Three-Bean Chili Soup

DSC_0409RECIPE #468, DAY #643


ORIGINAL RECIPE: I made this one up years ago to emulate my mom’s chili, but vegetarian*

TIMING: 1 hour, if you want to give it good simmer time


TOOLS: Soup pot and ladle

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: There’s nothing quite as simple and healthy as a pot of chili. This chili is vegetarian, so all its protein comes from beans. It is also full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Serve it with a whole grain cornbread or some quinoa and topped with cilantro and avocado, and you have yourself a home run.

DSC_0410EXPERIENCE: My mom has never really enjoyed cooking, so when I was growing up, I was fed a steady diet of typically middle-class, Midwestern, 80s and 90s fare which revisited our table with great reliability. The rotation included spaghetti, beef stroganoff, beef stew, grilled cheese with tomato soup, chicken a la king, roast beef, “breakfast for dinner,” creamy crock pot chicken breasts, taco salad, ground beef tacos, and, of course, chili.

My mother’s chili—whether to her liking or to her abilities—was always more of a soup than a typical chili. Come to think of it, it may have been her way of stretching a mere pound of ground beef. Either way, our chili was always served with a saucer (for removing beans if you hated them) and macaroni noodles. Later in childhood, I was introduced to serving it with grated cheddar and sour cream (at my cousins’ house) or brown sugar (at my friends’).

When I make this now, it pales in comparison to the many, many other chilies I have made over the years. And yet, for me, it satisfies something deep within.

NOTES: This chili soup could stand the addition of 1 pound ground beef, or even diced beef. If your beef is tough, the soup will need to be covered and simmered low and slow until tender.

This chili is notably not spicy. Kids tend to like it that way.

This also makes a whole lotta chili. Halve if you don’t want leftovers, or just freeze half of it for later.


  1. In a soup pot, heat 1 tablespoons safflower oil over medium heat. Add 1 coarse chopped onion and 1 course chopped green bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent.
  2. Add 6 cups veggie (or beef) broth, 15 ounce can kidney beans, 15 ounce can pinto beans, 15 ounce can black beans, 30 ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon ground cumin.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, longer if you have it. Add more broth or water if it loses its soupy consistency.
  4. Taste for seasonings and serve with macaroni noodles.


Serve with macaroni noodles and a glass of milk. You could also set out grated cheddar, sour cream, and brown sugar. Or you could go a whole other direction and serve with quinoa or corn bread, cilantro, and diced avocado.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: Freeze. At a later date, defrost in the fridge and then heat in a soup pot, thinning and adjusting seasonings as needed. Serve with accompaniments.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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