Easy Vegetarian Chili


My go-to healthy and easy vegetarian chili recipe. It’s so easy to make and has a rich, robust flavor thanks to a couple secret ingredients, peanut butter and cocoa powder. Vegan + gluten-free.

This weekend we had a couple of friends coming over to watch football so I made a big pot of vegetarian chili and some of my pumpkin cornbread muffins for the group to enjoy. This recipe has a base of onion and garlic, three different beans, corn, seasonings and two secret (but not so secret now) ingredients.

Easy vegetarian chili in a bowl topped with cilantro, cornbread muffin bits, and avocado.

Chili recipes are known for having secret ingredients! Many folks swear by adding beer, honey, brown sugar, chocolate (I’m a big fan of this one), masa flour, cinnamon or lime juice (another one I’m a fan of). I recently read somewhere that peanut butter can also be a great addition to chili. As a peanut butter lover this was pure music to my ears. Obviously, I had to try it. I mean, peanut butter makes everything taste better, right?

I’m so glad I tried adding peanut butter to my vegetarian chili because as it turns out the peanut butter didn’t add a strong peanut flavor, but instead rich and robust flavor (that is often times lacking in vegetarian chili). It also added a bit of fat and helped to thicken the sauce a bit. Of course, I still added my normal secret ingredients, cocoa powder and lime. Cocoa powder enhances the flavor of chili, adds a deep tone and a bit of richness. And adding a splash of lime juice after cooking adds a hint of tang and makes the spices pop.

Easy vegetarian chili in a bowl, topped with cilantro, avocado, and bits of cornbread muffin. A spoon, cilantro and cornbread muffin are laying around the healthy bowl of chili.

This chili is probably the best chili I’ve ever made so I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding peanut butter to all my chili recipes from now on. I can’t wait for you to try this little vegetarian chili trick as well. If you do try this chili, be sure to make a batch of my pumpkin cornbread muffins to go along with the chili. They’re delicious on their own with a spread of butter, but I love crumbling them into my bowl of chili.

If you try this easy vegetarian chili, be sure to leave a comment and star rating letting me know how it turns out. Your feedback is super helpful for me and other EBF readers who are planning to try the recipe. 

Easy Vegetarian Chili

5 from 14 votes
My go-to healthy and easy vegetarian chili recipe. It's so easy to make and has a rich, robust flavor thanks to a couple secret ingredients, peanut butter and cocoa powder. 
Easy vegetarian chili in a bowl topped with cilantro, cornbread muffin bits, and avocado. A gold spoon is sitting on the bowl. Another bowl of chili is out of focus in the background.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 - 28 oz can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
  • 1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 - 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 -15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 - 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 1½-2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 chili pepper, halved, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
  • Juice of one fresh lime
  • toppings: avocado, Greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh cilantro


  • In a Dutch oven or large pot, warm  oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic and grated carrot and sauté until onion becomes soft and translucent. Stir in chili powder, red pepper flakes, sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except lime juice. Blend well. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat,  squeeze lime juice into the pot and stir. Serve immediately.
  • The chili can be served over brown rice or quinoa and topped with cheese or greek yogurt for a hearty variation.


Serving: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 363kcal Carbohydrates: 59g Protein: 19g Fat: 7g Saturated Fat: 1g Fiber: 16g Sugar: 10g
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegetarian chili


Please leave a comment and star rating on this post and share on social media using the hashtag #eatingbirdfood. I love seeing your recipe shares!

PS: Even though I call this a vegetarian chili, it’s actually vegan. Don’t let the “meatless” qualities turn you away, even who aren’t vegetarian will love this chili — it’s got a great texture to it and it’s packed with flavor. Just don’t forget the secret ingredients!

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Recipe Rating

    1. Susan Banner
      April 22, 2021 AT 5:55 am

      1 star
      I looked forward to making this for lunch.I was curious because I’ve never tried PB in chili before. Sadly, it was just OK. Maybe even a little off. Perhaps I just didn’t like it with the cocoa powder. Anyway, I will not be making it again.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        April 22, 2021 AT 11:54 am

        Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this chili, Susan. It must just be a taste preference, but I appreciate you making my recipe and for the feedback!

    2. Zoe
      February 11, 2021 AT 4:06 pm

      5 stars
      This chili was so delicious! A crowd-pleaser for sure. Didn’t use much of the chili pepper to go light on the spice, and it still definitely had a kick. Will be making it again!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 11, 2021 AT 11:38 pm

        Woo! So glad this chili was a hit. Thanks for the review, Zoe. I so appreciate it!

    3. Alex
      January 30, 2021 AT 5:07 pm

      5 stars
      Made it today and was delicious. I added 1/2 cup green split peas just because I had some kick in around. We love cilantro so I added some as well.
      Thanks for sharing.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 1, 2021 AT 12:56 am

        I’m glad this chili turned out for you, Alex. Thanks for the review, I so appreciate it!

    4. Madeline Cliffe
      December 1, 2020 AT 4:07 pm

      2 stars
      Surprisingly bland. I’m pretty sure I did it right, but maybe I missed something. I added three extra tbsp of peanut butter, 11/2 key limes, cheddar and parmesan cheese, and salt to bolster the flavor and it ended up good. The flavor reminded me more of Italian tomato sauces than chili. The recipe looked really good, so I’m not sure why it turned out so bland

      1. Brittany Mullins
        December 2, 2020 AT 12:58 am

        Oh no! So sorry to hear that. I’m wondering if something got missed as you were making it? You can definitely always add more spices and seasonings until it reaches your desired taste, but it definitely shouldn’t have come out bland!

        1. Madeline A Cliffe
          December 12, 2020 AT 9:47 am

          I think I realized what changed the flavor so much for me. I left out the chili powder and red pepper flakes because we are spice wimps here, but I think that is what made it come out bland. To others I suppose I would just suggest doing less if you’re worried about spice and not cutting it out entirely.

          1. Brittany Mullins
            December 13, 2020 AT 10:34 pm

            Ahh yes, that is likely why yours turned out a bit bland. The chili powder adds a ton of flavor. Chili powder is typically mild so if you’re not a spice fan I would still suggest using the chili powder and skipping the red pepper flakes.

    5. Crystal Webb
      November 1, 2020 AT 1:38 am

      5 stars
      Made this recipe tonight for Halloween and having people over. Was hoping it would come out good and it far exceeded my expectations!! Best chili I’ve ever had!! Everyone loved it and it will now be my go to chili recipe. I’m obsessed with all your recipes. Everything I’ve tried so far has been so delicious! So happy I found your blog!! 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 2, 2020 AT 12:11 am

        Ahh, that makes me so happy to hear!! I’m so glad this chili was a hit. Thanks so much for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it, Crystal. 🙂

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