A big bowl of vegetarian chili is the ultimate quick and easy comfort food. Multi-colored beans simmer in a mix of smokey, savory, and spicy seasonings. This recipe is about choosing the right pantry ingredients to maximize the flavor.
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A good weeknight vegetarian chili recipe must be both flavorful and easy to make. That’s why this recipe uses convenience products and seasonings that you likely already have in your pantry. From start to finish, dinner is served in under an hour.
I like to make beans from scratch on the stovetop or instant pot for the best taste and texture. However, most often, reality hits, and busy days call for quicker options. Canned beans and fire-roasted tomatoes are the base of the recipe. I’ll show you how to turn bland legumes into a delicious, hearty bowl of chili. Serve this chili with cornbread, biscuits, or crunchy chips to dip!
Any type of bean can be used in this chili. An equal combination of red kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans makes for a colorful mix. I also like the different shapes and textures, from super creamy to tender bites that pop between your teeth. A hearty blend of beans provides a nutritious vegan protein option and is fiber-rich. I use canned beans as a quick cooking option.
Add-in fresh ingredients for aromatics
The first step is building a flavorful chili base using fresh ingredients. Diced onions, bell pepper, spicy jalapenos, and garlic all provide a hint of spice. They release volatile flavor molecules that make your mouth water as they cook together.
As the onions cook, they also get a little sweeter and caramelize in the pan. The sweetness is enhanced with corn kernels. If fresh corn is available, that is the best. Otherwise canned for frozen work too.
Selecting the right seasonings
A hearty amount of chili powder, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, black pepper, and chipotle adds earthiness and a lightly charred taste. Since there is no meat in this chili, like pork, bacon, or beef, we need to compensate with these spices.
The water-soluble and fat-soluble flavors are dispersed and melded as the chili simmers. Over time, the spices are even more pronounced. That’s why they typically taste better the next day, which is perfect for meal prepping!
Use different types of tomato products
Canned fire-roasted tomatoes have already been charred, which adds a smokier flavor to the chili. I like to buy pre-diced tomatoes to save on prep time, providing a chunkier texture to the chili. Adding canned tomato sauce thins out the chili without diluting its flavor.
How to make vegetarian chili
I like to grab my trusty dutch oven to make the chili. The heavy bottom prevents the spices from scorching. The onions, bell pepper, salt, and jalapenos, are sauteed in olive oil until softened. To elevate the taste and aromas of the dried spices, saute them in the hot fat.
Add the corn, beans, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth, then stir to combine. Bring to a boil to warm the chili quickly, then reduce heat to simmer until slightly thickened. The cooking process only takes about 30 minutes.
Ways to adapt this vegetarian chili
- Stir in some quinoa for extra plant protein.
- Farro adds some nuttiness and ancient grains to each bowl.
- Crumble up some firm tofu for a different texture and hearty servings.
- Add diced sweet potato, butternut squash, or pumpkin for fall-inspired flavors.
- For a tangy taste, add some fresh lime juice
Feel free to have fun with the toppings! I like to serve various ingredients in bowls to make a chili bar for guests, especially on game day. Top with shredded cheese like sharp cheddar, sour cream, green onions, sliced spicy peppers, diced onion, creamy avocado, or crushed tortilla chips for a gluten-free crunch.
Serve this with
Add extra protein sources to the vegetarian chili, tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa, or plant-based ground options like Impossible or Beyond meat are available at major grocery stores.
Any legumes make the base of the chili. Kidney, black, and pinto are colorful additions. Corn, zucchini, and green beans are tasty. Make the chili heartier with diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash.
Simmer the chili until the starches in the beans help to thicken the mixture. A cornstarch slurry can also be added at the end of cooking. Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir into the chili, and boil until thickened, about 1 minute.
Bloom the spices
The fastest way to elevate the flavor of jarred spices is to “bloom” them in the cooking oil before adding the beans. That’s because they contain fat-soluble flavors that can only be fully experienced when cooked first in oil. This process helps to release the flavor before incorporating other wet ingredients that would mute the spice’s potential.
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion, ¼" dice
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper, ½" dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh, canned or frozen
- 15 ounces canned red kidney beans
- 15 ounces canned pinto beans
- 15 ounces canned black beans
- 19 ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes, plus juice
- 16 ounces canned tomato sauce
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Prepare Beans – Place the beans in a colander and rinse them with water. Drain thoroughly and set them aside.
- Saute Aromatics – Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, once hot, add the onions, bell pepper, jalapenos, and salt. Cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, chipotle chili powder, and black pepper, and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add Beans and Vegetables – Add corn, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth. Stir to combine.
- Simmer Chili – Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chili is slightly thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- To Serve – Portion chili into bowls and add desired toppings.
- Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Topping Suggestions: Sliced chili peppers, green onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, or avocado.
- Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Freeze in a resealable bag for up to 3 months, and defrost before using.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until hot. Alternatively, reheat on the stovetop over medium heat.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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