14 Best Substitutes for Chili Beans

Chili Corn Carne, or the commonly known chili, is a delight we all love. Beans are an integral part of a chili! 

A traditional Chili recipe has, in fact, a mix of red kidney beans with meat, tomatoes, and spices. So, imagining a bean-less chili feels a little silly! But that does not mean a person cannot try! And that’s exactly what I did. 

A few days back, when I invited my friends over for dinner, I found out that one of them can’t have beans since she was following a low-carb dietary regime. So, I had to find an alternative to replace beans in chili. 

During this little quest of mine, I came across interesting options to substitute beans in chili. Meat, tofu, tempeh, green peas, cauliflower, and edamame are the low-carb substitutes for beans in chili. Whereas rice, quinoa, sorghum, and lentils are some grains and legumes that can also replace beans in chili.


Beans in Chilli – An Introduction

Traditional chili has beans as an essential ingredient. In fact, beans are famous around the world, and they are used in a number of curries, stews, and soups. Red kidney beans are particularly used in chili recipes. Beans belong to the legume family, and they are a rich source of proteins, fibers, and complex carbs, so anyone who wants to have a complete package of nutrients on the table should try to add beans to their meal. 

It’s not just the chili that I enjoy the kidney beans in; I like adding the boiled beans to my salads, stir-fries, and some sandwich filling as well. Bean soup and stews taste delicious when served with boiled rice or crispy tortillas.


Reasons to Replace Beans in A Chilli

If you don’t like having red beans in your chili, then it’s okay! Kidney beans are, in fact, hard beans which mean that they contain phytic acid and complex carbs, which are hard to digest for most people. That is why eating beans can cause digestive problems as well. Another reason to replace the beans in chili is to cut down the overall carbohydrate consumption and make it ketogenic.


Understanding Beans

So, what are the best beans to use in chili? Is there any specific bean to use in a chili recipe? Well, in the traditional chili con carne recipe, the use of kidney beans is popular. Kidney beans are not only healthy and nutritious, but they also give the chili its classic color and taste. There are other varieties of chili that can be made using chickpeas, white beans, or black beans. They all taste and appear slightly different. But all the different types of beans have similar nutritional content. Like kidney beans, chickpeas, white beans, and black beans are also rich in proteins, carbs, and phytic acid. 

So, if you want to replace kidney beans with chickpeas or other beans in chili, then they are a great option, but not for people who want to enjoy ketogenic, low-carb, or gluten-free chili, and the list shared down below will greatly help you out then!


Chili Beans Vs. Kidney Beans

The canned beans product labeled as “chili beans” is, in fact, cooked pinto beans which are mixed with chili seasoning. Chili beans are quite different from kidney beans; they are pre-cooked, whereas kidney beans are available in both raw and canned varieties. Both these beans are equally suitable for a chili recipe, but the large-sized curved kidney beans add more of a traditional Mexican taste to a chili.


The 14 Best Substitutes for Beans in Chilli

It’s about time that we check out some of the smart and amazing substitutes for beans in chili.


1. Lentils

Lentils and beans basically belong to the same legume family. So, they share many similarities. That is why replacing beans with lentils in a chili recipe can be very convenient. And it can give good taste and consistency to the chili. Lentils are high in proteins, and they come in several varieties, ranging in color; you can use brown, red, green, yellow, black, any lentil to replace beans in chili.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Lentils

There is not much of a nutritional difference between lentils and red kidney beans. Lentils are, therefore, a carb-rich substitute for red kidney beans. To add lentils to chili, you first need to soak them for 4-12 hours in the water, then drain them and boil until they are soft. You can then add the soft lentil to a chili recipe.

Low-Carb Substitutes for Beans in Chili

A low-carb ketogenic diet requires less than 50grams of carb intake per day, which means having kidney beans or any other bean on your chili recipe is not an option, what you can do is replace them with a ketogenic substitute.


2. Tofu

Tofu is valued for its high protein content. It is also widely enjoyed on a plant-based diet. If you are a vegan, you can have tofu in your chili recipe while keeping it low carb. Tofu is prepared from the milk extracted from the soybeans. So, It has comparatively fewer carbs and higher protein content.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Tofu

The tofu blocks available in the market are soaked in liquid, which needs to be removed and squeezed out before cooking. So, you can press the tofu in between two heavy plates and leave it for 15 minutes to squeeze out all the excess liquid. Once the liquid is removed, you can pat it dry and then crumble or cut it into pieces before adding to the chili recipe.


3. Meat: Beef, Lamb, and Pork

If you are not living on a plant-based vegan diet, then you can surely use meat as a good substitute for beans in chili. Ground beef is already used in some of the chili recipes, but you can also go for ground pork and lamb to replace beans.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Meat

The idea is to add meat and has that chunky texture a bean chili usually has. By adding ground meat to your chili, you will also be enhancing the protein content of the recipe. Sauté the meat until it’s brown and then add to the cooked chili and mix it with other ingredients. Besides ground meat, you can also slice or dice meat.


