Vegetarian Chili

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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 all about choosing the right pantry ingredients to maximize the flavor.

Vegetarian Chili

A good weeknight vegetarian chili needs to 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, but most often times, 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 bowl of chili that even a meat lover would enjoy.

colorful beans being washed in a colander

Bean selection

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 how they have different shapes and textures, ranging from super creamy to tender bites that pop in between your teeth. A hearty mix of beans provides a nutritious vegan protein option and is fiber-rich.

How to make vegetarian chili

  • Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, then add olive oil.
  • Add onion, bell pepper, salt, and jalapenos, saute until softened.
  • Bloom the dried spices with the vegetables until fragrant.
  • Add the corn, beans, and fire-roasted diced tomatoes, stir to combine.
  • Add tomato sauce and vegetable broth, bring to a boil.
  • Reduce chili to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.
  • Taste chili, season, and serve hot with toppings.

dried seasonings placed in a dutch oven with diced tomatoes and onions

Add-in fresh ingredients for aromatics

The first step is to build a flavorful chili base using some fresh ingredients. Diced onions, bell pepper, spicy jalapenos, and garlic all provide a hint of pungency. As they cook together, they release volatile flavor molecules that make your mouth water.

As the onions cook, they also get a little sweeter and they carmelize in the pan. This is complemented by the corn kernels if fresh 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 charred taste. Since there is no meat in this chili, like pork, bacon, or beef, we need to compensate with these spices.

As the chili simmers, the water-soluble and fat-soluble flavors are dispersed and meld together. Over time, the spices are even more pronounced. That’s why they typically taste better the next day, which is perfect for meal prepping!

pouring tomato sauce liquid into pot with vegetarian chili

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 the pre-diced tomatoes to save on prep time, and they provide a chunkier texture to the chili. Adding in canned tomato sauce thins out the chili, without diluting its flavor.

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.

Chili toppings

Top with shredded cheese like sharp cheddar, sour cream, green onions, sliced spicy peppers, diced onion, or crushed tortilla chips for a gluten-free crunch.

dutch oven cooking vegetarian chili

More tasty chili recipes

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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Vegetarian Chili

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.

Pin Print Review
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper, ½-inch 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, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 19 ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes, plus juice
  • 16 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Instructions 

  • Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, once hot add the onions, bell pepper, jalapenos, and salt. Cook until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, chipotle chili powder, and black pepper, cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Add the corn, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and diced tomatoes, stir to combine.
  • Add the tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Stir the chili and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chili is slightly thickened about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve chili in individual serving bowls and add desired toppings.

Notes

Serving Size: 1 cup

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Nutrition Facts
Vegetarian Chili
Amount Per Serving
Calories 228 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Fat 5g8%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 1204mg50%
Potassium 728mg21%
Carbohydrates 38g13%
Fiber 12g48%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 1068IU21%
Vitamin C 11mg13%
Calcium 101mg10%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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11 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy says

    You always have recipes for everyone Jessica. One of the many things I appreciate about you. This looks delicious and yes I do have most of those ingredients on hand. I think my husbands going to be having some chili and corn bread next week. Xoxo

  2. Terry says

    Jessica, I think there’s an error in the ingredients list. I think it should be 1 cup of diced red bell pepper, not 1 tablespoon.

  3. Marilyn G. says

    I made your chili recipe for the first time for our Bunco group last month because some of our members are vegetarians. Your chili recipe was a hit! I served it up with cornbread, and provided separate serving bowls of sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced green onions, chopped avocado, sliced spicy peppers, and tortilla strips, to please everyone’s palate. Can’t wait to make it again! Thanks for your great recipe, Jessica!

  4. Erin B. says

    I made this for my husband tonight. He loved it so much he went back for seconds and then thirds. I am defining making this again. One of the best vegetarian chili’s I have made yet.

  5. Anne K says

    This is delicious! I’m the only one in my family who will eat it, so I make a big pot, divide it up and store it in the freezer for fast lunches and dinners. I like mine with shredded cheddar, avocado, tortilla chips or Fritos and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. This one is a keeper!

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