10 Perfect Substitutes for Beans in Chili to Try For Your Recipes

Substitutes for Beans in Chili

Chili beans are a kind of fast food stored and sold in cans. You can easily find it in common stores. However, if you don’t have it at your kitchen, then here are great substitutes for beans in chili to consider if beans and chili take the first place in your ingredients’ list. 

Chili beans have a Latin American origin. It is made of dried pinto beans cooked with a spicy blend of chili powder, onions, garlic, spices, and meat. 

You can replace beans with some other types of beans and not only. If you want to know what else substitutes this nutritious, healthy and protein-rich food, then stay with us. 

Best Substitutes for Beans in Chili To Try

  1. Kidney, Navy or Black Beans

Taking into account the fact that the family of beans is quite large, you can make your first choice between navy, kidney or black beans. Overall, they taste similar to pinto beans and can provide your dish with the desired taste and flavor. 

Kidney beans differ from chili beans not only in color and taste but also in size and texture. While pinto beans or chili beans are small, soft and creamy, kidney beans are larger, drier and offer a mushy texture. Despite all of this, they can replace each other in many recipes. You can find kidney beans both in raw and canned varieties. 

Navy beans or the so-called white pea beans have a soft and creamy texture like pinto beans. They are also smaller in size than other types of beans, which means you can substitute them for chili beans. Navy beans come with a mild flavor which goes well with chili powder and other spicy seasonings. 

As for black beans, they are denser in texture and offer a rich flavor. They are somehow crunchy and tough. You may cook them longer than pinto beans, but they can also be considered as good alternatives for chili beans. 

  1. Edamame, Split Peas and Lentils

Looking for other chili beans substitute from the legume family? Here we are with three good options; lentils, split and edamame. They can often replace both beans and meat when you are on a diet. 

Traditional Mexican vegan dishes, including chili powder, go well with these beans. They cook faster and taste good with spices. Lentils, split peas and edamame are smaller round-shaped beans that become soft and creamy after cooking. You can cook these beans until the liquid is absorbed and then add seasonings and the source. 

  1. Meat: Pork, Lamb and Beef

Now, let’s discuss the types of meat you can use instead of beans in chili beans recipes. The original recipe includes ground meat in it. You can also add beef, lamb and pork if beans are missing. 

All of these meats replace chili beans in Mexican tacos, salads and nachos. Compared with beef and pork, lamb is a slightly heavier type of meat, but if you like its taste, then you can choose it as well. 

This is a good idea if you want to provide your dish with the same chunky texture as beans in chili. Substituting meat with beans, however, is not a good idea if you are on a diet or a vegetarian. 

  1. Tofu

Although tofu seems to be far from being a chili bean substitute, it can still replace chili beans.  Tofu absorbs all the liquid of the dish leaving some space for the sauce to work. This way the spices and ingredients are being well-mixed and the result is just awesome.

In spite of the fact that tofu is a genetically modified product, it’s rich in proteins. Compared with beans tofu has a low amount of carbs in it. By the way, it has no flavor. 

  1. Texturized Vegetable Protein

You may often meet texturized vegetable protein in meat-free recipes offered for vegans. So, it’s actually a good idea to replace it with beans in chili beans.

This product is made of soy flour and it comes with a high amount of protein. If you substitute it with chili beans it will mostly taste and look like ground beef. And it’s still ok. 

  1. Seeds and Nuts

You can choose seeds and nuts to use instead of chili beans too. Try to make your choice between cashews, walnuts, almonds and pecans. Nuts are high in protein and they can taste like beans in this dish. Just chop them off  into smaller pieces and toast before adding to the dish. This way your dish will smell even better and more pleasant. 

In some cases nuts can be considered as an expensive alternative for beans, so you may opt for seeds such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. You can consider seeds and nuts as the healthiest substitutes for chili beans. 

  1. Tempeh

Similar to tofu, tempeh is another soy-based product to use in chili beans recipes. Since it’s rich in protein and low in carbs, it’s often called vegan meat. When substituting it for chili beans, make sure to add it at the end of cooking. 

If you are unfamiliar with this product, then we are here to tell you that it’s quite easy to use it in dishes and you’ll love the result. Just give it a try once in chili beans. Compared with tofu, tempeh is easier to digest.

  1. Mushrooms

There are several types of mushrooms that go well with chili beans. The most popular mushrooms, however, are portobello mushrooms to use instead of chili beans. They have a meaty texture, that’s why you may often see them replacing meat products in various meals. 

They work in chili beans too, and you can easily use portobello mushrooms to compliment the sauce of chili beans. The best way to use it is to soak them in water and then chop them into small pieces. Cook them with chili for about 7-10 minutes until they are soft. 

  1. Gluten-Free Grains

Special for those looking for gluten-free substitutes, there are the following grains: rice, amaranth, sorghum and quinoa. Depending on your taste, you can choose one of them for your dish. 

Gluten-free grains are a great source of protein and vitamins. They are also easier to digest than beans. 

In order to reach the best result, cook them separately and add to chili at the end. Let the grains simmer in the dish for about 10 minutes. Cook until you get the desired texture. 

  1. Cauliflower

You may wonder how cauliflower can replace beans in chili. This vegetable contains a number of vitamins and it’s a healthy alternative for beans. It’s a perfect choice for those looking for a low-carb option to add to their diet. 

Cauliflower will provide your meal with a unique taste and interesting flavor. To use it in chili beans, you need to cut off the florets into small pieces and add them to the chili. The result is going to amuse you. 

FAQs on Beans in Chili

What beans are used in Chili?

Canned chili beans sold in stores are usually made of pinto beans, but there are some versions that may contain kidney or black beans. You may check the ingredient list on the can before buying it. 

Can you use pinto beans in chili?

Yes, you can use pinto beans for chili. They are the best beans for this recipe. 

How to soften hard beans in chili?

Soak them overnight or at least 2-4 hours before cooking.  

Is all chili made with beans?

Some people think that chili is not chili without beans, but there are some versions of this dish made without beans. You are free to experiment with any of the above-mentioned substitutes to see how they work instead of beans. However, one thing is obvious: chili is delicious both with and without beans. 

Which are the best beans to substitute for beans in chili?

Kidney, navy and black beans can be your best choice. They offer similar taste and smell as pinto beans, which are known as chili beans. Of course, they differ in color, texture and sometimes even flavor, but they all come from the legume family. 

Final Words

Whatever your choice, try to leave your comfort zone when cooking something new. Experiments will always help you find out new tastes and therefore decide what’s best for you. If you like meat, then use meat instead of beans. If you are a vegan, there are plenty of substitutes for beans in chili to use in your dish. Keep up with the balance and amuse your friends, family and relatives with something interesting. 

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