This flavorful Black Bean Chili has been my go-to chili for years! It’s perfect on a chilly winter’s night, game day, or whenever warm comfort food is needed!

I’m not super picky, but I’m also not very fond of kidney beans as my chili beans. When I swapped them out for black beans in my chili, I knew I was onto something! This Easy Chili Recipe is perfect on a chilly autumn or winter night or for game day!

Easy Black Bean Chili in a white soup bowl.

Why You Must Make

When I asked Bill if he wanted Chili or Baked Potato Soup on Super Bowl Sunday, there was no hesitation when he answered. It’s always game-day chili for the Super Bowl. I usually just saute up some onions, garlic, and ground beef, season liberally with cumin, chili powder, and whatever catches my fancy, and dump in cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato paste, and beans. It never tastes the same. It’s always good, and sometimes amazing.

I decided it was time to brand my own recipe. I have never been a fan of kidney beans, so I knew I’d feature black beans in this version. They’re so much better!

  • You can add your favorite beans and toppings!
  • By cooking the spices in the olive oil and fat from the beef, the flavors are drawn out making for a more flavorful chili.
  • It’s perfect for game day, Cinco de Mayo, and informal parties!
Black Bean Chili Ingredients with labels on a sheetpan.

Ingredient Notes:

  • Check your pantry for these staples: olive oil, chili powder, cumin, bay leaves, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt
  • Ground Beef – Lean, not extra lean, is best. You’ll want some fat for flavor. Look for an 80/20 mix of meat/fat.
  • Onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Red bell pepper – Sweeter than green pepper, but either will do.
  • Celery
  • Canned Tomatoes including whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato sauce
  • Canned black beans or your preferred chili beans, drain and rinse before adding to the chili.
  • Beer, optional. It does not need to be a premium beer. Alcohol is a flavor enhancer and if you simmer it for long enough, it will evaporate.
  • Toppings – Use your favorites which may include shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced onions, avocados, and peppers.
2 bowls of Easy Black Bean Chili garnished with cheese and avocados.

Expert Tips

  • If you have the time, make your chili the day before you plan to serve it. The flavors will have more time to incorporate into the broth making a more well-rounded dish.
  • PRO- Tip: Add your spices when you’re browning your beef. The essential oils in them will release into the beef fat adding more flavor than adding later in the process.
  • A touch of sugar will balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • PRO- Tip: Did you know alcohol is a flavor enhancer just like salt? The beer is totally optional, but it does add a certain depth of flavor. If you simmer it for 30 minutes after adding the beer, most of the alcohol evaporates.
  • Use any kind of bean you like in this chili.
  • Slow-cook your chili at a simmer for the best flavor development and to allow the beef to tenderize.
  • Besides ground beef, chunks of chuck roast or brisket make excellent chili. Brown it first to develop that delicious flavor from the Maillard reaction. Then, make sure to simmer it long enough for the connective tissue to break down, making the meat tender.

How to Make

I lined up the cans and spices and jotted notes as I sprinkled and poured. Bill and I thought this was a splendid batch of chili, though he wasn’t thrilled I was using his “good beer” to pour into soup. I now have a less appealing brand of beer in the fridge for cooking.

  1. Layer the flavors starting with the aromatics (onion and garlic) and vegetables (celery and green pepper). Cook until soft in oil.
  2. Add the ground beef and break it apart while browning. Browning indicates the Maillard reaction is taking place which gives meat its terrific savory flavor.
  3. Drain any excess grease and add the spices. Stir and let the heat and oil draw out the flavors.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer, adding water if needed if simmering more than an hour.
  5. Taste and reseason if necessary. If the chili is too acidic for your palate, add a couple of teaspoons of sugar.
  6. Serve hot with your favorite toppings.

Katie felt it was a bit too spicy for her tender palate. Adjust the spices to your liking, especially the crushed red pepper flakes. A dollop of sour cream will go a long way in mellowing the heat, too. I chose shredded cheddar cheese, avocados, diced bell pepper, and jalapenos for my garnishes. My dad would have loved some diced onions. I also love to make a batch of my buttermilk corn muffins to round out the meal.

Easy Black Bean Chili | Perfect dinner on a cold night or for game day!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Beans Go in Chili?

Kidney Beans are the classic chili bean, but I am not fond of their mealy texture, so I prefer using Black Beans. Northern White or Cannellini Beans go in my white chicken chili. Pinto Beans are another option to consider. A combination of beans also works. 

How Can You Enhance the Flavor of Chili?

Adding salt, but not too much, is key. Alcohol, as mentioned above, is another key flavor enhancer, and if you add it early most of the alcohol should evaporate as the chili simmers. Coffee or espresso powder is another secret ingredient for some chefs. Again, start with a little, let it cook, taste, and then add more if you’d like.
Make sure to add your spices when you’re cooking the onions, etc, in oil or with the ground beef. The oil will pull out the flavor of the spices, giving an extra boost of flavor.
Soy sauce, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce have that “5th sense of taste” or umami. You can try any one of those, but since they’re salty, cut back on the salt you use. Chocolate is another possibility. Use unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder to add a rich, deep flavor.

Should Canned Black Beans Be Rinsed Before Using?

Yes, rinse the beans, since the liquid in the can won’t add any flavor to your chili. Use a colander, shake off any excess water, and then add them to your chili.

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Easy Black Bean Chili in a white bowl

Chili with Black Beans

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield 6 servings

The perfect dinner on a cold winter's night or for game day!


  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 26-ounce boxes chopped tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Sugar, optional
  • ½ cup beer, optional


  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil, then add onions and saute till soft and slightly browned. Add garlic, red bell pepper, and celery, and continue to cook.
  2. When those veggies have cooked a few minutes, add ground beef and cook and break up with a spatula until all cooked and browned.
  3. Add spices and cook till fragrant.
  4. Dump in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about an hour (I love to cook all afternoon and add water if the soup gets too thick).
  5. Taste and adjust the spices. If the chili is too acidic add a couple of teaspoons of sugar for balance.
  6. Serve with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced red bell pepper, chopped avocado, and/or jalapeno slices.


Use your favorite chili beans.

Alcohol is a flavor enhancer. Almost all will evaporate while the chili simmers.

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Nutrition Information:



Amount Per Serving: Calories: 419Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 1217mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 16gSugar: 15gProtein: 36g


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