Bean Chili with Smoky Pickled Onions

Bean Chili with Smoky Pickled Onions

Serves 4-6.

Earthy, rich Chili Today! brings depth and a pleasant touch of heat to this vegetarian chili. We made this version with Beanstory dried beans, which are directly sourced from small U.S. farms. Using dried beans takes a bit a planning but not much effort, and is totally worth doing because the flavor and texture of quality dried beans is superior.

Garnishing the chili with pickled onions adds a welcome bright note. (Recipe below.) Serve the chili alongside a bowl of tortilla chips and a selection of toppings such as grated cheddar or crumbled cotija cheese, chile flakes, plain yogurt, cilantro, scallions, and avocado.

Notes: You’ll only use about 8 ounces of the dried beans for the chili, but we recommend soaking the full pound. Once soaked and drained, scoop out the beans needed for the recipe, then freeze the extras so that they’re ready to go next time you want to whip up some chili or soup!

For the beans:
8 ounces (1½ cups) Rio Zape dried beans
2 teaspoons sea salt 

For the chili:
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups diced onion
¼ cup minced celery
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons Chili Today!
1 bay leaf
1 can (15-ounces) diced tomatoes
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked grain, such as farro, barley, or bulgur (optional)
Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice 

For garnish / toppings:
Pickled Onions
Your favorite chili toppings 

Prep and soak the beans  Do this step the night before you plan to make the chili. Rinse the beans well under cool running water, drain and put them into a large mixing bowl (they will double in bulk). Top with enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches and stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt. Set the bowl aside, letting the beans soak overnight (or 6 hours minimum). Drain the beans.

Make the chili  Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking and stirring until the onions are golden, another 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, peppers, and Chili Today!, followed by the soaked beans — cook for 2–3 minutes more.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, bay leaf, tomatoes and their juice, black pepper to taste, and 3½ cups of water to the pan. Stir and let the liquids come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the chili is saucy and the beans are tender, 40 minutes to an hour. (If the beans seem too dry during cooking, add more water, up to ½ cup at a time.)



Makes 1 cup.

These will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for a few days. Leftovers are good on sandwiches or chopped into potato salad or coleslaw.

1 cup very thinly sliced red onion half-rings
¾ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 –2 tablespoons minced, fresh jalapeño pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
½ teaspoon neutral oil, such as canola or avocado
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, such as Champagne or Prosecco
Juice from half a lime, more to taste
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
Pinch baies roses (pink peppercorns), lightly crushed

Put the sliced onion into a medium, non-reactive bowl. Add the salt and ½ teaspoon of the sugar; toss to coat the onions. Set aside for at least 15 minutes (and up to an hour).

Drain the onions in a sieve, then dump them back into the bowl. Run cold water into the bowl and swish the onions around for a few seconds before draining them again. Repeat this ‘rinse’ once more, then allow the onions to drain for a couple of minutes. Gently pat the onions with a clean tea towel to remove excess water.

Dry the bowl and return the onions to it. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let the pickles stand for another 10–15 minutes before serving. (The pickles will be ready to eat at this point, but their flavor will develop further when made ahead and refrigerated for a few hours.)


  • Susan: February 05, 2024

    Hello from the Curio kitchen! Thanks for asking. Try adding ground or cubed beef, turkey, chicken. Brown the meat first in 1 tablespoon of the oil, then scoop it out and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and sautée the vegetables as described in the recipe. Add the meat back to the pot when you add the beans. Use maybe 1/2 pound of meat.

  • W3: February 05, 2024

    If you wanted to add meat to this chili what would you suggest and would anything else in the recipe need to change?

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