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. 

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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.

Easy Vegetarian Chili

  • Author: Brittany Mullins
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6
  • Diet: Vegetarian


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. 


  • 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
  • 128 oz can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
  • 18 oz can tomato sauce
  • 115 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 115 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 115 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The chili can be served over brown rice or quinoa and topped with cheese or greek yogurt for a hearty variation.

  • Category: Lunch/Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
  • Calories: 363
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 59g
  • Fiber: 16g
  • Protein: 19g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: vegetarian chili

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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    1. Crystal
      October 20, 2020 AT 10:10 pm

      I made this recipe tonight. I could not add the nut butter due to allergies but it is still just amazing! Robust flavor and very filling! Will make again 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 21, 2020 AT 9:07 pm

        Woo! So glad this chili was a hit. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it, Crystal.

    2. Shelly L.
      January 5, 2020 AT 9:44 pm

      We loved this! Thank you!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 6, 2020 AT 11:27 am

        Woot woot! I’m so glad you loved this chili recipe. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and star rating. It means the world to me. <3

    3. Amy
      January 5, 2019 AT 7:05 pm

      This is now my go-to recipe any time I make chili! I’d like to attempt it in the crock pot. Do you have any suggestions for adapting the recipe to the slow cooker?

    4. Mary Legan
      November 11, 2018 AT 7:54 pm

      Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of ingredients. This delicious chili is easy to make and has a wonderful depth of flavor. The best part is you will have leftovers for lunch tomorrow as well as a future dinner in the freezer.

    5. Elizabeth Calabrese
      February 4, 2017 AT 5:34 am

      Can’t wait to make this!! Planning to use a slow cooker though – any thoughts on that? Maybe 6 hours on low? Thanks!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 4, 2017 AT 10:56 am

        Yay!! I think 4-6 hours on low is perfect. Enjoy!

    6. Megan
      October 12, 2014 AT 5:22 pm

      Just made a batch — delicious! I added a bit of cinnamon too.

    7. Jools
      January 19, 2014 AT 4:28 pm

      Just tried this out and it’s amazing! Thanks very much for posting – it would never have occurred to me to put peanut butter in it!


    8. Laura @ This is Thirty
      January 5, 2014 AT 10:34 am

      This sounds amazing! I’ve been perusing veg chili recipes all morning, and this is the most unique recipe yet! Adding it to my list!

    9. Jett Whitfield
      October 18, 2013 AT 7:47 am

      Oh my gosh – and I was going to make some kind of veggie soup this weekend! Perfect! AND the peanut butter too?? OH yessss!

    10. Jo Craven
      October 17, 2013 AT 7:36 am

      Oh wow this look so good. I am so making this for dinner this week. I especially love that it’s all veggies! Best of all is there will be left overs so can freeze some for another day.

    11. lauren
      October 14, 2013 AT 10:16 am

      Made this last night and everyone raved. It was delicious! Thank you!

    12. Brandy
      October 10, 2013 AT 9:51 pm

      I just made this with Jason’s honey almond butter with a side of vegan corn muffins and it was amazing! The nut butter, cocoa and lime were new ingredients for me and you’re right, the flavors are undetectable but really add a nice richness and kick – thanks so much for the recipe!

    13. Josiah
      October 10, 2013 AT 1:11 am

      I just made this and it was fantastic! Delicious, best chili ever, you don’t miss the meat at all! I’ve always preferred meatless chili anyways, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

    14. char eats greens
      October 7, 2013 AT 7:55 am

      PB DOES make everything taste better…you’re right! Will have to try this 🙂

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 7, 2013 AT 8:14 am

        So true! Let me know what you think if you try it. 🙂

    15. Jenni
      October 6, 2013 AT 3:34 pm

      I just made this for football Sunday…can’t taste the peanut butter at all and honestly the chili tasted pretty amazing! Everyone in my house was happy with it :). Thanks for another wonderful recipe!!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 7, 2013 AT 8:14 am

        Woo-hoo! I’m so glad that you tried the recipe and enjoyed it Jenni. Thanks for posting the photo to instagram as well. 🙂

    16. elle | nutritionella
      October 3, 2013 AT 12:03 am

      Peanut butter makes the world go round. I’ll have to try adding it to my chili next time. Looks amazing!

    17. taylor @ taylormade
      October 2, 2013 AT 6:55 am

      peanut butter… how interesting! that actually sounds delicious — I have to try it! I think I’ll add it to my meat version of chile though 😀

    18. natalie@thesweetslife
      October 1, 2013 AT 10:04 pm

      i absolutely love the sound of this!

    19. Liz @ I Heart Vegetables
      October 1, 2013 AT 6:55 am

      I’ve never though of adding nut butter to chili but it totally makes sense that it would add that fatty depth of flavor. I’m totally trying this! Vegetarian chili is a staple over here in the fall 😉

    20. Whitney @ To Live & Diet in L.A.
      September 30, 2013 AT 11:25 pm

      I must say I was immediately skeptical of peanut butter chili! But given my obsession with peanut butter and your track record of incredible recipes, I’m going to try this out!

    21. Synthia
      September 30, 2013 AT 9:31 pm

      I love your creativity!!! im allergic to peanut butter (sad i know) but sunbutter will work just as well! i love trying “weird” food combos.. thanks!!!!

    22. Ruthie@sheswickedhealthy
      September 30, 2013 AT 6:16 pm

      I am totally on board with your PB philosophy – it DOES make everything taste better. I have never tried it in chili though and I can’t wait! Thanks!

    23. Chelsea @ BigBitesLittleBudget
      September 30, 2013 AT 2:53 pm

      Peanut butter and chili! Could it get any better than that? This looks so tasty and with the cooler weather, I have been craving a warm bowl of chili.

    24. Purelytwins
      September 30, 2013 AT 2:52 pm

      amazing combo of flavors!! pinning this for later to try when the weather gets cooler

    25. Parita @ myinnershakti
      September 30, 2013 AT 2:48 pm

      Definitely making this soon! Love the addtion of cocoa and PB – two of my favorite things.

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