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15 Equally Tasty Substitutes For Beans In Chili

Chili is a classic dish commonly served at anything from Friday dinners to game nights. However, it often contains beans which not everyone is a fan of. The great news is you can absolutely replace the beans in chili with other tasty substitutes.

So whether you’ve run out of beans at the last minute or want a low-carb alternative, up ahead, you’ll find the best substitutes for beans in chili.

What Are Beans In Chili?

Chili is a meaty stew that is common in many parts of America, and one of the key ingredients used to make it are beans. 

Beans are healthy legumes used in many parts of the world for soups and stews, so it is no surprise that they are a popular component of chili.

They give the chili a rich, thick texture while also bringing nutrients that balance out the nutritional content. This is because they are rich in proteins, dietary fibers, and starch. 

There are usually many varieties of beans added to chili, but the most common ones are pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans. However, not everyone wants beans in their chili, so let’s dive into the best substitutes you can use instead.

Nutritional Value Table

SubstitutesCalories
Lentils116
Ground Beef332
Ground Lamb281
Mushrooms22
Peas81
Ham145
Tofu76
Tempeh193
Quinoa222
Millet374
Nuts607
Chickpeas364
Cauliflower25
Edamame122
Rice130

1. Lentils

Lentils are one of the best substitutes for beans in chili. They are seed-shaped plants that come from the same legume family of beans, and when added to chili, they offer a similar taste and consistency.

Lentils are also much smaller than beans, so most people may not even notice them once they are cooked. However, they’ll definitely give you a similar flavor profile and add rich nutrients like magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamin B. 

Lentils are the ideal option for those on a plant-based diet, as you can add them to vegan chili.  They come in different color varieties that include black, yellow, brown, red and green chili, but you can use anyone you prefer. 

However, if you’re on a keto diet, they might not be the best option for you as they contain a similar carb content to beans.  

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with lentils.

2. Ground Beef

Since chili is known for being a meaty dish, ground beef is probably the most obvious substitute for beans in chili. Its chunky texture and rich proteins will enhance the flavor of your chili, and it is likely already on your ingredients list. 

Just increase the amount of ground beef you would normally use to make up for the absence of beans; that way, your chili can be rich, meaty, and actually authentic since traditional chili con carne only contains meat. 

However, if you’re on a plant-based or vegetarian diet, then ground beef isn’t a good option for you.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing chili in beans with ground beef.

3. Ground Lamb

If you’re already using ground beef as the base for your chili and want something different, then ground lamb is another great substitute you can try. 

It has a robust, well-balanced flavor that will elevate the taste of your chili while keeping the consistency fairly thick and rich.

However, you’ll need to brown the ground lamb at the initial cooking stage instead of adding it halfway into the cooking process like you normally would with beans. 

As with ground beef, this is probably not the best option for those on a plant-based diet.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with ground lamb.

Here is a video to show you how to flawlessly pull off a no-beans chili with lamb

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great keto and vegan-friendly substitute for beans in chili. They are low in carbs and known for having a meaty and savory taste that would work well when incorporated in chili.  

They are also nutrient-rich and contain proteins, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins C and B. There are many varieties of mushrooms, but the best option for chili are portobello mushrooms since they are known to have a more pronounced meaty taste. 

You’ll need to chop them up into small pieces so they can blend seamlessly into the chili, and also add them at the beginning of the cooking process to give them enough time to soak up the rich chili sauce.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing chili in beans with mushrooms.

5. Peas

If you want a purely vegetable substitute that will give you a similar beans-like taste, peas are an ideal substitute to try. Although they are sweet and earthy, they also have a savory taste reminiscent of beans. 

They are low in carbs and filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so they are an ideal healthy option for those on a keto diet.

Green peas are also very easy to prepare, so you can add them towards the end of your cooking to ensure they don’t get too soft. You can use frozen or canned green peas. Either variety would work well in chili.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with green peas.

6. Ham

Ham is another excellent substitute to use in place of beans when making chili. It goes well with the meaty base of chili and brings a savory and sweet taste that enhances the overall flavor profile of any chili. 

Since most ham comes already prepared and ready to eat, it also makes whipping up your chili much a much faster process as you won’t need to wait for it to cook.

You can add ham at the end of the cooking process or add it at the beginning when you’re browning the beef for your chili. Feel free to use any type of ham you can get.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with ham.

7. Tofu 

Tofu is a soybean product highly valued by vegetarians as a meat substitute, but it also makes a fantastic substitute for beans in chili. 

Tofu won’t exactly give you the same taste or flavor, but it will absorb the rich sauce inside the chili and result in a savory taste with subtle nutty notes.

It is also an ideal option for both vegans and those on a keto diet, as it contains very few carbs and is made from condensed soy milk.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with tofu. You’ll also need to crumble the tofu into small pieces since it is commonly sold in blocks.

