15 Types Of Beans You Should Be Using In Your Chili

A wholesome chili is a staple on the dinner rotation for many of us, and when it comes to adding beans, you might be committed to using the same variety each time you whip up a batch. Pinto beans and kidney beans are amongst the most popular types of beans we see in a classic chili recipe, and these are of course fantastic choices.

Beans can add texture, heartiness, and plenty of nutrients to your chili, and there's no reason why you can't deviate from the classics. There are a huge variety of beans out there, with most available in handy canned form. This means after a quick drain and rinse they can be tossed right into the pot without a lengthy soaking and pre-cooking.

Each variety of bean will bring a slightly different flavor and texture to this classic dish, from mild and earthy black beans to creamy and nutty chickpeas. Whether you're pairing them with meat, or making them the star of a veggie or vegan chili, there's a bean out there that's perfect for enhancing your dish's flavor profile. So let's explore 15 of our favorite beans and help you find the best variety for transforming your next batch of this family favorite.

1. Kidney beans

Kidney beans are a classic choice for chili, and for good reason. Their large size and firm texture hold up well during the long simmering process, which means they won't become mushy and unappealing. These beans have a mild, slightly sweet flavor that fits perfectly into a spicy, savory chili. They pair well with the traditional spices like chili powder, cumin, and paprika, soaking up all of those delicious flavors as the chili simmers away.

We often see kidney beans incorporated into a beef chili, but these could work just as well in other versions of the classic. Try adding them to a spicy chicken chili, or a hearty vegetarian chili, perhaps alongside another variety of bean. Buying them canned is the most convenient option for your cooking, but dried kidney beans can be more cost effective if you don't mind the soaking and pre-cooking.

Kidney beans also bring an excellent dose of nutrients to your plate. They're packed with protein, fiber, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, and potassium.

2. Pinto beans

Another hugely popular choice, pinto beans are a hearty legume that fit perfectly in a chili. These medium-sized beans are speckled with brown and beige markings in their dried form, which disappear after cooking, so they'll be uniform in color if you're buying them canned.

Pinto beans have a slightly softer consistency which makes them ideal for creating a chili that feels super rich and creamy — perfect for dunking some tortilla chips in! Since they're slightly less robust in texture than some other varieties of beans, it's best to add pinto beans later on in the cooking process to ensure they retain their shape. Again, these beans are pretty versatile, working well in a range of meat and veggie chili recipes. Their mild, earthy flavor helps them to incorporate seamlessly with other ingredients.

Like kidney beans, pinto beans are highly nutritious. They're an excellent source of protein, fiber, and several important nutrients, including magnesium and vitamin B1.

3. Black beans

If you prefer beans with a slightly denser, meatier texture, black beans are a fantastic option. These small, dark-colored beans are delicious, packed with goodness, and perfect for adding substance to your chili.

Black beans can be described as having a slightly sweet, earthy flavor. They hold their shape well during cooking and are particularly popular in vegetarian and vegan chilis, where their hearty texture can take the place of meat. Despite this, they also pair wonderfully with beef, chicken, or pork, where they'll do an amazing job of soaking up those meaty, savory flavors. These beans are also great for adding visual appeal to your chili, with their dark color standing out against the spicy base.

Again, you can count on these beans to bring a healthy dose of nutrients to your chili. Like most beans, they deliver on fiber and protein, as well as providing a range of vitamins and minerals such as folate, copper, and manganese.

4. Haricot beans

Now for one of the most popular white bean varieties. Haricot beans, also known as navy beans, are the smallest of the white beans. They offer a mild, buttery flavor and soft, velvety texture. You'll commonly see these beans added to soups and stews, but they can also be a fantastic addition to chili. Their subtle taste allows the bold flavors of your chili spices to shine, while their creamy consistency adds a comforting thickness.

Haricot beans are widely available in cans, which means they're pre-cooked and just need a quick drain and rinse. But, if you'd rather use dried haricot beans in your chili, that's no problem. First, you'll need to soak the beans in water overnight. Then, drain away the soaking water and add the beans to your cooking pot. Add water, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. The beans should take about one and half hours to cook. You'll know they're ready when they're tender and creamy, but still holding their shape.

5. Cannellini beans

Another much-loved member of the white bean family, cannellini beans make a fantastic addition to any chili. These are certainly similar to haricot beans, though they're larger in size and more robust in texture. Unlike haricot beans, they won't break down during cooking. In fact, due to their similarities in size and texture, cannellini beans are often referred to as white kidney beans. Flavor wise, these beans have a slightly stronger taste than haricot beans too, described as both nutty and earthy.

