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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

The Best Vegetarian Chili EVER!

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My husband has always been a bit skeptical of vegetarian chilis.

The classic response from him when I make a vegetarian chili recipe is: *taste* *pause* “this is pretty good. but it’s not chili.”

My theory is that he responds this way because he used to eat meat (he turned vegetarian at age 15) and probably never got used to the non-meat flavor in veggie chili. I think most veggie chilis don’t have that smoky, thick, meaty consistency, which also makes it hard for chili-lovers to get on board.

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

BUT: This recipe blew my husband, the veggie-chili-skeptic, away. He no longer responded with “this isn’t chili,” but instead said “this is really good!” He even went back for seconds. It’s got the deep flavor of traditional meat chilis, but is much healthier and vegetarian friendly.

The smokiness in this dish came from a recipe I found on Kath Eats. The secret is adding a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder to the recipe, and honestly it makes a big difference. I made quite a few modifications to Kath’s recipe, and added a few other ingredients to enhance the smokiness (like smoked paprika – so good!)

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

I also served my chili with fun toppings like Greek Yogurt (tastes just like sour cream!), shredded cheese, green onions, diced tomatoes, and crushed tortilla chips.

Oh and did I mention, this is SUPER kid friendly too? Layla gobbles up this dish every time I make it, and she will be happy eating it for dinner for literally four days in a row. This recipe freezes really well too – so sometimes I’ll make a double batch and freeze half for an easy weeknight dinner when I’m in a rush!

Kitchen Tools I Used for This Recipe: 

The Ingredients

  • (1) 15oz can Kidney beans, drained and rinsed (if you like a chunkier chili, use 2 cans here)
  • (1) 15oz can Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 15oz can Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp Ghirardelli cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp (or a bit less) cayenne pepper
  • A couple splashes of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp regular paprika
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, diced tomatoes, o% Greek Yogurt (or Low Fat/Fat Free Sour Cream), tortilla chips

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

The Directions

Step 1: Chop the garlic, onion, and bell peppers. Saute lightly over medium high heat in 1-2 tsp olive oil. Meanwhile, wash the beans until all of the canning liquid is gone. 

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

Step 2: Once the veggies have sauteed for about 5 minutes, add everything else into the pot (tomatoes, beans, spices, etc.). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 min or longer as needed.

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

Step 3: Once the chili is done cooking, you can top it with anything you like: 1 Tbsp cheese, fat free sour cream or 0% greek yogurt, or tortilla chips.

The nutritional info for this chili is pretty great. This recipe makes 12 ladles of soup, and each ladle has ~150 calories, 9g protein and 10g fiber. So you could go back for seconds and even thirds, completely guilt-free! And I promise, you will feel totally full and satisfied after (the meat eaters will love it too!)

making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

The Best Vegetarian Chili EVER!

This recipe blew my husband, the veggie-chili-skeptic, away. He no longer responded with “this isn’t chili,” but instead said “this is really good!” He even went back for seconds. It’s got the deep flavor of traditional meat chilis, but is much healthier and vegetarian friendly.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 300kcal

Ingredients

  • 15 oz Kidney beans, drained and rinsed (if you like a chunkier chili, use 2 cans here) 1 can
  • 15 oz Black beans, drained and rinsed 1 can
  • 15 oz Pinto beans, drained and rinsed 1 can
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes 1 large can
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp Ghirardelli cocoa powder unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp or a bit less cayenne pepper
  • A couple splashes of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp regular paprika
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, diced tomatoes, o% Greek Yogurt (or Low Fat/Fat Free Sour Cream), tortilla chips

Instructions

  • Chop the garlic, onion, and bell peppers. Saute lightly over medium high heat in 1-2 tsp olive oil. Meanwhile, wash the beans until all of the canning liquid is gone.
  • Once the veggies have sauteed for about 5 minutes, add everything else into the pot (tomatoes, beans, spices, etc.). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 min or longer as needed.
  • Once the chili is done cooking, you can top it with anything you like: 1 Tbsp cheese, fat free sour cream or 0% greek yogurt, diced tomatoes, green onions, or tortilla chips.