8. Tempeh

Tempeh is another great option similar to tofu. It is made from fermented soybeans and has a stronger nutty flavor than tofu, but it absorbs the flavor of any sauce it is added to, making it a perfect bean substitute to add to chili. 

Tempeh is also very easy to digest and contains high amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6.  It has slightly more carbs than tofu, but it is still a great low-carb option for those on a keto diet.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with tempeh. You’ll need to cut the tempeh into small sizes before adding it to the chili because it usually comes in a firm block.

9. Quinoa

Adding healthy grains to your chili is also a great idea if you don’t want to use beans. Quinoa is one of such healthy grains that are perfect for replacing beans in chili. It is packed full of fibers, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

The best part about using quinoa for chili is that it cooks very easily, so you can have your bowl of chili ready in less time than it would normally take.

How To Substitute

Use half a cup of quinoa for each cup of beans required in a chili recipe.

10. Millet

Millet is another healthy grain you can add to chili. It has a slightly corn-like flavor that works very well with the savory taste of chili, but it also enhances the texture in the best way possible. 

It isn’t the best option for those on a low-carb diet because it has fairly high carbohydrate content, but for everyone else, it is a fantastic option to try.

How To Substitute

Use half a cup of millet for each cup of beans required in the chili.

11. Nuts

Most people might not expect nuts to be something you’d find in chili, but if you don’t want to add beans, they are a great alternative to try.  

They contain high amounts of protein, and fat and are low in carbohydrates, which means they are perfect for anyone looking to substitute beans because of their high carb content.

Nuts also have a rich and earthy flavor that enhances the taste of chili. You can use almonds, walnuts, or cashews as long you break them up into smaller pieces.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with nuts.

12. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are another great substitute for beans in chili. They are from the same legume family as most beans and have a similar flavor and texture, so they are the next best thing if you want something similar to beans. 

They are packed full of nutrients like vitamins C, B6,  iron, magnesium, and calcium. However, much like beans, chickpeas have fairly high amounts of carbohydrates, so they are not the best option for those on a keto diet

When using chickpeas, you’ll need to soak them for a few hours before cooking them.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with chickpeas.

13. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a healthy low-carb vegetable you can add to chili instead of beans. It has a fairly neutral taste with nutty undertones and easily absorbs the rich sauce in chili while giving it a lovely thick texture. 

You can use cauliflower rice or cut the cauliflower into florets.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with cauliflower.

14. Edamame

Edamame is another great alternative you can use in place of beans when making chili.

It is rich in dietary fiber, and with its buttery texture and subtle sweet taste, it is sure to improve the flavor of your chili.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with edamame.

15. Rice

Most people might not expect to find rice in a bowl of chili, but it is actually a great alternative to use in place of beans. 

Rice will help to slightly thicken the rich sauce in your chili while also absorbing a ton of flavor. You can use any type of rice you have. Brown rice or white rice are great options. 

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing beans in chili with rice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have To Use Beans In Chili?

You do not have to use beans in chili if you don’t want to. In fact, some believe chili is a strict meat dish, and beans do not belong in it, which is why authentic Texan chili typically does not contain beans.

What Is A Low-Carb Substitute For Beans In Chili? 

The best low-carb substitute for beans in chili includes vegetables like zucchini, peas, or squash. You can also add other additional ground beef or tofu if you want the chili to contain more proteins.

What Can I Use Instead Of Beans In Chili? 

Instead of putting beans in your chili, you can add things like chickpeas, vegetables, mushrooms, tempeh, tofu, or different grains like quinoa and millet.

Can You Substitute Lentil For Beans In Chili?

You can substitute lentils for beans in chili.  They’ll help to thicken the chili and give it a good taste similar to that of beans.

Is Chili Supposed To Have Beans?

Traditionally chili isn’t supposed to have beans as the original recipe was meant to be just meats slow-cooked with sauces. For example, This is why Texan chili and chili corn carve do not have beans. 

However, these days many versions of chili have been made since it initially became popular, so you’ll find many chili recipes that contain all kinds of beans.

Why Are Beans In Chili Not Keto?

Most types of beans, like pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans, which are used in chili, contain high amounts of carbs, with many of them containing up to 12 grams per 3 oz of beans. 

So, they are not keto-friendly since a key goal for anyone on a keto diet is to reduce their carbohydrate consumption.

What Kind Of Beans Are In Chili?

Many types of beans can be added to chili, but the ones commonly used include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and fava beans.

15 Equally Tasty Substitutes For Beans In Chili

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time

5

minutes
Cooking Time

2

minutes
Total Time

30

minutes

Beans In Chili Substitutes are a delicious and versatile replacement for beans in your favorite chili recipe.

Ingredients

  • Lentils

  • Ground Beef

  • Ground Chicken

  • Mushrooms

  • Peas

  • Ham

  • Tofu

  • Tempeh

  • Quinoa

  • Millet

  • Cashew Nuts

  • Chickpeas

  • Cauliflower

  • Edamame

  • Rice

Directions

  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith