I am planning on making a new chili using grilled venison, Great Lakes Black Out Stout, and roasted corn (I'm in Ohio and sweet corn is getting good right now). My least favorite part of making and eating chili is the beans; I hate selecting them and pick around them in my bowl. (I will probably also be using chiles en adobo, serranos, and roasted jalapenos/tien tsin as my pepper trinity.)

The only ones I do actually like are black beans. What would your recommendations be for a good bean, both in choice and preparation to pair with the ingredients above? (Please include other ingredients or flavors to incorporate in the comments.) I want it to be dark and mysterious; typically I name things first and then build them up from there and this one I'm calling Bear's Den Chili (hopefully that will be a note to start you off with).

  • i should add a comment from the outset for anyone not familiar with venison, it is a tougher meat, and so it SEEMS (i could be wrong) the bean would need to be less imposing (ie be smaller, less chewy) to not overwhelm the texture of the chili. – mfg Aug 18 '10 at 15:00

I thought I hated chili growing up because my mother made it with straight kidney beans. I was pleasantly surprised to marry into a family where the family chili recipe uses chili beans - kidney beans in a spicy sauce. This family chili recipe has won an office chili cook-off, and I think it is in large part due to the can of chili beans. I know it's a classic, but I think it would work well with your chili.

I'd also suggest cumin and a generous amount of chili powder. Your chili will be even better if the chili powder is homemade.

  • yeah spices are the steering wheel. sorry i didnt include those, but i did it to kind of limit the discussion to the beans. are the chili beans you're referring to just a version canned in sauce, but still of the size and texture and variety of regular kidney beans? – mfg Aug 18 '10 at 14:58
  • @mfg - those are the ones. The canning in sauce makes an absolutely huge taste and even texture difference. In my experience kidney beans stand out (and not in a way I enjoy), while chili beans blend in. – justkt Aug 18 '10 at 15:10
  • OK. I am calling it for @justkt 's answer because the flavors are going to be different enough as it is. I think the call to the traditional chili beans might be a good one. I am a bit concerned about the flavor of the beans' sauce. But instead of going with black beans (which i think would be too coarse in terms of size compared to how i plan to prep the venison), i think it will be a good point from which to calibrate the chili for future iterations. – mfg Aug 20 '10 at 15:04
  • A follow up, for anyone using chili beans: be wary of the flavor of the sauce the beans are canned in. I found the flavor of the one I chose to be too distracting to the flavors i was already trying to balance. – mfg Aug 27 '10 at 17:43
  • @mfg - bummer! I guess part of why I like them so much is that they go perfectly with the cumin/chili powder/onion flavor we have for our favorite chili. Maybe you can make your own chili beans out of kidney beans and a good sauce next time? – justkt Aug 27 '10 at 19:22

We make vegetarian chili every few months, and use a combination of many kinds of beans. You can use kidney, cannelini (white kidney beans), pinto, small red, small white, roman, etc. We like Goya's beans. If the meat is tough, you may want mushier beans to add textural difference, so you might want to avoid black beans or black-eyed peas. (Unless they're your favorite, of course!)

  • cannelini sound great, and fun color contrast! – justkt Aug 18 '10 at 16:21
  • are the cannelini more tender than kidney? ive seen them before, just never used. and would they pair well with roasted corn and stout beer? ...thanks for the reminder about Romans, they have a pretty savory flavor so they may do very well in a three can blend – mfg Aug 18 '10 at 17:29
  • This vegetarian white bean chili recipe discovered many years back is great. Fairly quick and simple as far as chili goes - with a very unique flavor. – zanlok Dec 14 '10 at 18:09

One of my new favorite beans to use in chili is a relative of the cranberry bean, called Tongues of Fire. A slightly meaty bean, they are terrific but I have only seen them dried in specialty grocers. Beware! They seem to take a long time to soak before using.

I have used and do love pinto, kidney, black, and great northern and navy beans in my chili, not necessarily all at once.

  • you totally anticipated my follow up post which is about taming the heat of the peppers with the sweet of a fruit... maybe i will have to reconsider my whole approach. not necessarily this time, but will need to experiment some – mfg Aug 20 '10 at 15:36

The beans are always my favorite part of chili and I usually use several varieties. My favorites are black as they stay chewy longer, small red because of the smooth texture without being as big as kidney, and black eyed peas because they look interesting. I'm not a big fan of pinto.

You might try the blackeyed peas or half blackeyed and black beans. The color may fit your theme. It sounds like you won't be featuring them as much as I do in my chili so the flavor of the bean is irrelevant it won't be noticeable. It's the texture and color you want.

  • how do blackeyed varieties stew up? ive eaten them straight and theyre not a bad bean. im curious though as the texture of venison is very chewy and the corn is going to be a very giving element; so i think a less chewy bean would be ideal to put in there. – mfg Aug 18 '10 at 14:56
  • definite +1 for black-eyed peas. ain't just for the south. they're not too chewy, though i don't have experience stewing them for a very long time, only about a half-hour – Ocaasi Aug 20 '10 at 3:51
  • Nthing blackeye peas for this chili, but suggest adding them later in the simmering process so they don't turn to mush. Could also use mayocoba beans; they're also tender and would need to be added later than a heartier bean. – goblinbox May 18 '15 at 19:13

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