The best vegetarian chili recipe made with three different beans, veggies and sweet corn. It’s thick and hearty, comes together quickly on the stovetop and has such a rich, robust flavor thanks to a few secret ingredients.
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.
Secret Ingredients in Chili
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 a rich and robust flavor (that is oftentimes lacking in vegetarian chili). It also added a bit of fat and helped to thicken the sauce.
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.
Here’s What You Need
olive oil – to sauté the vegetables in. Avocado oil would also work.
yellow onion – pack in flavor right off the bat with onion!
redbell pepper – add a little bit of sweetness and a lot of flavor with a red bell pepper. Feel free to use any color bell pepper.
garlic clove – a necessary ingredient for chili… helps make the perfect savory base!
carrots – I used grated carrots for this soup to add nutrients and flavor! Feel free to use pre-grated carrots for a shortcut or you can dice up carrots.
fire-roasted tomatoes – I love the flavor that fire-roasted tomatoes adds to this chili! If you’re in a pinch you can use crushed tomatoes as well.
tomato sauce – add more tomato flavor and thicken the soup a bit with tomato sauce.
canned beans – I used cannellini beans, red kidney beans and black beans, but feel free to use your favorite combo of beans. Use canned beans for a shortcut and make sure you drain them and rinse them well before adding to the chili. Beans are our main source of protein in this vegetarian meal.
frozen sweet corn – no need to thaw the corn first, just add to the soup and it will cook as it heats. Canned corn works as well.
vegetable stock – I recommend using low-sodium vegetable broth so you can control how much salt is added.
chili pepper – add a little heat and flavor with a fresh chili pepper!
cocoa powder – enhances the flavor of the chili and adds a deep tone and a bit of richness. I promise your chili won’t taste like chocolate!
peanut butter – one of the “secret” ingredients! Make sure you grab creamy, natural peanut butter.
lime juice – another key ingredient that might be unexpected. Lime juice adds a hint of tang and makes all of the flavors and spices really pop!
seasonings and spices – chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, sea salt and black pepper.
How to Make Vegetarian Chili
This recipe can be made in one pot! You can use a Dutch oven or a large pot. Start by sautéing the onion, pepper, garlic and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the red pepper flakes, sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the vegetables don’t burn. This step makes a really flavorful base for the chili!
Add all of the remaining ingredients except the lime juice. Stir well to combine all of the flavors. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the lime juice. Serve immediately!
Can You Make This Chili in Your Slow Cooker?
I haven’t tried making this chili in my slow cooker, but I think it would turn out just fine! I would just add all the ingredients, except for the lime juice and toppings to your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours until the beans and veggies are tender and chili has thickened up. Once cooked, stir in the lime juice and serve with desired toppings!
There are so many options when it comes to chili toppings!
Quinoa or brown rice – this isn’t a topping but some like to serve chili over a grain for a more filling meal.
Greek yogurt – I like using plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for a cool, tangy topping.
Cheese – can’t go wrong with some shredded cheese! Use freshly grated cheddar for the best flavor.
Avocado – I love adding sliced avocado to my chili to add healthy fats and a creamy flavor.
Tortilla chips – add crunch and flavor with some tortilla strips or crumbles.
Fresh herbs – I love adding fresh cilantro to my chili at the end of cooking for a flavor punch!
Cheesy cauliflower nachos – pair these nachos with chili for the ultimate dinner! I’m imagining a game day spread with these two recipes… anyone else?
How to Store Leftovers
I love making a big batch of chili for meal prep (be sure to check out all of my meal prep recipes) because it stores so well! Let the chili cool slightly before storing in an airtight container. The chili will last 5-7 days when stored in the refrigerator and can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing, make sure to thaw in the fridge overnight before serving.
The best vegetarian chili recipe made with three different beans, veggies and sweet corn. It's thick and hearty, comes together quickly on the stovetop and has such a rich, robust flavor thanks to a few secret ingredients.
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 without toppingsCalories: 306kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 14gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 1480mgPotassium: 609mgFiber: 15gSugar: 13g