beans?

    If I had to estimate, I would say 2 15-ounce cans. ~Elise

  16. Cosima

    I’m coming late to this game, but I made this last night and my family raved about it. So simple, yet it packed a punch. I used Rotel instead of the plain tomatoes and jalepeno and it was delicious. I have loved every recipe of yours I have tried. Thanks!!!!

  17. Jessica Grimes From Dallas

    Made this tonight for the 1st time. SO good, SO fast and SO affordable! Used canned beans and ground turkey. Husband loved it! Going on the weekly rotation thats for sure!

  18. Aya

    Tried this for dinner last night, and it came out amazing! I have never browned meat before and your instructions (moving aside the onions, adding chili powder directly to the meat as it cooks) yielded spectacularly flavorful results. I’m just disappointed that I was unable to find pinto beans in any of my neighborhood supermarkets and used romano beans. They weren’t all that great. Which beans are most similar to pinto?

    For this dish probably red beans. For more Mexican dishes I would say black beans. ~Elise

  19. katie

    I made this dish for dinner tonight and lets say it was a keeper! My boyfriend is veg, so I substituted the ground meat for veggie ground “beef”. I also used one canned chipotle pepper (needed to get rid of it) w/ some of its sauce instead of the jalapeno and, with that in mind, was conservative with the chili powder. Thanks for the great recipe! This is going in my regular rotation, for sure.

  20. D A

    Very Nice….. And right in context. We in the south call this dish CHILI BEANS because it’s a sweet take on regular chili! Don’t forget the sweet jalepeno/pimento cornbread!!!!! Thanks for sharing! I don’t comment ever! ( I used brown sugar dark and light one of each for about 2 tblsp with cayenne!)

  21. Carrie Steere-Salazar

    I wanted to let you know we used your Mom’s Chili recipe to feed 90 men at the church’s Winter Shelter program last night (the choir was in charge of cooking for the evening and I was the “lead” chef).

    The church obtains most of the food from the SF food bank so some of the ingredients had to be substituted. We used 25 lbs of meat, five 6-lb cans of pre-cooked beans (kidney and black since pinto beans were not available), 30 cups of uncooked rice, 15 onions, 30 garlic cloves, two 6-lb cans of diced tomatoes and a mix of chili powder, cumin and salt/pepper. We served this with hot corn bread and offered lots of cilanthro as a topping for the chili. The men loved the recipe and many of them came back for seconds and thirds–those quantities made more than 90 portions, thank goodness.

  22. Lisa

    WOWZA! Last night my husband said “I’d like some chili.”

    I googled Turkey Chili and was thrilled when the first recipe was here on simplyrecipes! Made it today, served it with cornbread. Delicious!

    And I am not a fan of chili flavors. This is amazing though!

    Thanks!

  23. lbc

    I liked the flavors and heartiness of this recipe. It was easy to make using canned pintos. I prefer my chili a little more saucy so I added a large can of tomato sauce and it was just right. Without the sauce, it was more of a sloppy joe consistency. Will definitely make again using this addition.

  24. Tereze

    Hello, Elise!
    I was wondering if I can use fresh tomatoes instead of canned? Would it make any difference?

    Thanks for your site, I am from France and I use your recipes daily.

    Tereze

    Hello Tereze, yes you can. You may need to cook them longer in that last step, as canned tomatoes are already cooked. ~Elise

  25. Penny

    Served over cornbread, dee-lish! Instead of canned jalapenos, I bought a whole one and roasted it on the gas stove. It added a kick to the dish, but the cheese and sour cream countered that nicely. Simple, healthy high-protein meal. Thanks Elise!

  26. Mrs. R.

    I made this last night and we loved it! I added two carrots and used fresh tomatoes since I had them on hand. We ate it with rice and added a little bit lime juice, it was so good! Thank you and I love your blog.

  27. Megan

    Hi-
    I made this tonight for the first time it was super easy and quick for a chili. Served with steamed rice and flour tortillas. Thanks again for another great recipe. Loved it and will make again:)
    Cheers!

  28. K

    Another Great recipe! I follow your recipes as written to begin with,second time around I’ll make adjustments if I want to. To be perfectly honest, I don’t make changes to often, everything is perfect as is. Thanks for the hardwork you put into your sight. I’m having a good time learning how to be a better cook.

  29. Domestic Diva Heather

    I love your website. I make meals from your website at least four days a week. Your recipes make me feel like an accomplished chef. I love this quick chili recipe and look forward to many more! Thank you!!!

  30. auntcandie

    I made this using canned organic beans (2 cans rinsed) and PACE Medium salsa as my kitchen is under construction. Made such a HUGE quantity I took it for lunch the next day and fed about 8 people. Easy and amazingly tasty. thanks!

  31. Mary C.

    I made this for a potluck Saturday and it turned out so good and got many raves :) Thank you again for another awesome recipe!

  32. Karen G.

    Beans cooked in a pressure cooker can be hazardous. the bean will sometimes cover the hole at the top and the pressure cooker can explode.

    This is why it is especially important to be careful when cooking beans in a pressure cooker. Never fill the cooker to capacity when cooking beans. ~Elise

  33. Brandon G.

    Very good recipe. I did it a little different to make it more of a one pot meal. I slowly cooked two pieces of bacon which yielded about 2 tbls of grease, took the bacon out to cool and added the onions and garlic per the recipe till translucent. I then added the rest of the ingredients minus the meat, rice and water for the rice until hot. Once hot I added the water for the rice, let it come to a boil, added the rice and let it simmer for about hour per the amount of time needed for the rice. For the meat, instead of doing it per the recipe, I grilled/smoked some beef ribs. To plate, I put a ladle of the pot contents on a plate and added slices of the grilled/smoked beef ribs on top. Slightly different, but very good.

    • Brandon G.

      Forgot one thing, I crumbled the cooled bacon and added it to the pot to simmer with the rest of the ingredients.

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