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 instead of ground beef. 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.
What Are Chili Beans?
Chili beans are beans cooked with a ground meat chili sauce. Chili beans are usually made with pinto beans, though you can also use kidney beans or black beans. The chili sauce uses ground beef or turkey. We make our chili beans with pinto beans and serve them over rice, but you could serve them with cornbread, in a burrito, or over quinoa.
How to Make Chili Beans
Start with cooking the beans. You can use canned beans if you're in a rush, but if you have time, it's worth making your own beans for their superior flavor and texture. Here are two great methods for making beans:
While the beans are cooking, cook the rice. Once the beans are cooked, the chili beans are easily finished on the stovetop. Cook the onions, then brown the meat. Add tomatoes, jalapeños, the beans, and seasonings, and let everything simmer for about 10 minutes. Simmering will help bring all the flavors of the dish together. Serve over the rice.
Want Spicier Chili Beans?
As is, this recipe makes a fairly mild batch of chili beans. If you'd like more heat, just add more chili powder to taste, or a little cayenne pepper. You can also add Tabasco or Crystal hot sauce, either to the pot or to each individual bowl.
How to Store and Freeze Chili Beans
These chili beans will keep for about a week in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop. Add a splash of water or broth if the beans seem dry when reheating.
To freeze, transfer the cooled chili beans to freezer containers or bags and remove as much air as possible. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or reheat from frozen. Reheat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove top.
Looking for More Chili Recipes?
Chili Beans with Rice
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.
- 2 cups (1 pound) dry pinto beans OR 4 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained
- 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
- 2 cups uncooked white rice
- 1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño pepper (cooked, canned), sliced (Note concerning the tomatoes and jalapeño pepper: my mother will substitute these on occasion with a cup of Pace brand salsa - works fine)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
If using dry beans, cook the beans on a stove top or in a pressure cooker:
Stove Top Method - Put beans into a pot and cover with at least 3 inches of water—about 3 quarts for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours.
The cooking time will vary depending on the batch of beans you have. The beans are done when they are soft and the skin is just beginning to break open.
Pressure Cooker Method - Put beans into a 4 quart or larger pressure cooker with a 15 lb weight. Fill the pressure cooker with water up to the line that indicates the capacity for the pot (about two thirds of the way). Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the beans are soft and the skins are barely breaking open.
Allow the pressure cooker to cool completely before opening. If there is resistance when attempting to open the cooker, do not open it, allow it to cool further. Follow the directions for your brand of pressure cooker. (See How to Make Fast No Soak Beans in a Pressure Cooker.)
Either method - Strain the beans from the cooking water.
Cook the rice:
When you're ready to begin making the chili beans (after the dried beans are cooked), cook the rice. Put 2 cups of rice in a medium thick-bottomed pot. Add 3 cups of water (less or more depending on package instructions), a tablespoon of butter (for flavor), and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot and let cook for 15 minutes (again check your package instructions).
Remove from heat, keep covered, and let steam for 10 minutes.
Sauté the onions:
In a large skillet, sauté onions in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until translucent on medium high heat, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for a minute more.
Remove the onions to a bowl.
Brown the meat:
Increase the heat to high, and add the meat to the same pan used to cook the onions. Let cook for a minute or two without moving so that the meat gets browned, then turn to brown on the other sides.
Combine meat and onions, add tomatoes and jalapeño:
Add the onions and garlic back to the pan. Taste for spiciness and add more chili powder if desired.
Add one can of tomatoes, the sliced jalapeno pepper, the chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. Stir to combine.
Add the cooked beans and simmer:
Once the beans are cooked, drain them. Add the beans to the meat and onions, adding another teaspoon of salt as the beans go in.
Simmer for 5 to 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.