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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Substitutes For Beans In Chili



Looking for substitutes for beans in chili? We got your back!

There might be some reasons for you to switch to an alternative. Whether you’re on a diet and cutting down carbs or have trouble digesting beans, you can add versatile ingredients to give your meal a delicious flavor.

Substitutes for beans in chili

Depending on what type of chili you are making, whether it’s a Mexican or Texas chili, most recipes will typically be one of the chili beans like pinto bean, kidney bean, anasazi beans, black bean, butter bean, or even cannellini bean. Whether you prefer the pinto bean or black beans, sometimes these beans cause issues to one’s stomach or are just outright too many carbs.

We have listed 14 ingredients below that aren’t pinto beans to help you out with your chili recipe. You’ll have gluten-free, keto-friendly, vegan, hearty, and healthier options.

We have also mentioned how these will affect your chili and what taste you can expect. Most of the items are easily available and effortless to cook.

So, let’s see some substitutes for beans in chili:

1. Celery

a shrub of celery
shrub celery on a dark wood table

Celery is an excellent substitute for beans in chili. If you’re looking for a keto-friendly and gluten-free option, celery is the way to go. You can add it in with other low-carb veggies. It’ll give your meal a unique texture and amazing flavor.

If you want your chili sauce to stand out, put in some bland-tasting veggies so that they don’t overpower the dish. Your chili will have a significantly improved taste on the second day.

That’s why you should wait at least 24 hours before serving it.

2. Eggplant

raw eggplant
Raw eggplant on a wooden table.

Eggplant is heavy on fiber and low in calories. Not only will it make your chili taste exceptional, but it’ll give you more benefits over beans due to its nutritional value.

Sauté the eggplants before adding them in. The peels should be tender once it’s cooked well with the chili.

This dish will taste great with brown rice, bell pepper, and shredded cheddar cheese on top.

3. Meat

raw ground beef
A plate of raw ground beef.

If you want to opt for something filling, try putting meat in your chili. It’s the best substitute for beans and goes well with the other ingredients.

It is also high in protein. You can use whatever sort of meat you prefer. Consider going for ground beef, beef chuck, brisket, or short ribs if you’re using beef.

The only downside to using beef is that it will make your chili more savory than giving it the traditional sweetness it gets with beans. Even though you can achieve those slightly-sweet notes with pork, other sweet ingredients paired with beef will make your chili taste amazing.

If you want something with fewer calories, use chicken. While all three types of meat have a high percentage, chicken has significantly fewer calories than beef, and beef has less than pork.

However, beef has more proteins than chicken.

4. Mushrooms

champignon mushrooms
Champignon mushrooms on a wooden table

Mushrooms can act similar to kidney beans in terms of the slightly sweet and earthly flavor. The only difference you’ll see with these is the texture.

Dry mushrooms have a soft and rubbery texture, and cooked one feels similar to meat. They are different from the soft and creamy texture of beans.

Mushrooms are high in protein and have low carbs. They are a healthier option and good for weight loss compared to beans.

Mushrooms have 22 calories per 100 grams, while beans have 91 calories in the same amount.

5. Tofu

tofu in a bowl
Tofu cubes in a wooden bowl.

The chili you get with pressed tofu is close to what you’ll get with beans. Pressed tofu has a similar size, volume, and texture to kidney beans.

The only part you might not like is that it takes longer to prepare chili with this method. You’ll have to take about 30 minutes to press your tofu.

You can wrap it up in paper towels or a kitchen towel and place a heavy object on top (a frying pan would do). Leave it for half an hour or until it reaches the desired firmness by removing all the moisture.

You can then dice it and add it to your recipe.

6. Nuts

nuts on a wooden background
Nuts on a wooden background.

Nuts are full of protein and fat. Tossing some in your chili will give you a hearty and delicious meal.

You can use whatever sort of nuts you prefer and even mix them up and add a bunch of them. Sunflowers are cheaper than other nuts you may find at stores.

If you’re on a budget, they’ll be the perfect option! Make sure you toast the nuts before putting them in.

Line them on a parchment paper in a baking tray. You can season them with salt and any other seasoning you like before placing them in your oven.

Don’t have time? No worries, you can throw them in raw. At least it won’t take as long as dried beans!

7. Rice

rice in a burlap sack
Uncooked rice in a burlap sack.

If you’re gluten intolerant, you can use gluten-free grains instead of beans. They include rice, Amaranth, and Quinoa.