The larger size of cannellini beans makes them the perfect addition for amping up the heartiness of a chili. They're particularly popular in chilis made with chicken rather than beef or pork. These recipes often feature a base that's lighter in color than a traditional chili, featuring a mixture of onion, garlic, broth, spices, and canned green chiles, rather than the usual canned tomatoes. However, they can fit pretty seamlessly into any chili recipe, perhaps as one of a selection of bean varieties in a wholesome 3-bean chili.

6. Adzuki beans

These small, reddish-brown beans are one of the lesser-known varieties, and a more unique addition when it comes to chili. Adzuki beans have a sweet, nutty taste and a firm texture. Sometimes referred to as red beans, these colorful legumes are commonly used in Asian cuisine. And their uses aren't just limited to savory dishes; they're a key ingredient in many Asian desserts too, such as mochi and sweet coconut soup. Often, the beans will be blitzed into a paste, mixed with sugar and butter, and used to fill cakes and pastries.

Similar in size and texture to black beans, adzuki beans are well suited to long cooking times, so make a fantastic addition to a chili. As well as being rich in protein, fiber, and many essential nutrients, adzuki beans also contain plenty of antioxidants, which may help to protect cells against damage and reduce your chances of developing a range of chronic diseases.

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are incredibly popular in the world of legumes. They're a common addition to a hearty veggie stew or spicy curry, and the key ingredient in a creamy hummus, but have you ever thought to toss them in a chili? These round, beige beans have a distinct nutty taste and firm, creamy consistency, and they're perfect for bringing both flavor and nutritional value to your chili.

These versatile legumes are great at holding their shape as they cook, so they'll add a satisfying bite to your chili without becoming mushy. Chickpeas work well in both a tomato-based chili, or a creamier, broth-based version. They pair fantastically with a wide range of other ingredients, such as bell peppers, onions, and a variety of spices like cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander. Combine them with meat, or keep things plant-based. However you decide to use them, their mild taste ensures they won't overpower the rich flavors of the other ingredients.

8. Butter beans

One of the larger white bean varieties, and readily available in convenient canned form, we have butter beans. You might see these creamy white beans also referred to as lima beans or sieva beans.

Known for their smooth texture and buttery flavor (hence the name), these beans are another staple in soups and stews, as well as salads and casseroles. But, they can also bring plenty of richness and a moreish velvety consistency to a chili. If you prefer a chunkier chili, with veg that's diced more roughly, and meat chopped into bigger pieces rather than being ground or shredded, butter beans will fit right in with their larger size.

Butter beans can also come in dried form, requiring soaking and cooking before adding them to your chili. It's vital to remember that they can't be consumed raw or undercooked. In fact, in this form, the beans contain a compound that converts into highly poisonous cyanide upon chewing. Thankfully, it is removed as the beans cook.

9. Great northern beans

Staying in the white bean realm, our next choice for switching up a classic chili is the addition of some tasty and nutritious great northern beans. These are medium-sized beans, being slightly smaller than cannellini and butter beans, but larger than haricot beans.

This variety makes a great all-rounder, boasting a mild and delicate flavor and tender texture. Great northern beans are a popular component of a classic white chili, made with a creamy broth and succulent shredded chicken. The velvety texture of these beans also pairs amazingly with some of the classic chili toppings, like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and sliced avocado.

Great northern beans don't scrimp on the nutrition factor either. You can of course count on them to add plenty of fiber and protein to your chili. Additionally, they contain over double the amount of calcium than is found in kidney beans, making them great for maintaining healthy teeth and bones.

10. Black eyed peas

Black eyed peas are a hidden gem when it comes to upgrading your chili recipe. Despite the name, they can absolutely be classed as beans or legumes, and they have a particularly unique appearance too. Mostly cream in color, the beans have a distinctive black mark or eye on their surface. This mark actually forms as they grow, in the exact spot where the bean is attached to the pod.

Unlike most beans, you can eat black eyed peas completely raw, but this isn't a particularly typical way to enjoy them. Black eyed peas are incredibly popular in southern cooking, with the dried beans often cooked up in chicken broth with meats like turkey or bacon, and veggies like onion, bell pepper, and collard greens.