Notes

Adapted from KathEats.com

Nutrition

Serving: 2ladles | Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 61.8g | Protein: 18.1g | Fat: 1.7g | Sodium: 800mg | Fiber: 20.2g | Sugar: 4.3g
making the very best vegetarian chili. quick easy healthy recipes, healthy food for picky eaters kids, healthy delicious food recipes, healthy meal ideas for kids, healthy food recipes for

Posted In…

Entrees ·

From healthy versions of favorites to cozy curries, these main courses are sure to bring some new recipes to your family’s table.

279 responses to “The Best Vegetarian Chili EVER!”

  1. I’ve been making this chili for the last few years, it’s always a hit! I want to make a freezer meal for a friend who’s getting ready to have a baby. Am I OK to freeze the ingredients uncooked (to be put in the crockpot later) or should I cook everything and then freeze? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Amber! Yay! So happy to hear this recipe has worked out so well for you! If you’re going to freeze this, I’d recommend cooking everything together and then freezing it (vs. just freezing the uncooked ingredients). It’ll taste a lot better if you cook it and then freeze. Hope that helps and congrats to your friend!

  2. I’ve tried others, but this has become my favorite chili recipe, hands down. Delicious and healthy. Even the meat eaters in my life love it. Over rice, over pasta or right out of the pot with a big spoon! 🙂
    For something really different, try adding a bit of peanut butter. It adds some fat and a few calories, but it goes really well with the already great flavor of this chili. About 1tsp or so per serving.
    Thanks Anjali!

    • Yay!! So happy to hear that Tom! Really interesting idea about the peanut butter – I’ll have to try that next time! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

  3. Hi there, just wondering – when you say chilli powder, are you referring to actual ground chillis or the chilli powder blend which contains chilli, oregano, cumin, etc.

      • Finally got around to trying the recipe. It really was the best vegetarian chilli that I’ve ever had! Thank you! I think I might add some more cumin next time though. I’d also like it a bit more spicy. What do you suggest I increase for this? More cayenne? Thanks again.

      • Yay!! So happy to hear that Joe! And yes absolutely – if you want more spice (like hot – pepper spice) – then add more cayenne and chili powder too. Hope that helps! So glad you liked this recipe!

  4. Try adding Light Life Smart Ground, leave it chunky. Use way more cocoa and ancho chili powder if you really want to rock it.

    • Thanks for the tip Rick! But actually, I wouldn’t recommend using Light Life Smart Ground because it’s a very highly processed, soy protein based “fake meat.” Take a look at the ingredients: Water, textured soy protein concentrate, soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt, wheat), less than 2% of: chicory extract (inulin), natural flavor (from plant sources), salt, barley malt extract, caramel color, evaporated cane syrup, barley malt, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, molasses, yeast extract, dried garlic, dried onions. The textured soy protein concentrate, hydrolyzed soy protein are problematic as ingredients to eat on a regular basis (I have more details on why here). But love the idea of using more cocoa and ancho chili to give it more heat! Hope that helps!

  5. I’m making this chili right now. I just tasted my first bite and WOW! So flavorful! I didn’t have any green or red peppers on hand so those didn’t make it in. I don’t have frozen corn either…so I figured I’d use canned-but then I found there was none in my cabinets! So I used a can of mixed veggies that had corn in it. I drained and rinsed it so that the liquid wouldn’t interfere with the flavor. Despite my changes it is yummy! I can’t wait to make it again with the peppers!

    • Glad this recipe worked so well for you Joy!! I’m sure you’ll love it with the peppers in it too. Thanks for letting me know! 🙂

  6. This is our go to chili. I make it often, and I always get positive comments from all ( vegetarians and meat eaters alike. I use what ever beans we have available and I used canned corn because it is usually available. Don’t like green peppers so I use all red or yellow, sometimes I even add another vegetable. It is sincerely ALWAYS a hit. Thank you for this recipe.