4. Tempeh

Tempeh is another soy-based product that you can use to enjoy a low-carb chili without beans. It is also known as vegan meat because it is high in protein and low in carbs. It is made from fermented soybeans and comes in a solid block form. Tempeh contains a lesser quantity of phytic acid, which means that they are easy to digest.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Tempeh


5. Texturized Vegan Protein

Texturized vegan or vegetable protein is another good option to replace beans, especially if you are looking for something chunky and high in protein. And this vegan protein can greatly help. It is made out of soy flour, And it appears light brown in color with a grainy texture, which mimics ground beef in a recipe. It is a good meat-free substitute for beans in Chile.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Texturized Vegan Protein

6. Green Peas

Green peas are simply a delight. They are available in canned and frozen form, and you can use either of them to replace the beans in your chili recipe. Like tofu and mushrooms, green peas are also low in carbs, and the added advantage is that they contain chlorophyll, phytonutrients, and lots of fibers, which are super healthy. Moreover, green Pees are quick to cook, so you can prepare your bean-less chili in just a few minutes.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Green Peas


7. Edamame

Speaking of green alternatives! Edamame is another chlorophyll-rich ingredient that you should consider on this list. Edamame does not require long hours of cooking; you can get it ready in just 5-10 minutes, so it is quick to cook alternative for the beans in chili.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Edamame


8. Mushrooms

I just love having mushrooms in my everyday meals. So, whenever I get the chance to use mushrooms as a substitute, I gladly take it. So, while looking for a replacement for beans in chili, I tried for portobello mushrooms, and it worked! You see, these mushrooms have a meat-like texture. It is perfect to complement this chunky sauce of bean chili.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Mushrooms

Moreover, mushrooms are low in carbs and easily digestible, which makes them a perfect substitute for everyone having any health issues. 

To use portobello mushrooms in your bean chili recipe, you first need to soak them in water and then chop them into very fine pieces. Add them to the chili and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Voila! Just like that, you will have a low-carb bean-less chili.


9. Cauliflower

If you ever tried a low-carb diet, then you must be familiar with the advantages of cauliflower and its versatility. It is literally used in every other low-carb meal from casseroles to fried rice recipes etc. Cauliflower is an excellent ingredient to have all the nutrients, minus the carbs. Cauliflower can be shredded into rice, or you can cut the cauliflower florets into smaller pieces to add them to the chili.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Cauliflower

The good thing about cauliflower is that it can add an excellent texture to your chili and can give a unique taste to it. You are going to upgrade the nutritional content of your beanless chili as well.


10. Nuts and Seeds

Well, I never thought of using nuts in Chile before. But while I was discovering the low carb alternatives I thought of nuts and seeds as a perfect ketogenic substitute for beans in chili. Nuts have a rich flavor, and they can also add much-needed texture to a chili. Nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts, can be used as a good substitute for chili.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Nuts

But for some people, buying nuts can be expensive. So, you can always go for seeds like sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds, etc. to add to the seeds or nuts. Make sure to toast them first and then chop them into smaller pieces before adding to the chili.


Gluten-Free Substitutes for Beans in Chili

People who are simply gluten intolerant cannot have beans or any legumes on their diet. They can replace them with the gluten-free alternatives, such as


11. Rice

If you want to have a good texture in your chili, then adding boiled rice is one of the most convenient and easy ways to replace beans in its recipe. Boiled rice is easy to cook, and they are available in every other household. You can ready the rice in just a few minutes and then add them to your bean chili recipe. You can use medium to small grain, white, or brown rice, according to your preference.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Rice


12. Quinoa

Quinoa is a very healthy grain to have on your diet. It is rich in protein, dietary fibers, minerals, and vitamin B. Quinoa is also known as a pseudo-grain because it actually is not a grain but a product of a non-grassy plant.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Quinoa

It is easy to cook and gives great taste and texture to a chili recipe; you can add one cup of boiled quinoa to your bean chili recipe.


13. Sorghum

Sorghum is another cereal grain that you can use in a chili recipe. It is available in red, brown, black, or purple colors. So, you can use any in a chili. They are round-shaped cereal grains. They are perfect for enhancing the nutritional content of chili while adding the much-needed taste and texture. Sorghum grains are usually enjoyed in porridges, but sorghum can also be added to salads, stews, curries, and soup.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Sorghum


14. Amaranth

Like quinoa and sorghum, amaranth is another grain, which you can enjoy on your gluten-free diet, and you can add it to your chili recipe. Amaranth is widely used for making porridges as it is highly nutritious and beneficial for health. It is known for aiding weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and a reduction in inflammation.

Beans in Chilli Substitute - Amaranth


Table: Substitutes for Beans in Chili

Keto Substitutes for Beans in Chili Gluten Free Substitutes for Beans in Chili Substitute for Kidney Beans in Chili
Meat Rice Chili beans
Tofu  Quinoa Cannellini or white beans
Tempeh Sorghum Chickpeas
Texturized vegan protein Amaranth
Green peas
Portobello mushrooms
Nuts and seeds


Frequently Asked Questions

What beans can I substitute for kidney beans in chili?
Cooked chickpeas, black beans, white beans, pinto beans, chili beans, and garbanzo beans can best substitute kidney beans in chili.
Are chickpeas and cannellini beans the same thing?
No chickpeas and cannellini beans belong to a different plant source, and their beans have different shapes.
What's the difference between red kidney beans and white kidney beans?
Kidney beans are only red in color, the beans known as the white kidney beans are actually the white or cannellini beans which appear white in color with a kidney-shaped bean.

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