Three Bean-Three Dollar Chili

I cooked a lot of tasty stuff this week (about 900 different marmalades!), but I thought I’d share this recipe since it was cheap, used a lot of preserved items from this summer, and used a whole lot of dry goods from the pantry.  The only thing I purchased specifically for this dinner was some ground beef and a bunch of fresh cilantro (a whopping three dollars).  It’s a delicious pot of chili, with three different kinds of beans, lots of garlic, dried chili peppers, pickled jalapenos, and a jar of crushed heirloom tomatoes.

garlic and chilis from our garden, canned tomatoes from our garden, onions that we traded eggs for with one of our neighbors down the road, and dried beans from the pantry

This recipe makes a ton of food, with plenty for leftovers, freezing, or a big crowd.  The ingredients are also very flexible; don’t feel like you have to find dried thai chilis specifically, if you have something else similar, that’s fine. Same goes for the dried beans – whatever you have in your pantry will be fine.

dried azuki beans


  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 dried thai chili pepper  (minced with a knife or crushed with a mortar and pestle)
  • 3 dried cayenne chili peppers (prepare same as thai chili pepper)
  • 3 pickled jalapeno peppers, diced
  • 1 lb. 96% lean ground beef (or ground turkey, or Gimme Lean, or nothing, depending on your meat preference)
  • 1 16-ounce jar crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c. dried azuki beans
  • 1/2 c. dried black beans
  • 1 c. dried kidney beans
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • approximately 10 c. water (or stock, if you have it around)
  • 1/2 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (for garnish)
  • 1/2 c. loosely chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish; optional)
  • 1/4 c. sour cream (for garnish)

1. I soaked my kidney beans and cooked them in advance, which I would recommend. Put the kidney beans in a mixing bowl, cover with water, and soak overnight. In the morning, put the beans in a medium sized pot, add about 6 cups of water, and cook on low until they are tender, but not mushy. During cooking, add water as necessary to keep beans covered with plenty of liquid. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring the olive oil to medium high heat. Add garlic, onions, cumin, and dried chilies. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until onions are translucent and spices are aromatic. Add ground beef, pickled jalapenos, garlic powder, and paprika, and continue to cook until ground beef is nicely browned.

3. Pour in the jar of crushed tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and about 6 c. of water. Stir everything together. Add in dried black beans and adzuki beans. Cook, uncovered, on low heat,  for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary.

4. Add the cooked kidney beans that were set aside earlier, stir everything together well. Add another few cups of water and cook on very low heat for another hour or two. Season with salt and pepper and sugar (we added sugar to balance out some of the heat, you can also use honey or leave this step out altogether).  During cooking, a lot of liquid will reduce off, and you should adjust how watery your chili is according to your own preference. Most of the water cooked off of ours and it was fairly thick.

5. Serve hot, with cornbread, and garnished with cheese, sour cream, and fresh cilantro.

3 thoughts on “Three Bean-Three Dollar Chili

  1. Good question…. it’s because they are so big compared to the other beans. If you cooked them all at once, the azuki beans would fall apart before the kidney beans were even cooked through.

  2. Exactly the recipe I was looking for during these long winter days–no I won’t make this tomorrow for the super bowl because we haven’t been home this weekend–but yes it will be going over to cornell for the sunday night suppers.

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