Three Bean (Four Alarm) Chili

I’ve lived in New York for the past fifteen (!) years, but there’s still a bit of Texan in me: I love Shiner Bock, Pat Green and George Strait, I can do a mean two-step, and I love me my chili.

Chili is a sensitive subject in Texas, right up there with talking about politics and religion. Some maintain that “Texas style” chili has ham in it, some say it’s just ground beef. Some say it shouldn’t have beans, and some say the only requirement for “Texas style” chili is that it be thick enough to stand up on its own. I fall into the last category, and this chili can stand up on its own and can probably take me on a spin ‘round the dance floor if it wanted to.

This was adapted from the chili my mom made us as kids—of course, the ground beef was chucked first, but I also make mine spicier than my mom’s: this is a true four alarm chili. And, since my mom grew up in Georgia, she adds tomato juice to make hers more like a soup or stew. This is thick as any Texan could wish for: so thick that I love to spread it onto a slice of bread and eat it that way.

One of the things I love about this chili—besides that it’s just darn delicious—is that it’s cheap, makes a ton, and reheats perfectly. In fact, I usually make a pot of this every two weeks or so and then bring it to the office for lunch every day. (I have the rare ability to eat the same thing over and over and never get bored.)

As you’ll notice, this recipe calls for three types of beans, but four cans of beans. As such, you’ll have twice as many of one variety than of the other two. I love black beans, so I usually do a two-fer on those, but if you prefer pinto or kidney beans, try making the 4th can of beans an extra can of those.

A word about alarms and spices: as is, this is very spicy, which is what I love about it. This dish (along with my arrabiata sauce) was the reason that one of my friends joked that my goal is to burn off a few taste buds every meal. I love spice, it’s true. If you’re not looking for something as spicy as this chili, though, there are a few ways to tune it down. The first is to carefully seed the jalapeños, which I don’t do because (a) I’m lazy, (b) I like the texture of the seeds in the chili, and (c) it makes it hotter. Obviously, along with seeding the jalapeños, you also may just want to cut down on the number of them. You can also cut down on the heat by decreasing the cayenne pepper.

A quicker version of this recipe involves buying and using the premixed chili seasoning packets at your grocery store.

And if you’re not vegan, try garnishing with a dollop of sour cream and/or a bit of cheddar for a little added oomph.

Chili Recipe Card