Pinto Bean Chili Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 20 min. + soaking Cook: 1-3/4 hours
This hearty pinto bean chili features creamy pinto beans and ground beef simmered with crushed tomatoes, ground cumin and chili powder. Top it with your favorite chili toppings to create a comforting winter meal.

Updated: Jan. 10, 2024

Most of us are used to seeing the distinctive deep-red kidney beans in chili, but those beans aren’t the only option to use in chili. Chili with pinto beans is a fantastic alternative. The southwestern pinto bean is tender and mild with the most incredible creamy texture. Full of savory ground beef and crushed tomatoes, pinto bean chili might just become your new go-to chili recipe.

Depending on where you live, your version of chili might look and taste totally different than someone else’s. We’ve seen all kinds over the years. You can make chili without meat for a vegetarian chili. And chili doesn’t even have to be red. Recipes like creamy white chili and pork-rich chile verde don’t contain tomatoes at all. In Cincinnati, chili is served atop spaghetti, and a Texas chili steers totally clear of beans. With so many types of chili to enjoy, we think there’s definitely a place for pinto beans in chili.

Ingredients for Pinto Bean Chili

  • Dried pinto beans: Dried beans are an economical alternative to canned beans. They last for years in the pantry and don’t contain added sodium or preservatives like canned beans do. If you’re worried about making chili with pinto beans because of the magical fruit’s embarrassing gas-inducing side effects, check out these methods for degassing beans.
  • Ground beef: 80/20 ground beef is the most flavorful ground beef for chili, but you can also use lean ground beef if you like.
  • All-purpose flour: Flour thickens the chili so it has the right texture. To make gluten-free pinto bean chili, use masa harina instead (like we do in our best chili recipe). Instead of adding the masa harina at the beginning of the recipe, simmer it in the chili for the final 30 to 45 minutes cook time.
  • Crushed tomatoes: This is very important: Wait to add the crushed tomatoes until the beans are fully cooked. Tomatoes are acidic, and acids will toughen the beans’ skins, preventing the beans from softening through to the center, no matter how long you cook them.
  • Chili seasonings: Chili powder and ground cumin add a slightly spicy, smoky flavor to our pinto bean chili. We also add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and cider vinegar.
  • Chili toppings: Toppings are essential to chili. Corn off the cob, chopped red onion, sliced jalapeno pepper and sour cream take this pinto bean chili to the next level.


Step 1: Quick-soak the pinto beans

Place the dried beans in a Dutch oven or soup kettle. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, and boil for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the soaking liquid.

Editor’s Tip: We often forget to soak beans overnight. Luckily, this quick-soak method has the same effect, and it only takes an hour.

Step 2: Brown the ground beef

In a Dutch oven, cook the ground beef, onion and celery over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Drain and discard the grease.

Step 3: Simmer the pinto bean chili

Stir the flour into the beef mixture until blended. Gradually stir in the water. Add the beans, chili powder, cumin and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the beans are tender.

Step 4: Add the acidic ingredients

Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and salt. Heat through, stirring occasionally.

Editor’s Tip: If the chili isn’t thick enough for your liking, try mashing some of the beans with a potato masher. The beans will release starch as they’re crushed, thickening the liquid. You can also add a little masa harina. This gluten-free flour is typically used to make corn tortillas or tamales. When simmered in chili, it thickens the mixture and adds a subtle corn flavor.

Step 5: Add desired toppings

If desired, serve the chili with corn off the cob, chopped red onion, sliced jalapeno pepper and sour cream.

Editor’s Tip: Want to turn this into a hearty meal? Serve alongside cheese quesadillas, and garnish the chili with sliced avocado.

Pinto Bean Chili Variations

Pinto Bean Chili served with pita bread and veggiesTMB STUDIO

  • Use another protein: Swap in lean ground meats such as turkey or chicken. Wild game also works, so don’t be afraid to use ground elk or venison.
  • Change the spices: Most chili recipes call for chili powder, but you can add other spices. Try onion powder, garlic powder, paprika or steak seasoning blends like Montreal steak seasoning.
  • Add veggies: Diced sweet potato, butternut squash, bell peppers, corn and carrots taste fantastic in chili. These are great additions if you skip the meat to make vegetarian pinto bean chili.
  • Include a secret ingredient: There are many ways to upgrade your chili. Try adding bourbon, cocoa powder, coffee, beer, citrus zest, a cinnamon stick, Worcestershire or steak sauce—although not all at the same time!

Can you make pinto bean chili ahead of time?

We often make pinto bean chili the day before serving it. It tastes fantastic right out of the pot, but it will taste even better the next day. Chili also freezes well, so you can double the batch to stock the freezer with leftovers for a smart make-ahead option.

How to Store Pinto Bean Chili

Store pinto bean chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. To reheat, simmer it on the stovetop over medium heat until it reaches 165°F.

How to Freeze Pinto Bean Chili

Once cooled, divide the cooked chili into individual portions. Freeze the chili in freezer-safe containers for up to three months. To maximize storage space, freeze the chili flat in freezer-safe resealable plastic bags. To reheat, thaw the chili in the fridge overnight. Then, reheat as directed.

Pinto Bean Chili Tips

Pinto Bean Chili served with veggies and pita bread TMB STUDIO

Can you use canned pinto beans instead of dried in this pinto bean chili recipe?

Dried beans are economical and nutritious, but you can absolutely substitute canned pinto beans. You’ll need about three cans of beans for every pound of dry beans. If you’re concerned about salt, look for low-sodium brands. Since canned beans are already cooked, you’ll need to reduce the cook time. Use this zippy three-bean chili recipe as a guide for how long to cook chili with canned beans.

What are some toppings for pinto bean chili?

Garnish pinto bean chili with classic toppings like sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped red or green onion, shredded cheese, sliced jalapeno, lime wedges or chopped fresh cilantro. To add texture to chili, top it with corn off the cob, crumbled bacon or tortilla chips. You can also sub strained (Greek-style) yogurt for the sour cream.

How do you adjust the spice level in pinto bean chili?

Add more spice by increasing the chili powder. To add more heat, use spicy ingredients like hot sauce, cayenne pepper, canned green chiles, chipotle peppers in adobo and jalapenos. For less spice, simply reduce the amount of chili powder and skip the jalapeno topping.

What do you serve with pinto bean chili?

The classic accompaniment for chili is a side of buttery cornbread and an easy side salad. That said, a side of cheesy quesadillas is our absolute favorite way to serve this chili. If you end up with leftover pinto bean chili, spoon it on top of nachos, stir it into mac and cheese or use it as a filling for burritos or enchiladas.

Pinto Bean Chili

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 8 servings.


  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Optional: Corn off the cob, chopped red onion, sliced jalapeno pepper and sour cream


  1. Place beans in a Dutch oven or soup kettle; add water to cover by 2 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans, discarding liquid.
  2. In a Dutch oven, cook the beef, onion and celery over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in water. Add the beans, chili powder, cumin and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar and salt; heat through, stirring occasionally. If desired, serve with optional toppings.

Nutrition Facts

1-1/2 cups: 465 calories, 15g fat (5g saturated fat), 70mg cholesterol, 769mg sodium, 48g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 12g fiber), 35g protein.

Cumin and chili powder season this traditional pinto bean chili recipe. Serve with quesadillas to make this Southwestern soup a meal. —Sandy Dilatush, Denver, Colorado