By Leslie Kelly

Heirloom beans are a great way to take your chili from basic to Next Level. Cooking dried beans from scratch is slow cooker easy and that steaming bowl of homemade chili featuring these beans are now Instagram-worthy. Here are 8 heirloom varieties worth exploring.

1. Calypso

These colorful beans, pictured below, have been described as tasting a little like potatoes, which makes them a natural for a trip to Washington state's Palouse, home to this Wazzu Tailgating Chili, made with pork and a bottle of beer and a little bit of cornmeal to thicken it up.

Calypso beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

2. Corona Beans

Corona beans have their original roots in Mexico, but now grow around the world. These monsters turn super creamy when cooked low and slow. Italian chefs puree them and use as a filling for ravioli, but they're bomb in Cha Cha's White Chicken Chili.

Corona beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

3. Yellow Eye Steuben Beans

A cousin of the kidney bean, these look more like a black eyed pea with a mustard-colored patch spreading across the ivory. They're prized for their mild flavor and firm texture, and are often cooked with strongly flavored ingredients like spicy peppers in the smoking hot Turkey Chili.

Yellow Steuben beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

4. Tiger's Eye

The striking camel and maroon-hued bean is beloved by cooks because it holds its shape when simmered slowly. It's a natural foundation for a veggie chili that meat lovers will also appreciate.

Tigers Eye beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

5. Trout

Also known as Jacobs Cattle, these red-and-white gems are a German transplant that thrive in Idaho's Snake River Canyon region. An earthy flavor combined with a creamy texture make this a natural for fiery slow cooker chili.

Trout beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

6. Ayocote Morado

Like pintos on steroids, this variety is often described as "beefy." Their history certainly is rich, dating back to the earliest days of cultivated crops in the New World. Try them in this Wendy's Copycat Chili or this award-winner from ChrisG.

Ayocote Morado beans. Photo by Kelly Cline

While these beans are available in many supermarkets, if you cannot find them, order online from Zursan and Rancho Gordo.


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