Spicy Three Bean Chili

spicy three bean chili

This spicy three bean chili is delicious! With subtle flavorings and a thick sauce, a bowl of this chili will warm you on a cool day. You can boil the beans or use a pressure cooker if you want a quicker dish. This version is vegetarian (suitable for vegans), and you can also add your favorite meat, too.

Chili is one of my favorite dishes – so easy and satisfying. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Texas, where chili is a local favorite. Texas chili is almost always meat based and does not contain tomato. In fact, traditional Texans will just cry if you try to convince them that chili can be a vegetarian thing! But over the years I have tasted and created (and enjoyed) many, many vegetarian chili recipes. This three bean vegan chili is one that I can rely on for a yummy warming meal. But if you want meat, you can easily add it to this chili recipe.

spicy three bean chili beans

Today, I’m using three beautiful beans that are available at the markets where I am living (this year) in the Republic of Georgia. I have no idea what these beans are called, but aren’t they pretty? It looks like they’ve been hand-painted! Isn’t nature wonderful?

It really doesn’t matter what beans you use, but a combination of three varieties will give you a nice flavor balance. You can go crazy with all kinds of ingredients for chili, but this is a simple, basic and flavorful recipe. I use a good amount of oil in this recipe, as oil helps to create the rich flavor of traditional meat chili that is gained by the presence of meat fat. So, we add in oil to emulate that richness. You could also use half oil/half butter if you are not concerned about having this dish be vegan-friendly.

pressure cooker for spicy three bean chili

I use my trusty pressure cooker to cook the beans. I found it in Albania (although it was made in Turkey by a German company, Hoffman!) and it’s a real gem because it doesn’t have removable parts that stretch out or get lost – yay. The lid pops into the pot and there is no removable gasket ring and no removable little pressure weight.

As there are only two of us eating daily, this recipe is for two, but you could easily double or quadruple it for a family meal or for guests. This could be a one dish meal, if you added some veggies into the chili, like carrots, zucchini and red peppers. But I usually make it as a main dish, eaten with maybe a bowl of rice and a serving of sautéed veggies. If I forgo rice, I might serve cornbread, as in my favorite cornbread recipe.

Or, since we’ve been in Georgia, I like making a Georgian recipe called mchadi, which are very simple and quick pan-fried corn cakes. My Georgian friend Irma introduced me to Georgian white corn flour (or maybe it is just finely ground corn meal?) but you can also use finely ground yellow or white cornmeal.

Mchadi Georgian Corn Cakes Recipe

spicy three bean chili with corn cakes

To make approximately 6 corn cakes:

  • Put 1 1/2 cups of fine stone ground corn meal into a small bowl
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and enough water to make a firm dough
  • Divide into 6 pieces and form into balls
  • Flatten the balls to about 1/4 inch flat and set into hot oil in a shallow frying pan, pressing the patties flat with the back of a spoon
  • Fry on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes on each side. Mchadi are ready when they are golden brown on both sides

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spicy three bean chili

Spicy Three Bean Chili

This easy three bean chili is delicious! With subtle spices and a thick sauce, a bowl of this chili will warm you on a cool day. You can slow cook the beans or use a pressure cooker if you just can't wait to try it!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main dish, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings 2


  • ½+ cup mixed dry beans
  • 4-5 teaspoons oil or mix of butter/oil
  • ¼ cup diced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons paprika powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½-1 small diced jalapeño pepper (or other small green chile pepper) (if not, ¼ tsp black pepper and pinch of cayenne)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 TBSP heaping, tomato paste
  • chopped white onion and chopped cilantro for garnish


  • Soak beans overnight, drain, rinse and boil in water until soft. Set aside a scant ¼ of the beans and mash with fork or potato masher. Add back into the rest of the beans to create some thickness to the chili. Set beans aside.
  • In a separate pan, fry chopped onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper in oil.
  • When onions are lightly browned, remove pan from heat and add cumin, paprika, and turmeric, stirring until spices bubble (be careful that the spices do not burn!)
  • Add spice/onion/oil mix into the beans along with the tomato paste and vinegar and stir to mix. Continue cooking on medium heat to thicken the chili.
  • Add black pepper, salt and pinch of cayenne (to taste; black pepper and cayenne can be omitted if you used a jalapeño).
  • Garnish with chopped onions and chopped fresh cilantro


If you use a pressure cooker to cook the beans and want to prepare the chili in the same cooker, remove the beans when they are done, set aside (mashing about 1/4 of the beans).
I just rinse out the cooker pot and add the oil and stir fry the onions, garlic and spices as per the above directions, then add the beans back in along with the tomato paste and vinegar and proceed with the recipe.
Keyword easy chili recipe, three bean chili, vegan chili, vegetarian chili
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