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On cool, drizzly nights here in the Pacific Northwest, I always crave something warm and savory. Chili is perfect for those nights, but it can take a while to cook. This quick Instant Pot chili is full of flavor and comes together in just over half an hour!

butter bean chili

Cooking Vessels

Personally, I prefer to use an Instant Pot for any recipe like a soup, stew, or chili. I love using the saute feature and then turbo-charging the cooking process by adding pressure or slow cooking. It’s such a flexible cooking tool and makes cooking from scratch so much easier.

You can certainly make this in your favorite stockpot or dutch oven, especially since I did not use pressure for this recipe. It’s just about building flavor and getting a low simmer going!

I did not use my slow cooker for this as I wanted to make sure I could brown my ground beef. You can always brown the ground beef separately, and add everything together in the slow cooker! You would probably want to let it cook slowly for at least 2-3 hours if you were just slow cooking.

chili with lima beans

Dried or canned beans?

For this recipe, I used canned beans because I was making it with the goal of putting dinner on the table quickly. I love to use dried beans, but recommend soaking and cooking them without salt before adding them in this recipe.

I keep both canned and dried beans in my pantry and although I prefer the flavor of dried beans, sometimes, I just need to get dinner on the table quickly! I do love how the Instant Pot cooks dried beans, especially dried garbanzo beans for homemade hummus!

Cooking from the Pantry

I love having quick recipes I can put together purely from ingredients in my pantry! This is how we cook from scratch every day!

Learn how to keep a well-stocked pantry so you can save time, money, and stress while still eating wholesome, homemade food every day.

We always have meat in the freezer, canned tomatoes and beans, various condiments, and onions on hand. I have a big stash of spices to make every meal delicious!

When I can, I try to grab basics with extra flavor. For example, I’ll buy fire-roasted canned tomatoes instead of just regular canned tomatoes or smoked paprika instead of normal paprika. These help me build flavor fast!

Looking for more easy healthy dinners that come together quickly? Here are our top 3, not-fancy desperation dinners we make from our pantry all the time!

Which beans are best for chili?

I am not a purist when it comes to chili and love using different beans! However, I do always use kidney beans. I love their color, texture, and flavor. I pair them with 1-2 other types of beans.

Let this recipe flex to meet what you have in your pantry! Which canned or dried beans do you already have on hand?

Best beans to add to chili:

  • Pinto beans
  • Black beans
  • Navy beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Butter beans (one of my favorites!)

Butter beans in chili

Butter beans are not a classic chili bean, but I grew up eating a dish called Calico Beans. It’s like sweet baked beans met a chili in the best way possible.

Butter beans are starchier and creamier than smaller lima beans. I always liked to pick them out to eat first in Calico Beans! They add a nice texture and slight sweetness in this hearty butter bean chili.

Butter beans are actually just large lima beans. You can order them dried from Azure Standard, but I typically find them sold in cans.

easy butter bean chili recipe

Building Flavor

The best chilis build flavor gradually over a slow cooking process. Since this recipe is so quick, it’s important to add different ingredients that allow your flavors to build and develop.

You’ll probably think some of my favorite ingredients are unusual, but I use them in most beef soups or stews! They work together surprisingly well and help me get that rich, umami flavor quickly!

Flavor Boosting Ingredients

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Beer
  • Soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses

I love using beer as a cooking liquid for chili or any roast as that malty flavor breaks down and adds a great base flavor layer. Brown sugar adds just enough sweetness to cut through all the spices, too.

Use any or all of these ingredients and taste as you go!

Use smoked or roasted ingredients

I love my chili to be slightly sweet and smoky, so I use canned fire-roasted tomatoes and my very favorite sweet smoked paprika. These two ingredients really give that BBQ stand flavor in no time!

butter bean chili recipe

For this recipe and every recipe, I add a little of something, let it cook a bit, and taste test. I also try to remember that flavors develop over time so if I plan to let my chili rest in the fridge for leftovers, those flavors will become richer over time.

How to Serve Butter Bean Chili

Since I like my chili to have a rich, tomato-y sauce, I like to serve it with ingredients that enhance and balance the richness.

There’s always cornbread, just slightly sweet.

I always add shredded cheddar and sometimes sour cream or chopped onion for bite. I’m a simple person though, and just a little cornbread and cheese is all I need!

Hearty Chili Cookoff Collab

Love chili, but eating plant-based? Check out this amazing slow cooker vegetarian chili recipe from Megan at Simply Rooted Farmhouse!

Don’t forget the cornbread! Ally from Tjoelker Family Farm has a gluten-free cornbread that will be perfect crumbled right on top of your bowl of chili!

Quick Instant Pot Butter Bean Chili Recipe

Turn on Instant Pot to saute. If using a pot or dutch oven, heat over medium heat.

Pour a drizzle of olive oil and allow to heat up.

Add a diced white onion and bay leaf. Stir occasionally until the onion softens up.

Once the onion is cooked, add ground beef. Allow to brown. Break apart with a wooden spoon and stir occasionally.

quick instant pot chili

When the beef is browned and fully cooked, all all of the spices and wet ingredients. Stir together and then add drained and rinsed beans.

Allow the chili to continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes. Taste occasionally and add more salt or spices if needed!

Stop here and serve (or slow cook for more flavor!)

If you’re not in a rush or want to really let the flavors meld together over time, use the Instant Pot to pressure cook for about 15 minutes or let it slow cook on low.

This is why I love the Instant Pot: I can flex how I cook and tweak my approach with a simple button! I love to sautee, pressure cook, or slow cook all in one pot.

For this recipe, I just let mine cook on saute until it turned off (30-40 minutes). Then, I let it set a bit to cool down and those flavors will come together even more!

You can also simply leave your chili in your stovetop stockpot over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning.

Top with your favorite chili fixings! I prefer cornbread, shredded cheddar, and a dollop of sour cream. It’s also great with chopped white onion or green onion!

butter bean chili recipe
5 from 5 votes

30 Minute Instant Pot Butter Bean Chili

Print Recipe
Make this delicious butter bean chili from scratch in just over half an hour using your Instant Pot! I love how quickly this filling and flavorful meal comes together. Let it slow cook for even more flavor!
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:30 mins
Total Time:33 mins


  • Instant Pot, Stock Pot, or Dutch Oven
  • Chef's knife
  • Wooden spoon


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef thawed or fresh, not frozen
  • 2 pieces bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 1
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes add to taste
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 14 ounces liquid water, beer, or beef stock
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 can butter beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed


  • Add oil to Instant Pot on saute setting.
  • Add diced onions when oil heats up. Stir occasionally until color develops on base of Instant Pot.
  • Add ground beef and bay leaves to onions. Stir and break apart with wooden spoon until beef has browned.
  • Add spices, flavorings, and liquids (except beans). Stir to incorporate and heat for a couple of minutes.
  • Add beans and continue to cook 15-20 minutes until flavors come together!


Feel free to adapt this recipe as needed! Use your favorite types of beans. If you do not have balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, you can make this recipe without, but it will not develop the same depth of flavor in the short cooking time.
Any time you can, use ingredients that build flavor quickly like the fire-roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika, beer, etc. These help the flavor develop quickly, but you can simplify and use regular canned tomatoes, paprika, or water.


Calories: 277kcal
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, chili
Servings: 10 scoops
Calories: 277kcal

Love recipes with a kick? You’ll love my Green Chile & Sausage Egg Casserole! It’s perfect for meal prep and will fill & warm you up!

Don’t forget to check out our desperation dinners, quick and easy healthy dinners that get on the table fast!

butter bean chili

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    1. Yes! It’s so convenient to make it right in the instant pot using the sautee feature. It’s just such a flexible tool! Hope you love the chili!

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been craving chili so hard during this last cold snap. Your recipe showed up at the perfect time! Delicious and everyone enjoyed it.

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