Busy Weeknight Bean Chili

October 15, 2018
36 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

You’re five ingredients away from this for dinner. Bonus points for toppings like grated cheddar, chopped scallion, and sour cream. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

This is one of our Big Little Recipes. Read more here: A 5-Ingredient Chili That Tastes Like It Took All Day (But It Didn't). —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Busy Weeknight Bean Chili
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 pinches kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans kidney beans, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 green poblanos, finely diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups water, plus more as needed
  1. Drain and rinse 1 can of kidney beans. Dump onto a cutting board and roughly chop.
  2. Set a large soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter. When it’s melted and just starting to smell nutty, add the chopped beans. Spread into an even layer, then don’t touch! Fry for about 6 minutes until crispy. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  3. Immediately add another 2 tablespoons butter to the pot. When it’s melted, add the chili powder. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds until it’s very fragrant—but not longer, or else it will burn. Add the onions, poblanos, and a big pinch of salt. Stir to completely coat the vegetables in the chili butter. Cook, stirring every so often, for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft; lower the heat and add a small splash of water as needed to prevent any burning.
  4. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the second can of beans.
  5. When the vegetables are soft, add the canned tomatoes and their juices. Smash with a spoon to roughly break up the tomatoes. Add the water, chopped-fried beans, whole beans, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and another big pinch of salt. Adjust the heat to bring to a simmer.
  6. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the flavors are full and delicious to you. Taste and adjust the salt again if necessary.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LyndsayW
  • Debbie Nokes
    Debbie Nokes
  • sunkisst22
  • Shawn Andrews
    Shawn Andrews
  • Emily Williamson
    Emily Williamson
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

32 Reviews

LyndsayW February 20, 2023
This was the best chili I’ve ever had. I followed most comments here: no water at the end, tiny bit of butter at the end, 1 tsp of cumin and 1 tsp of Hungarian sweet paprika. Ate with avocado, sour cream, sharp cheddar and scallions and loved every single bite. Thank you for this recipe! (Also, used my cast iron Dutch oven and I will never use anything but to make it again.)
Joy B. October 26, 2021
Really the most delicious chili I've made. I omitted last 2 tbsp butter and substituted a chipotle en adobe for poblanos.
Debbie N. October 24, 2021
This is a very clever recipe. So simple. Crisping up some of the beans creates a rich flavor. I followed this recipe exactly (except that I used home made plant based butter) and I am thrilled about the delicious results! So glad to have great Chili to serve to my vegan friends. Thank You!
Linda D. March 20, 2021
Another winner, Emma. Thanks so much. My only tweak was less water.
Kate July 22, 2020
This is good. I add the liquid from the second can of beans (use combo of kidney and black beans) and don't add the water at the end. I'm not sure why all of that water is called for. I also tweak the spices, adding 2 tsp cumin and 1.5 tsp smoked paprika and serve over a grain (e.g., quinoa, farro, brown rice, etc.). It could be a little spicier, but I think that depends on how spicy your poblanos are, as they vary.
FoodFreak May 17, 2020
That last round of butter was too much. It tasted more like tomato soup than chili. A few teaspoons of cumin and a lot of fresh cilantro helped a lot. I loved the texture created by the crispy chopped brand.
Veggiegirl April 19, 2020
This is the BEST recipe! It’s the butter, folks. I’m not sure the fried and chopped beans make a big statement but I do it anyway. Also, added some sweet corn, a glug of red wine, a tsp. cumin and a can of black beans. I will make this recipe over and over again.
Patrick M. February 25, 2020
This is a fantastic recipe - here are my thoughts:

1. This works great with Rio Zape or Ayocote Morado Beans (easy enough to prepare in instant pot). A half pound of dried beans is enough for this recipe.
2. If making your own beans, use bean liquor in lieu of water in recipe (you may not need as much salt if your bean liquor has salt - adjust accordingly).
3. Adding dark chocolate (60-70% cocao) balances the acidity of the tomatoes. (I used canned crushed tomatoes because I always have them on hand.)
4. Fish sauce (use sparingly!) adds a little funk.
5. Ancho chili pepper instead of the normal stuff works great.
6. I didn’t have poblanos for today’s batch, so I seeded 3 dried guajillo peppers, roughly chopped, and sautéed (low-med) in instant pot (IP) until aromatic; then add water/dry beans/bay leaf/salt to IP and pressure cook on high for 50 min.
sunkisst22 February 9, 2020
This was yummy! I didn't have whole tomatoes, so I subbed a can of petite diced tomatoes and a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (14 Oz each). I also only had white kidney beans and they were creamy and delicious.
Michel November 13, 2019
Love this chili. It’s part of our regular dinner rotation. Makes thermos school lunch for the kids too.
cchalk05 January 1, 2019
Great recipe! Tasty and warm. Used vegan butter and it was delish. I couldn't get the kidney beans crispy but they still added a nice texture.
cchalk05 January 1, 2019
Great recipe. Best chili we've had. Did a vegan version with non-butter. The red beans didn't get real crispy. Any ideas?
Dakota B. December 31, 2018
Love this recipe! The browned butter and fried beans adds so much dimension. I substituted the water for bone broth & reduced the added salt. Topped with cheese, avocado & scallions. Amazing.
Emma L. December 31, 2018
Thanks so much, Dakota!
Shawn A. December 22, 2018
Ive never like chili to be honest but i entertain a lot on weekends and one of them is a vegetarian so i just had to try again. Its the BEST chili Ive ever had. Ive made it about 5 times now when the day gets ahead of me and the only ingredient i have to pick up is the peppers. Its an affordable way to entertain a bigger group too! I add a little more spice but find these peppers just nicely warming without taking over and i put a dot of yogurt on top for good measure. Its not like any other chili I've tried thanks for such a great recipe.
Emma L. December 23, 2018
Thank you so much, Shawn! I'm so happy to hear that the recipe has become a go-to for you.
Dale D. October 29, 2018
We made this for lunch today and it is really good. It has a meaty flavor with no meat in it. My wife who follows Weight Watchers said this was a keeper and relatively low in points.
Emma L. October 29, 2018
Thanks, Dale! So glad that you and your wife enjoyed.
Emily W. October 28, 2018
How much kick does this chili have? I’m wondering if I need to tone it down for my young kids.
Emma L. October 28, 2018
Hi Emily! I personally don't consider it super spicy—with the butter added at the end and especially if you serve sour cream (or yogurt, etc) on top. But always better safe than sorry: You could drop the chili powder to 2 tablespoons or even 1 1/2, then add more at the end if need be.
Tammy B. October 25, 2018
Made this chili earlier in the week and it is so delicious! I love the quick cooking time and limited ingredient list. I couldn't believe how flavorful it was! Topped with sour cream, sharp cheddar and scallions as suggested and it was perfect. Just finished off a bowl of leftovers for lunch and still so yummy. Quick dinners like this that give me lunch leftovers are my saving grace throughout the work week!
Emma L. October 25, 2018
Thank you so much, Tammy!
eliza October 24, 2018
Very good & fairly quick to make. I used powdered chilis I roasted & combined (New Mexico + ancho + chile piquin) since I prefer my own blend. I added lots of garlic. We found the chili tasty but too much like soup. Hooray for leftovers! The day after, I added half a cup of bulgur after soaking it in boiling water for half an hour, which gave it a thicker, coarser consistency. Good topped with avocado, chopped cilantro, squeeze of lime & a dab of creme fraiche. Yes, this is "riff-worthy"!
Emma L. October 25, 2018
Hooray for garlic! Bulgur is such a fun idea, too—I've been eating quinoa chili all week for lunches.
Loris October 21, 2018
Delicious! I added two small red and yellow bell peppers, reduced water to one cup, and reduced butter to five tbs. Very flavorful and filling.
mrslarkin October 21, 2018
Made this the other night for dinner. Loved it! Thanks, Emma!