Easy Vegetarian Chili
Published Nov 11, 2023
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The best vegetarian chili recipe made with three different beans, veggies and lots of spices. It’s thick and hearty, comes together quickly and has such a rich, robust flavor thanks to a few secret ingredients.
Are you ready for the best vegetarian chili recipe?!
This recipe has a base of onion and garlic, three different beans, corn, seasonings and two secret (but not-so-secret now) ingredients.
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.
- 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. Pinto beans would be another great option. 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. If you have a peanut allergy feel free to use almond butter or sunflower seed butter instead.
- 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. Here’s how to make it:
Step 1: Start by sautéing the onion, pepper, garlic and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
Step 2: 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!
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: Remove from the heat and squeeze in the lime juice. Serve immediately!
- Adjust to taste: Everyone prefers different levels of spice and sodium, so feel free to adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Make kid-friendly: If you’re serving this chili to kiddos I recommend skipping the red chili flakes and chili pepper.
- Let chili rest: Let the chili sit for a while after cooking as it allows the flavors to meld together even better.
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!
- Greek yogurt: I like using plain full fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for a cool, tangy topping, but sour cream is a great option as well.
- Shredded cheese: Can’t go wrong with shredded cheese like cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese. Use freshly grated cheddar for the best flavor. Of course you can skip the cheese or use a dairy-free option to keep this as a vegan chili
- Nutritional yeast: A great option for anybody who wants a cheesy flavor without the dairy.
- Avocado: I love adding sliced avocado to my chili for some healthy fats.
- Tortilla chips: Adds some crunch and can be used to scoop up chili!
- Fresh herbs: Parsley and cilantro would be my top choices for fresh herbs.
- Peppers: If you’re looking to add some heat you could top your chili with sliced jalapeno peppers.
- Onions: Chopped fresh yellow onion or green onions add great flavor as a topping.
- Lime juice: Serve your bowl of chili with a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brighten up the dish.
What to Serve with Chili
This chili is hearty enough to be enjoyed as a meal on its own, but it’s also delicious served with some sides. Here are some serving ideas:
- Over grains – if you want more volume, you can serve this chili over quinoa or brown rice. I find that when I serve over a grain, I need less chili overall to feel full. You could also add cauliflower rice for more veggies.
- With bread – I love eating chili with my pumpkin cornbread muffins or vegan cornbread. It’s also delicious served with crusty bread (like sourdough bread), crackers (I love my almond flour crackers) or even tortilla chips.
- Alongside a salad – add some fresh veggies with a side salad. I have a ton of salad recipes to choose from, but something light and fresh like this garlicky kale salad or spinach salad would be perfect.
How to Store Leftovers
I love making a big batch of chili for meal prep 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. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. If storing in the freezer, make sure to thaw in the fridge overnight before serving.
You can reheat in a pot on the stove over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes if you’re in a rush.
More Chili Recipes to Try
- Turkey Chili
- White Bean Chicken Chili
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
- Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili
- Vegetarian Green Chili
- No-Bean Chili (Beef Chili)
More Soup Recipes to Try
- Vegetable Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- Vegan Lentil Soup
- Chicken Fajita Soup
- Chicken Wild Rice Soup
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Taco Soup
Be sure to check out all of the soup recipes here on EBF!
Easy Vegetarian Chili
- 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, to taste
- 1 28 ounce can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
- 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15 ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15 ounce 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
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.