4 Bean Chili

There is always a debate of whether or not beans belong in chili, but we can’t imagine it without – flavor, texture, and nutrition – what’s not to love?? We entered this 4 bean chili recipe in a chili cook-off competition; it was such a hit that it got second place, beating out lots of meat-based chilis! Make a batch of this easy and delicious four bean chili and find out why!

Health Benefits of 4 Bean Chili

This 4 bean chili is packed with nutritious ingredients. Beans, veggies, whole grains, and warming spices are the featured ingredients in this healthy bean chili recipe.


All varieties of beans contain plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. Check out our Food as Medicine article to learn more about these health benefits. All of the world’s longest lived populations consume beans daily. Beans are incredibly versatile and can be altered to meet any texture, flavor, or health preference.


Green bell pepper, onion, garlic, and tomatoes are the featured vegetables in this vegetarian chili recipe. All of these veggies contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which promote health and decrease disease risk (1, 2).

Whole Grains

This recipe contains bulgur wheat – a form of wheat that is made from cracked and parboiled wheat berries. Whole grains such as bulgur wheat contain fiber, B vitamins, Vitamin E, trace minerals, and phytochemicals. Whole grains are an important part of the Mediterranean diet and may play a role in decreasing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer (3). 


Chili powder and cumin add flavor and nutrition to this recipe. Using spices decreases the need for salt, which may help reduce hypertension risk and therefore promote heart health (4). Additionally, these spices contain powerful antioxidants which may help reduce inflammation in the body (5).

Equipment Recommendations

We love that this is a one pot chili recipe; we’re all about easy cleanup! An enameled Dutch oven pot works great for this recipe, but a regular stock pot works too. You can also make this chili recipe in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but we have not tested these variations.

Other helpful pieces of equipment for this recipe include a sharp chef’s knife, a sturdy cutting board, and a can opener (you’ll have 6 cans to open!).

Culinary Tips

This recipe requires a lot of chopping. Be sure to secure your cutting board, use a sharp knife, and hold your knife properly to ensure knife safety.

Make sure that the oil is hot before adding the veggies. This will help with flavor development.

Toasting the spices before adding the liquid helps build flavor, but be careful not to burn them! Burnt spices add a bitter flavor to dishes.

Ingredient Substitutions 

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: substitute canola or avocado oil.
  • Green Bell Pepper: substitute red, yellow, or orange bell pepper.
  • Onion: use yellow, white, or red.
  • Garlic: substitute 1½  teaspoons pre-minced garlic, 1½  teaspoon garlic flakes, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Chipotles: substitute 1 teaspoon chipotle powder.
  • Water: substitute vegetable or chicken broth for a richer flavor.
  • Tomato Purée: substitute crushed tomatoes. Fire-roasted varieties also work.
  • Beans: use any combination. We think that black, kidney, garbanzo, and cannellini are the best canned beans for chili, but make your selections based on your preferences.
  • Bulgur: substitute quinoa or millet.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: substitute red wine vinegar.

Recipe Variations

There are many ways that you can adapt this chili recipe to your taste. 

Not sure about a  meatless 4 bean chili? Brown ½ pound of ground lean turkey before adding the onions and bell pepper. 

Feel free to change this to a 3 bean chili or even a 5 bean chili recipe by using a combination of all of your favorite beans.

Can’t take the heat? Reduce or remove the chipotles in adobo, and adjust spice level to your taste.

Looking for a gluten free chili recipe? Replace the bulgur with quinoa or millet.

For a pressure cooker bean chili recipe, turn the pot to the sauté setting, and follow steps 1-4. Reduce the liquid to 2 cups and add remaining ingredients. Stir, place the lid on, turn to high pressure, seal, and cook for 5 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release.

Serving Suggestions

Ladle chili in a bowl and top with diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream. If you want a vegan bean chili, simply leave off the cheese and yogurt. 

Storage Tips

This chili makes great leftovers! The chili thickens and the flavors continue to develop in the fridge, so you are sure to enjoy lunch or dinner the next day even more! To store leftover chili, cool completely within 4 hours, then place in an airtight container. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. This recipe is great for freezing too. Cool completely, place in one large freezer-safe container or individual containers, and freeze for up to 3 months. 

Want more healthy plant forward recipes?

Check out these recipes that are packed with flavor and nutrition!

Vegetarian Tostadas

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

Black Bean Corn Salad

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

4 Bean Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins

This easy 4 bean chili features bulgur & your choice of beans. With all the flavors of a traditional chili and just as hearty, you won't even miss the meat!

Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Yield: 10 cups
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 small onion, diced (~1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons cumin
  • Salt to taste (~1 ½ teaspoons recommended)
  • 3 cups water
  • 28 ounce can tomato purée
  • 4 -15 ounce cans of low-sodium beans (choose a variety), drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup bulgur
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  1. Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil.

  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the bell pepper and onions. Sauté until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic and chipotles in adobo and sauté for one minute.

  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt to the pot and sauté for 30 seconds more, stirring constantly.

  5. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Simmer chili uncovered for 20 minutes. Sprinkle individual servings with desired garnishes. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

We like a combination of black, kidney, garbanzo, and cannellini beans, but definitely make your selections to YOUR taste!


Chili will thicken as it cools and is best served the next day. Flavors develop and meld overnight!


Optional Garnishes:

Diced avocado

Fresh, chopped cilantro

Shredded cheese

Greek yogurt or sour cream

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