Easy Vegetarian Chili

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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.

An overhead shot of a bowl of vegetarian chili, topped with avocado, shredded cheese, and a lime wedge.

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.

Ingredients measured out to make vegetarian chili like beans, spices, veggies, peanut butter, cocoa powder and veggie broth.

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!
  • red bell 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.
Collage showing the process on how to make vegetarian chili: sauteing veggies, adding corn and beans and broth.

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!

Two bowls of chili topped with avocado, lime wedge, and shredded cheese. A bunch of cilantro and some lime wedges are scattered around the bowls.

Chili 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!

What to Serve with Chili

Overhead shot of a bowl of chili topped with avocado slices, cheese, and a lime wedge. A silver spoon rests inside the bowl. There are lime wedges and a bunch of cilantro around the bowl.

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.

More Vegetarian Soups & Stews

Be sure to check out all of the soup recipes here on EBF!

Easy Vegetarian Chili

4 from 21 votes
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.
Overhead shot of a bowl of chili topped with avocado slices, cheese, and a lime wedge. A silver spoon rests inside the bowl. There are lime wedges and a bunch of cilantro around the bowl.
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ 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 ounce can can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
  • 1 8 ounce can can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 ounce can can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 ounce can can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 1 ½-2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 chili pepper, halved, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • ½ 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.
    Seasonings were added and mixed into the shredded carrots and vegetables. A wooden spoon rests in the pot.
  • 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.
    Vegetable broth is being poured from a measuring cup into the pot of chili.
  • The chili can be served over brown rice or quinoa and topped with cheese or greek yogurt for a hearty variation.
    Ingredients for vegetarian chili mixed together in a pot with a wooden spoon.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of recipe without toppings Calories: 306kcal Carbohydrates: 50g Protein: 14g Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 1g Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g Sodium: 1480mg Potassium: 609mg Fiber: 15g Sugar: 13g
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegetarian chili

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    58 comments
    1. Sarah
      October 27, 2021 AT 7:22 pm

      5 stars
      Best vegetarian chili recipe I’ve made so far! Just the right amount of heat and spice and it’s very filling. Subbed almond butter for the peanut butter and it turned out great!

    2. 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!

    3. 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!

    4. 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!

    5. 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.

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