Add them to your chili once your dish is done cooking so it can soak up the flavor of the tomato sauce and chili pepper. If you’re looking for a more flavorful result, put in the grains while cooking the chili.

Rice is a good choice for people who have trouble digesting beans. If you fall in this category, you may have trouble digesting grains as well, but not as much as beans.

It varies from person to person. Beans, however, contain more fiber and are healthier than most grains.

8. Peas

fresh peas on a spoon
Fresh peas on a spoon.

Peas make great substitutes for beans in chili due to their similar texture. Plus, you’ll be glad to know that they cook much faster than beans.

Try putting 3/4 cup of split peas in your sauce, and they’ll absorb all that extra liquid for you and give you the perfect consistency.

You can also cook your peas before and add them to your chili once it’s all done. Soak them in water for a couple of hours or preferably overnight before cooking them if you have more time.

Peas and beans are similar in carbs, so you don’t have to worry about the nutritional intake.

9. TVP

textured vegetable protein in a porcelain bowl
Textured vegetable protein in a porcelain bowl.

Texturized Vegetable Protein, also known as TVP, can substitute for beans in chili. The texture feels like beef, but it’s made using soy flour, making a great vegetarian chili.

TVP is rich in fiber and proteins. However, if you’re replacing beans due to trouble digesting them, then this may also give you the same problem.

TVP contains the same indigestible phytate. To use TVP, simply place it in a heat-resistant bowl and pour boiling water inside.

Leave it there to soak up the flavor for a few minutes. Once it has rehydrated, you can drain the water and leave it to cool down.

Then, drain out all excess water by placing your TVP in cheesecloth and squeezing it until no more liquid is left inside. After that, you can put it in your chilli.

10. Cauliflower

cauliflower on a wooden background
Raw cauliflower on a wooden background.

This one might come as a surprise to you, but cauliflower in your chili can work great! It’s one of the highly versatile vegetables out there.

Since it doesn’t have many notes of distinct flavors, it’ll take up the flavors of your spices. Steam your cauliflower and chop it into bite-size pieces.

To get a thicker consistency, mash some of it up. That’ll give it an interesting texture and will make a great keto chili recipe.

You can even use this vegetable to replace meat in recipes if you’re vegan. The hearty meal you can make with this is equivalent to recipes containing meat.

Bonus point: Cauliflowers are packed with vitamins!

11. Potatoes

potatoes on a wooden surface falling out of a bag
Potatoes on a wooden surface falling out of a bag

Potatoes are another substitute for beans in chili. They’ll give you a hearty meal, and they’re packed with potassium and dietary fiber.

You can cut them into thin fries and bake them ahead of time. You can also fry them if you prefer.

Once they’re cooked, add them to your sauce and stir them to even out the flavors. You can optionally put shredded cheese on top for creaminess.

12. Butternut Squash

sliced butternut squash
Sliced butternut squash in a wooden bowl.

Butternut squash has a nutty flavor that can taste like sweet potatoes, especially in purees. These are better than beans in terms of calories.

They have fewer carbs and are full of vitamin C. Throw them in with tomatoes and the rest of your ingredients.

Keep cooking your chili until the squash gets tender. That’ll take about 30 minutes.

You can serve this meal with avocado and Greek yogurt to make it more filling and flavorful.

13. Kale

raw kale on a wooden surface
Raw kale on a wooden surface.

Another option for vegans is Kale. It makes a great substitute for beans in chili.

This leafy green is packed with vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, folic acid, and minerals. Even if you don’t like kale, you’ll be happy to know that it won’t overpower your meal with all the spices added to your chili.

It will alter the consistency of your meal, and you can benefit from the nutrients.

14. Tempeh

tempeh decorated with garnishing on a cutting board
Sliced tempeh decorated with garnishing on a cutting board.

Tempeh is similar to Tofu. Where Tofu is made from part of soybeans, it takes whole fermented soybeans to make Tempeh.

These soybeans are pressed together to create a solid. To incorporate this into your dish, cut up an entire pack of Tempeh into small pieces.

Then, mix it with your chili at the end of the cooking process and serve it hot. Tempeh has hints of a nutty flavor, and it’s easy to use, so you’ll enjoy the texture and taste it brings to your recipe.


While you won’t get the exact texture and taste that you’ll get with beans, these options will still make a delicious meal. Most of them are healthier than beans, and they’ll allow you to experiment with different ingredients to create several tasty recipes!