Build Your Own Chili

Sprinkle in your own personality and preferences and create a distinct chili by using your favorite beans and other additions.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: Rachael Brugger

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1½ cups dried beans
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups tomato juice, beer and/or broth
  • 1 to 2 T. chili seasoning mix
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes or 2 16-ounce cans chopped tomatoes, drained (reserve juice to use toward 3 cups liquid)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Cover dried beans with at least 1 inch water and let stand at room temperature overnight (6 to 8 hours). When hydrated, flip beans into colander and rinse well with water.

In slow cooker or large pot, cover beans with fresh water and cook about two hours or until beans are soft. (Set slow cooker on low to medium power. Use low heat on stove top.) Drain beans and rinse with fresh water.

In large 4-quart pot over medium heat, sauté chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until tender.

Add choice liquid, rinsed beans and chili seasoning to onion and garlic. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer. Continue to cook for approximately 1 hour; then add tomatoes.
Simmer an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour or until beans are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7 Chili Building Tips

  1. Dried beans can be any combination; some beans take longer to cook (most fall between 1 to 2 hours), so factor that into the simmering time. A nice combo: 1/2 cup red kidney beans, 1/2 cup navy beans, 1/2 cup Cannellini beans
  2. It’s generally best to cook beans separately in plain water until they are soft, and then add other ingredients. Some ingredients, including salt, tomatoes (and other acidic foods) and sugars, can prevent beans from cooking completely.
  3. Liquids can also be any combination; add more if you prefer a soup-like consistency. Spicy tomato juices add more zing.
  4. Use more or less chili seasoning to achieve desired taste. Add some hot sauce or cayenne pepper or sauté some hot peppers with the onions and garlic if you like extra zing.
  5. As with many bean recipes, chili can also be made in a slow cooker. Sauté the onion and garlic in a small pan, then add to the beans and liquid in the slow cooker. Chili might need to cook 4 to 6 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Add tomatoes during the last 30 minutes.
  6. For a meaty chili, add 1 pound browned ground beef, seasoned to taste, during the last hour of cooking.
  7. Serve with various condiments, such as shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped onion and chopped tomato.

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