Which bean is best for chili?

Hey there! I'm recipe developing a super simple bean chili. I've nailed down the method and other ingredients (such as chili powder, onion, and poblanos). The only remaining Q is: Which bean? Right now, I'm torn between pinto (creamy!) and kidney (classic!). Which would you prefer? And why?

Emma Laperruque


arielcooks November 11, 2018
Black beans! Canned if necessary, but purchased dry and soaked overnight if you think ahead. are preferable. Add kidney beans extra, for texture and variety.
Medora V. November 11, 2018
I did much of my growing up in the west, so my preferred bean always used to be pinto. I was appalled when I moved to Maine and found people using kidney beans! However, these days I tend to use more than one bean, usually a combo of black beans and garbanzos.
Feuer November 6, 2018
OK, being somewhat of a, self proclaimed, expert on this topic: Having lived in Texas for a couple of years, their chili has no beans. What a shame... Real Southwest chili has pinto beans, only. I now live in Germany (yes, I do get around). Here you can get canned Borlotti beans just anywhere. The are dead ringers for Pintos (they may actually be Pintos). To purists that insist that you must soak dried beans overnight and then slow cook them for hours, I say BS... I used to do that in my poor college days because they were so cheap. Canned beans are the best. So, if you want *authentic* beans for chili, they must be Pintos. However, there are a bazillion different beans out there and every cook should try each and every one of them. That said, once you are well versed in bean cuisine, pick whatever bean you like most and make chili with it, without guilt.

One last thing: Beans are very lean. Many people are turned off by them when the mouth feel is mealy. You must add fat to any bean dish to make that go away. A lot of fat. It won't kill you or cause you to gain weight because, as I said above, the beans are totally lean by themselves.
Laura D. September 27, 2018
I use pinto beans and avoid kidney beans which I consider too hard and sweet. I don't eat chili made with kidney beans if I can avoid it. There is a brand of pinto beans available in the south and southwest called "Ranch Style Beans" which are canned with a chili sauce. Since the chili flavor has marinated throughout the cooked beans, they are a nice ingredient for chili with beans; no rinsing required.
Suzanne S. September 23, 2018
Santa Maria Pinquitos (available thru Rancho Gordo) only bean my family uses. Been the fav family chili bean since the 1960s.
[email protected] September 23, 2018
Kidney. I mix far a slight. I don't like creamy beans in my chile. Sometime I add a little coffee to it
Kimberlee F. September 23, 2018
Pink beans - texture and beautiful color, plus the sauce seems to adhere to the shape of the bean and this enhances the flavor of each bite
Linda T. September 23, 2018
Pinto the size and its creamy
Mercergirl September 23, 2018
For decades, my tradition was always kidney beans - I didn't even consider there was another option. Now I prefer a combination of kidney, black, and pinto. The different colors, textures, and flavors really add to the dish.
MMH September 23, 2018
I like the mix of beans also. I add sweet corn. I like the contrast to the spice of a really hot chili and I never add meat.
Gail S. September 23, 2018
I use pinto, black and kidney beans.
Ttrockwood September 20, 2018
I like a mix of different beans, usually kidney beans and black beans
Gammy September 19, 2018
I typically add dark red kidney beans along with cannellini beans and never rinse the beans, I like the way the "juices" help thicken and flavor the chili. Never thought they were too sweet, but I will have to try pinto and black beans to taste the difference.

Voted the Best Reply!

Liz D. September 18, 2018
I like pinto & black beans, I think their flavors are more fitting for the spices in chili; kidney beans are too sweet for me. I'd use a mix of beans, especially if there's no meat, for the combo of colors, flavors & textures
Lori T. September 18, 2018
Chili is one of those dishes, like BBQ, which seem to invite devotees of all camps to insist that their choice is the most authentic or best. Fact is, pinto, kidney, black, or small red beans all have a place, and your choice simply depends on either what you like best or what you have on the pantry shelf. True chili aficionados will insist that real chili contains no beans at all. Of course, they may well also grind their own choice selection of dried peppers, because pre-prepared chili powder is looked down on. For those mere mortals among us who simply would like a comforting bowl of chili on a cold day- I don't think it's that critical a choice.
Smaug September 18, 2018
I don't think anyone particularly objects to the proliferation of spicy bean dishes, of which there are innumerable examples worldwide. It is more a linguistic matter than a culinary one- why (other than marketing, of course) label them as chili when they have no connection to the original dish? At the least, one would think that a dish called "chili" would have it's basis in chilis, which many of these recipes ignore almost entirely. Objections to chili powder are largely those of any sort of prepared spice blend of this type- you are not only ceding control of your dish to the preparer of the mix, which one might do for convenience (as one might by a can of chili), the spice blends tend inevitably to emphasize the cheaper ingredients- in the case of chili powders, usually dried onion and garlic, substances that there is really no excuse for. Ironically, recipes calling for it frequently add in the basic (and quite common) ingredients- cumin, oregano and powdered chiles, as well as fresh onion and garlic- the chili powder evidently primarily for the purpose of making sure they didn't miss anything. So by all means have a nice bowl of beans, but must we reduce the word to meaninglessness by indiscriminate use?
BerryBaby September 18, 2018
I add three...white kidney, black and pinto, all canned and rinsed. Added the last hour of simmering.
Smaug September 18, 2018
Kidney beans are too sweet- they may be classic in New York, but Pintos are much more used in the southwest. Of course, neither bean chili nor chili powder is highly regarded there.
Nancy September 18, 2018
All are good, and give slightly different flavors/textures.
From experience and hearing people talk about them, would have guessed kidney beans much more eaten than pinto, so would have recommended pinto to encourage something new.
But looking at statistics in usa to 2016, pintos are consumed about 5-6x volume of kidney beans (2.65 lb vs 0.47 lb). So that argument goes away.
On taste and texture, I favor pinto beans.
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