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How to Cook Kidney Beans for Chili

How to Cook Kidney Beans for Chili

Last Updated on 20th July 2022 by

A good chili doesn’t just contain the right kind of beans but it also has beans that are cooked properly. They shouldn’t be too soft or too hard.

Beans that have been cooked too long will be oversoft and make more of a paste, giving the chili a poor texture. Beans that are not cooked long enough will be hard in the center and also create the wrong texture in your chili.

Today, I’m going to show you how to cook kidney beans for chili. Whether you are working with dried chili beans that you have to cook all the way through yourself or you’re using a can of cooked chili beans that you just need to warm up, I’m going to cover it all here so that you end up with the right kind of kidney beans for chili.

How to Cook Dry Kidney Beans for Chili

Did you know that you can put dry kidney beans in with your chili and cook it all at once? I wouldn’t try this on the stovetop, but if you have an Instant Pot, you can use that for this simple method of incorporating dry beans into the chili and cooking everything together.

While you don’t have to cook the beans before putting them into the pressure cooker with the chili, I do suggest soaking them. This makes them easier to digest when they’re finished cooking, and it’s not a difficult step. It just takes a little extra time.

  1. Start by sorting through beans to make sure that you get rid of any kind of debris like rocks or bits of plant matter. Those can sometimes end up in bags of dry beans.
  2. Then, rinse off your dry red kidney beans and strain them in a sieve and then place them in a container of water with twice as much water as beans. They should be well covered, and you should leave them to soak in the fridge.

How long to soak kidney beans for chili? They should soak for a minimum of 12 hours, but it’s simpler just to leave them soaking overnight. When you’re ready to cook with the beans, drain them out and rinse them once more.

Now that you know how to prepare kidney beans for chili, let’s talk about cooking dry kidney beans in the chili using the Instant Pot.

  1. Put your Instant Pot to the sauté setting and cook all of your garlic, onions, peppers, and other veggies. You want to cook them with a little salt and a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Then, add in your seasonings, like chili powder, oregano, and cumin. Stir all that in and sauté for an additional 30 seconds or so.
  3. Next, add in the ground beef for your chili as well as water, tomatoes, and then your beans that you sucked. Change the setting half of sauté and cover the Instant Pot. The pressure should be set to high/manual in for 15 minutes.

After the chili is done cooking, let the pressure release naturally, which will take around 15 or 20 minutes. You can also manually unseal the valve after that time.

How Long to Cook Kidney Beans for Chili

The method that I gave you above that uses the Instant Pot doesn’t take very long. You’re looking at about 15 minutes of cook time with another 15 to 20 minutes of pressure release.

You need plenty of time to soak the beans, but the cooking time really isn’t that long, even though you’re using dry beans. It’s because you pre-soak the beans that they cook so quickly.

If you’re using canned beans are already soaked and cooked, then all you really need to do with them is warm them up. You can add them to your chili mixture of meat, veggies, and seasonings on the stovetop, and then you cook them for about 3-5 minutes, which will give them just enough time to warm up nicely.

How long the beans take to cook with depend on whether you soak them ahead of time, whether you’re working with dried beans or cooked beans, as well as what cooking method you’re using.

What Can You Substitute for Kidney Beans in Chili?

Maybe you don’t want to use red kidney beans in your chili and you’re looking for something else. There are a few really good options that work well in chili.

My top choice is, of course, pinto beans. These give you more of a Mexican or Latino flavor to your dish and they soften nicely just like red kidney beans do.

If you’re looking for a good substitute, that’s what I would use, but you could even use black beans or northern beans.

I think northern beans give you the bean with the closest shape and size to red kidney beans, so if that’s what you’re concerned about in your chili, then by all means use northern beans.

Which Kidney Beans Are Best for Chili?

There are actually a wide range of kidney beans you can choose from. They are mostly identified by their color, and there are white kidney beans, black kidney beans, purple kidney beans, and red kidney beans.

Some of these go by specific names as well, but red kidney beans are the standard for chili.

They give it the right color and texture, and it’s just the classic bean for this dish. You could use any of the other kidney beans, if that’s what you have available or you just want to do something a little different, and it should work fine for chili.

Some of them will have all slightly different flavor from red kidney beans, like white kidney beans, which are known for their nutty, mild flavor.

Your beans are one of the most important components for chili, and you don’t want to get them wrong. However, there are so many different substitutes that work well, if you don’t mind deviating from the traditional red kidney beans for this dish.


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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!


Ian Baird

Sunday 14th of August 2022

Pauline...Love your fact has stimulated me to use my creativity once again in the kitchen. My love affair with food started early at age 5? when Mom knowingly had me lick the chocolate bowl...then delegated me to doing dishes...for life! No complaints here ...only a very rewarding experience of restaurants and friends that accumulate as nothing brings people together like good food. Do you have a real Cornish Pasty and recipe? Did they use turnip?