Three Bean Chili

This tasty vegetarian Three Bean Chili combines chili seasoned pinto beans, kidney beans, and smashed black beans for a delicious meatless chili that will rock your socks!

Three Bean Chili with toppings

At this rate I’ve made it my life’s goal to make every sort of chili on the planet.

It’s hands-down one of my favorite things to throw together for dinner on a super busy day and the leftovers are always straight up magical!

I make a LOT of vegetarian and vegan chilis. They’re healthy, delicious, and full of plant-based fiber from the beans and veggies. I usually bulk them up with lentils or quinoa but this time around I let beans be the star and used a trio of canned beans.

The result was nothing short of fantastic! This chili has AMAZING texture thanks to the combination of whole and smashed beans and the flavors are smoky and spiced to perfection.

You can make this one-pot chili mild, medium, or hot depending on your spice preference. Let’s get our chili on!

Ingredients Needed

Here’s what you’ll need to make this flavorful three bean chili!

The Beans

We’ll use a combination canned beans for this chili: chili seasoned pinto beans, light red kidney beans, and black beans. You’ll add the beans and sauce for the chili beans and drain the kidney/black beans. To give the chili a meaty texture, use a potato masher or a fork to mash the black beans before adding them to the pot.

You can choose mild, medium, or hot chili beans. For the kidney beans, light or dark red kidney beans may be used interchangeably.

The Veggies

  • 1 can plain tomato sauce
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bell pepper (any color)
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic

For a more pantry-style chili, the bell pepper can absolutely be skipped if you don’t have one on hand. Canned or frozen corn makes a tasty replacement if desired. Diced sweet potato would be a tasty add-in as well. Simply adjust cook time as needed so they’re fork-tender.

The Spices

We’ll kick up the flavor with a combination of chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano leaves, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. For a spicy chili, feel free to use ground cayenne pepper in place of the black pepper.

bowl of vegetarian chili topped with cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapenos and fritos corn chips

Meal Prep Meatless Chili + Leftovers

Leftover chili is always cause for celebration and you can even plan ahead to meal prep this marvelous meatless chili!

Check out my post of 7 Delicious Things to Do with Leftover Chili for some awesome serving suggestions and ideas!

To meal prep, simply make as directed using the stove top or slow cooker method and portion into lidded heatsafe bowls. You can even freeze a bowl or two for later!

Three Bean Chili

As written, this marvelous meatless three bean chili is vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free and loaded with vitamins, fiber, and plant-based protein. Choose toppings to coordinate with your dietary needs and enjoy!

This recipe yields 6 cups of chili or 3-4 bowls.

Three Bean Chili with toppings

Three Bean Chili

This tasty vegetarian Three Bean Chili combines chili seasoned pinto beans, kidney beans, and smashed black beans for a delicious meatless chili that will rock your socks! Recipe yields 6 cups or 3-4 bowls of meatless chili.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Keyword: Three Bean Chili
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 cups
Author: Jenn Laughlin – Peas and Crayons


  • 1 can pinto chili beans (15 oz)
  • 1 can light red kidney beans (15 oz) drained
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz) drained
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bell pepper (any color)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper or extra for a spicier chili
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 ½ TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt to taste (I use ¼ tsp)


  • You will use the entire contents of the canned chili beans (pinto beans in a flavorful chili sauce) and tomato sauce. Drain the kidney beans and black beans. For added texture, fork mash the black beans while keeping the other beans whole.
  • Peel and dice onion. Dice peppers. For a less spicy chili use a spoon to remove seeds and pith from jalapeños before dicing. For a spicier chili dice everything but the stem. You can even add a second pepper! Peel and mince 3-4 cloves fresh garlic.
  • Add 1-2 tsp oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for 4-5 minutes then add peppers and garlic.
  • Season with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt. Mix well and sauté for a minute or so until fragrant.
  • Next add the tomato sauce and beans. Increase heat until chili starts to boil then stir and reduce heat to an active simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes.
  • Taste chili and add any additional spices to taste. Ground cayenne pepper is a nice add-in if you'd like to make it spicier. Portion chili into bowls, add your favorite toppings, and enjoy!


TOPPING IDEAS: sliced jalapeños, pickled red onions, fresh pico de gallo or salsa, sliced avocado, green onion or cilantro, corn chips, sour cream or greek yogurt (vegan or regular) and/or shredded cheddar cheese (skip for vegan).
As written, this chili is super thick and chunky. It’s one of my most meaty meatless chilis for sure. If you prefer a thinner chili, some extra tomato sauce or vegetable broth can be added. Simply increase spices to compensate, to taste.
Nutrition Facts below are estimated per cup of chili using an online recipe nutrition calculator. Adjust as needed based on toppings chosen and enjoy!


Calories: 226kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 765mg, Potassium: 991mg, Fiber: 13g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1792IU, Vitamin C: 39mg, Calcium: 102mg, Iron: 6mg

Tasty Chili Topping Options

Choose your favorite toppings for a totally custom bowl of chili. You can go simple or load ’em up!

  1. sliced jalapeños (fresh or pickled)
  2. sour cream (regular or vegan)
  3. sliced or cubed avocado
  4. fresh salsa or pico de gallo
  5. grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese (skip for vegan)
  6. fritos corn chips
  7. fresh cilantro
  8. chopped scallions
  9. tortilla chips or strips

Q: What can I use if I don’t have chili beans?

Saucy chili beans are not available in all countries, so you can absolutely make your own. Simply use a can of pinto beans and add an additional 1/2-1 cup of tomato sauce and a little extra chili powder. For medium or spicy chili beans, add desired amount of cayenne pepper.

Q: What can I serve with this vegetarian chili?

Paul loves serving chili on a bed of fluffy white rice while I love mind stuffed into a sweet potato. Stuffing it in a spud is a fantastic way to up your veggie count for the day and the combination of smoky and savory bean chili with the slight sweetness of the potato is absolutely phenomenal!

Cornbread is always an excellent option too! I’m forever a fan of whipping up my fluffy homemade cornbread to serve with veggie chili. You can stick with classic cornbread try my easy homemade jalapeño cheddar cornbread!

If you get a chance to try this three bean chili recipe, let me know! Leave me a comment here (LOVE checking those daily!) and tag @PEASandCRAYONS on Instagram so I can happy dance over your tasty creations. I can’t wait to see what you whip up!

Jenn Laughlin Headshot Photo - About the Author
About The Author:

Jenn Laughlin

Jenn Laughlin founded Peas and Crayons in 2009 after graduating with B.S. in Dietetics from Florida State University and working as a Nutrition Educator for WIC. The goal was simple: create and share delicious tested and perfected recipes with vegetables as the star! Peas and Crayons is know for veggie forward recipes that are colorful and crave-able.

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