What is the Best Substitute for Beans in Chili?

by Charlie

Chili can be defined as a small pepper with a very hot flavor; a spicy dish made of ground beef, hot peppers, chili powder, and usually beans.

‘…and usually beans’. You see, your chili is almost not complete without beans in it. Beans have a high protein content and can take your chili game from zero to a hundred real quick. You can either eat your chili as a stand-alone meal or have it double as a sauce for another meal with beans present.

Beans in chili might seem like a match made in heaven, but it is not. There are tons of foods that can be substituted for beans in chili.

What is the best substitute for beans in chili? Of course, the best replacement for beans in chili is meat! Any kind of meat at all will so perfectly blend with any chili; you won’t even realize beans are missing.  Meat is such an amazing substitute; it is even more common in chili than beans are.

An Overview of Beans in Chili

Beans are high protein meals first discovered in Afghanistan. Over the years, they have rapidly grown in acceptance and have become a protein standard worldwide.

Beans have to be one of the most versatile foods around. You can puree and use them as the basis for dips and spreads; you can add them in salads; even add them to burgers and meatballs. As numerous as beans’  preparation styles are, one of the most common ways to enjoy beans is by adding them to chili.

In preparing chili, just after adding onions, tomato paste, sugar, cayenne (and whatever season you like) to a sizzling pot of olive oil, add cooked beans with diced tomatoes, then continue the cooking process. 

While there are other ways to make this happen, the best way is to cook the beans separately in another pot and add it to the mixture as a final step. This method works best if you’re adding ground meat.

Another option would be to cook everything together in a pot on low heat and simmer for thirty minutes to one hour. This is best when cooking vegetarian style, or if you’re using tough meat.

These decisions are some of the best decisions to make for your chili and for your taste buds.

Beans in chili are so common, when folks in some parts of the world say they want to prepare beans, making it in chili is the only way they know. 

The best beans to use for chili are the dried red kidney beans. Why? It’s because they’re large, full, meaty, perfectly retain their shape in chili, and are without resistance, influenced by all the flavors and spices in chili. In essence, red kidney beans become a part of the chili sauce.

Why Replace Beans in Chili?

  • Non-availability: Beans do not have a particular season. Nonetheless, for some reason, you might not find them in the grocery store nearest to you; or you just might not have them at home. In those moments, use the next best thing for your chili.
  • Preference: Some people simply don’t like beans. They’d rather have something else.
  • Health reasons: Beans could sometimes have a funny effect on some people’s digestive system. They claim it makes them run stool. For such people, beans are a no-no.

Best Recommended Substitute for Beans in Chili: Meat

Most people usually don’t choose between meat and beans in chili. They add both. Nonetheless, with or without beans, meat, by itself, will always suffice as the perfect additive to your chili. Any kind of meat will do just fine: chicken, beef, lamb, or even pork.

Like beans, meat is also high in protein and low in carbs. It is also effortless to cook. To give the perfect chili presentation, many people go the extra mile of either manually grinding their meat or buying ground beef from nearby stores.

Other Substitutes for Beans in Chili

Texturized Vegetable Protein

This is known as TVP, for short. It is made from soy flour and is a popular meat makeshift. It feels so much like ground beef in the mouth; it is almost magical. As you can imagine, TVP is also very high in proteins and even fibers.

But here’s the thing – if you have problems digesting beans, you may have problems digesting TVPs too. Why? They contain the same indigestible phytate.

Tofu

This should come as anything to you but a shock. Tofu is like the immediate substitute for meats when serving vegetarians.  Like TVP, tofu is an unfermented soy derivative. It is made from dried soya beans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. Neither TVP nor tofu has inherent flavors of its own. They rather readily absorb the flavors of the foods they’re cooked in. 

Yes, tofu also contains phytate and might therefore prove quite difficult for some people to digest. Because it is a soy milk derivative, it contains fewer carbs. 

Tempeh

Tempeh is like tofu, only with more carbs. It contains more carbohydrates because it is made from the whole soybean pressed together (rather than a portion, like tofu). It might not be the perfect option for people trying to lose weight because of its carbohydrate content.

Here’s a great plus; however: tempeh is more easily digestible than any of the soybean derivatives we’ve considered thus far. It does contain phytate, but it is significantly lesser than any we’ve seen.

And oh, tempeh has a nutty texture you’re sure to enjoy.

Portobello Mushrooms

The list wouldn’t be complete without mushrooms, would it?

Like tofu and texturized vegetable protein, portobello mushrooms have a fantastic meaty texture. You almost wouldn’t know you weren’t eating meat unless someone told you. 

And why wouldn’t you want them? They require low cooking time, have low carb counts, and are easily digestible.

Overall, the idea is to fill up your chili with stuff. Just don’t have a bland, watery chili sauce. When you think of it this way, you’d unlock your creative potentials and quickly realize beans are only one of the many ingredients you can use with chili.

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