You’ll discover that chili doesn’t require meat to be hearty and delicious. This vegetarian chili is thick, rich, and flavorful, and it’s so easy to make.
Why you’ll love it: This chili is so nutritious and easy to make. It’s a one pan meal so cleanup is easy too.
How long it takes: 55 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large pot or Dutch oven, sharp knife, can opener, small strainer
With three kinds of beans (pinto, black, and kidney) and loads of good-for-you veggies, vegetarian chili is totally satisfying and nutritious. And with only 226 calories per serving, you can go a little crazy with toppings and not feel guilty about it. That’s my kind of chili!
It’s not lacking in flavor either. With just the right amount of spiciness and heat, this chili will please just about anyone. And you know what? It’s a one pan meal that can be on the table in under an hour. Does it get any better than that?
Why Make This Chili?
- Low in calories
- Easy and fast
- One pan
I realize not everyone is into vegetarian chili. While this chili is totally satisfying and super nutritious, I have lots of meaty chili recipes for you. Try slow cooker Texas chili, turkey and beef chili with beer and beans, or turkey quinoa chili (under 400 calories!).
If you’re a white chicken chili fan, try Instant Pot white chicken chili, white chicken chili, or slow cooker white chicken chili. Oh, I even have a recipe for jerk chicken chili! Plus another vegetarian quinoa chili with black beans.
Good grief, I told you I had lots of chili recipes! I think I may have a chili obsession.
About this Recipe
Perfect for a vegan, vegetarian, or just plain healthy eater, vegetarian chili is simple to make. It’s a hearty meatless main dish that satisfies even meat-lovers.
The ingredient list may look long but, other than chopping some vegetables and opening cans, it’s really not a lot of work. Keep reading for some make-ahead ideas.
Before you get started on your chili, I’ll give you a quick rundown of how to make it, with a few extra tips and ideas.
As always, you’ll find the printable recipe with specific measurements and instructions near the end of the this post.
What you’ll need
- Kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans: Lots of healthy beans! Beans add protein and substance to the chili, taking the place of meat. Feel free to substitute different types of beans. If you like to begin with dried beans, make beans in your Instant Pot pressure cooker. It’s so fast and you don’t even have to soak them ahead of time.
- Bell pepper, carrot, celery, onion, corn: Lots of healthy veggies, too!
- Tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes: And lots of tomatoes. Think of all that healthy lycopene, such a powerful antioxidant.
- Jalapeño peppers and chili powder: What’s chili without a little heat? Make your own chili seasoning blend if you like, substituting it for the chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
- Garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper: Herbs and spices to add flavor.
- Water or vegetable broth: To pull it all together!
- Your choice of toppings: sour cream, jalapeño, cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.
How To Make This Recipe
Begin by sautéing onions, peppers, carrots and celery with a bit of olive oil in a good sized Dutch oven or pan. Once they’ve softened a bit, add the tomato paste and spices. Stir them around briefly to heat and enhance their flavor.
Next, just add everything else to the pan, except the corn. Simmer the chili for at least thirty minutes. It won’t hurt if you simmer it longer either. Add a little broth or water if it’s looking a little too thick. Chili is pretty forgiving one way or the other. In fact, if it works better with your schedule, just put everything in your slow cooker and let it cook on low until you’re ready.
Add a can of corn right before serving. Why wait? It will stay crisper that way, that’s all, so it’s not a big deal if you forget and put it in right away.
I love to add toppings to any kind of chili. That’s the best part! Why have a bowl of bare chili (gasp!) when you can dress it up? Have a variety of toppings available so everyone can choose what they like best. So fun and delicious!
What to serve with chili
Serve your chili with homemade Dutch oven bread or no-knead whole wheat bread. Everyone loves homemade bread! Homemade crackers are easy and fun, too. And who doesn’t like cornbread or corn muffins with chili?
Absolutely not! I think you’ll agree after trying this chili recipe that meat is not an essential ingredient.
I get it, maybe you already have a favorite recipe for chili with ground beef as an ingredient. Good substitutes for ground beef are ground turkey or ground chicken. The difference in flavor is barely discernible in chili.
Good non-meat substitutes are cooked quinoa, bulgar, or finely chopped mushrooms. Any of those will give the chili a meaty texture.
I don’t keep any secrets from you guys but I’d love to hear what your secret ingredient is. I love adding a little cinnamon and cocoa powder when I’m using my chili seasoning. I often add a little masa harina to thicken the chili. What do you add?
Make It Your Own
There are lots of ways to customize this chili to make it your own special creation. Here’s a few ideas:
- Play around with the vegetables. Cubed sweet potato is wonderful in chili and so is kale. Use what you have on hand or what you like best.
- There are lots of different types of canned beans and most of them will work well in chili. Canned lentils are great, too. Find your favorite combo of beans.
- Add quinoa, bulgar, or chopped mushrooms to the chili for a meatier texture. Or add your favorite meat substitute.
- Increase the heat: add more jalapeño and chili powder. Red pepper flakes or hot pepper sauce will heat it up, too.
Bring your vegetarian chili to the next chili cook off. It just may be the award winning chili! (P.S. I’d love to hear if you win!)
To get a head start on making this chili, dice all the veggies in the morning and put them in a ziplock bag for easy prep at suppertime.
Or put everything into a slow cooker in the morning and cook on low all day so the chili is ready at dinnertime.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Leftover chili is great! This recipe makes a big batch and it’s perfect for another meal or lunch. Freeze half for an easy dinner when you’re in a pinch.
Store leftover chili in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. To reheat, warm a bowlful in the microwave, or reheat larger quantities in a saucepan or skillet. If chili seems too thick, add a bit more water or broth.
Cut a spaghetti squash in half and bake until tender. Fill the baked halves with warm chili, sprinkle with cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, and broil 4 to 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Another suggestion: Spoon warm chili into baked potatoes or Instant Pot sweet potatoes.
Interested in a weekly meal plan that includes this recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #1. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
More Meatless Meals
You’ll love all the flavor and nutrition these meatless recipes pack into a bowl. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- Vegetarian Quinoa Chili with Black Beans
- Moroccan Stew with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas
- Homemade Vegetable Soup
- One Pot Vegetarian Orzo with Sundried Tomatoes
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
- Vegetarian Lasagna Soup
- Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Soup with Tortellini
- One Pot Green Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Kale
- Vegan Slow Cooker Peanut Stew by Sweet Peas and Saffron
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 cup chopped carrot (about 1 large carrot)
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks celery)
- 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium. onion)
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons chili powder, more to taste
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce (no salt added)
- 2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 can (15 oz.) corn, drained
- Optional toppings: Sour cream, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, cheese, or tortilla chips.
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil, bell peppers, carrot, celery, onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 6 to 7 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften and onions are translucent.
- Add tomato paste, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook, stirring, for another minute or until fragrant.
- Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes (see note), partially covered.
- Add corn immediately prior to serving and heat through.
- Serve with desired toppings.
- Chili can be simmered more than 30 minutes, if desired. If it appears too thick, add more water or broth.
- Slow Cooker Method: Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.
- Optional Add-Ins: cubed sweet potato, chopped kale, cooked quinoa or bulgar, minced jalapeño pepper, red pepper flakes, hot sauce … or your favorite secret ingredient!
- Store leftover chili in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- To reheat, warm a bowlful in the microwave, or reheat it in a saucepan or skillet. If chili seems too thick, add a bit more water or broth.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.