Black eyed peas make a wonderful addition to a classic chili too. These beans have a fantastic firm, dense texture as well as a notable earthy flavor, so they fit in perfectly with the meaty richness of the dish. Try combining them with breakfast sausage and a spicy, tomato-based, veggie-packed sauce for the ultimate hearty, savory chili.

11. Fava beans

If you fancy adding a pop of green to your chili, fava beans are another excellent choice. These flat, medium-sized green beans are also known as broad beans. They possess a delicate, nutty, yet ever so slightly bitter flavor. Amazingly, it is thought that fava beans might be one of the first crops ever to be farmed, with evidence of their seeds in the soil dating back to 6000 B.C.

These nutritious green legumes are often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes, bringing freshness, bite, and flavor, as well as a good dose of protein. But with their unique characteristics, they can also enhance your homemade chili.

Fava beans most typically come in one of three forms — canned, frozen, or dried. The canned variety will need just a quick drain and rinse before being added to your chili, and frozen fava beans can be added straight to the pot too, much like frozen peas or corn. Dried beans, on the other hand, will require soaking and boiling before use. Fava beans are actually safe to consume raw, so this process simply serves to rehydrate and soften the beans post drying.

12. Mung beans

Tiny and green, but full of sweet and nutty flavor, mung beans might not yet be on your radar. But using this variety of bean in your chili is another brilliantly unique way to switch things up, bringing new tastes and textures to the classic dish.

Mung beans are often used in Asian cuisine, especially in India where they're a staple in curries and soups. Like adzuki beans, mung beans are also often blitzed into a paste and sweetened for use in desserts.Plus, you might be surprised to learn that the beans themselves aren't actually the only edible part of the mung bean plant. Crunchy mung bean sprouts are also a popular addition to stir-fries and salads.

These little green beans are relatively quick-cooking compared to other beans, making them a convenient option for chili. Soft in texture, and smaller in size than most other bean varieties, you'll find they blend incredibly well with the other ingredients, adding goodness to every bite of the chili.

13. Green beans

They might not be a traditional choice for chili, but hear us out. Green beans are an amazing ingredient for adding a fresh, crunchy texture and appealing pop of green to this much-loved dish. Plus, they're super versatile and packed full of nutrients, providing a good source of vitamins A, C and K.

To add green beans to your chili, simply trim the ends and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Green beans tend to cook pretty quickly, so it's best to add them during the last 10 minutes of cooking to ensure they retain a little bite and don't become completely soggy.

Green beans will pair perfectly with a range of other veggies too, such as onions, peppers, and tomatoes, or even other greens like broccoli or spinach. And if you're not ready to ditch the more traditional forms of beans entirely, try combining green beans with another canned bean variety, such as kidney or pinto.

14. Edamame beans

If you're a fan of Japanese cuisine, you might be familiar with enjoying salted edamame beans as a fresh and tasty snack or side dish. These green legumes, which are actually young soybeans, are firmer in texture than many other beans, with a moreish, sweet taste. Edamame are also incredibly nutritious, containing over 30% more protein than an equal serving of kidney beans, and over four times the amount of vitamin C.

Edamame beans are typically sold either fresh or frozen, and they're usually pre-cooked, so they are a convenient addition to your chili. Just toss them straight into the pot before the simmering stage (no need to thaw frozen edamame beforehand). With their naturally firm texture, they won't break apart or go mushy during cooking.

Whether you're making a traditional beef chili, a chicken chili, or a veggie version, edamame beans can provide a unique and nutritious twist. They're a great option for packing in extra protein, providing some eye-catching color, and introducing a new texture to the dish.

15. Anasazi beans

For a striking addition to your chili, try incorporating Anasazi beans. These heirloom beans get their name from the Ancestral Pueblo Peoplethat first cultivated them, and possess a beautiful maroon and white speckled appearance that's sure to make your dinner stand out.

Anasazi beans are less common than other bean varieties, and therefore might be harder to find in canned form. However, dried Anasazi beans are more readily available, and surprisingly easy to work with. Unlike many other dried beans, they don't require extensive soaking prior to cooking.

To make Anasazi bean chili, first boil the beans in a large pot of water until tender. This will take about one and half hours. Then, you can add the spices and canned tomatoes straight into the same pot. Fry off the onions, garlic, and meat in a separate pan, then add this mixture to the pot with the beans and give everything a final simmer — preferably for about another half an hour.