    • Awww yay!!! That’s so awesome to hear Chris!! Yeah you can totally mix up the veggies in this based on your preference and it should still always work 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

  7. Made this tonight and it really hits the spot!!!! Wanted to use up some tins in my pantry and this did just that and I now have 3 weeks worth of chilli in the freezer! Result

    • Woohoo! That’s awesome Phil – so happy to hear that! I love freezing this recipe – it defrosts great – you won’t even be able to tell it was frozen 🙂 Enjoy!

  8. I was so excited to find this recipe yesterday – I’m always on the look out for a good Vegetarian chili because there are so few. I made this and the cornbread today and it was amazing! The hubby loved it too! I think my can of crushed tomatoes was a little too tangy so I add 1/2 tspn more of the cocoa and that fixed that problem! And let me just say, thank you for introducing me to Trader Joe’s Cornbread! It was so delicious and the perfect pairing with this chili. I topped with avocado pieces and a little cheddar cheese. I’m going to try this in the slow cooker next time. I have finally found a veg chili recipe keeper!

    • So happy to hear that Paaru!! I’m glad you and your husband enjoyed this chili and the cornbread so much! 🙂

  9. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’ve been looking for a good vegetarian chili recipe, and this is definitely the winner. I made it in the winter and LOVED it, then froze the leftovers. The other day I reheated some, and it was just as good as the first time around!

    My favorite parts are the three types of beans (I love beans! Am I allowed to say that? Haha) and the slight spicy kick. It’s perfect! I did make one substitution based on what I had on hand: I used one 15 oz can crushed tomatoes + canned tomato paste w/ water added.

    • Awww thanks Casey!! I freeze this recipe all the time – I agree it reheats really well! 🙂 Haha I love that you love beans — I do too! They are one of my favorite ingredients because they’re hearty, healthy, full of fiber and protein and veggie friendly. Love the substitution idea too! Thanks for letting me know!

  10. Wow, this looks like a great recipe. I usually make a turkey chili but never use all these different ingredients. I’ll definitely be mixing in some of your ingredients for my next batch.

    What tool do you use to get the nutritional values? MenuCalc?

    Jose Martinez

  11. This is phenomenal! I just finished a bowl and can’t wait for future meal times 🙂 The spice level was JUST RIGHT and with some yogurt it was great.

    • Hooray!! That is so wonderful to hear, thanks for letting me know Amna! Love that you served it with yogurt too – it’s a great substitution for sour cream (which traditionally goes on chili)!

  12. This is a good recipe. I doubled the cumin, smoked paprika, and salt to enhance the flavor. It definitely could use more spiciness, so next time I’ll try adding fresh jalapenos and maybe double the chili powder and add some crushed red pepper. But otherwise a really good recipe.

    • Thanks Mona! Glad you liked this recipe. Regarding the spiciness level — everyone’s tastes are different so definitely add more spice if you need to! The heat of this recipe was perfect for us but I don’t generally love super super hot/spicy food 🙂

  13. I have never seen cocoa powder in a chili recipe, but I could see it working. Have you tried cinnamon or bay leaves? I’ve tried them before in other vegetarian chili attempts and liked them.

    • Hi Brianna! I haven’t actually tried cinnamon or bay leaves in this recipe – but I’m sure those would taste great. I’d definitely encourage you to try the cocoa powder though – it really makes this recipe great!

  14. This is without a doubt,the BEST!!!!! recipe. Thank you so much for posting this. I made this for a superbowl party and the entire meat eating crowd loved it. Thanks again for such a flavorful vegan recipe..

  15. I added a poblano and a couple serranos, as I can get them at the Puerto Rican grocery around the corner for a song. Great recipe.

  16. I found this recipe a few years ago and have since made it numerous times. It is absolutely fabulous, and I figured it was time to thank you for the post because everyone I make it for raves about it! I’m fairly certain there isn’t a soul out there who wouldn’t eat this chili.

    • Thank you so much Mary — I love that you’ve made this so many times at home! It’s so great to hear the positive feedback, so I appreciate you coming back here to let me know 🙂 Thanks again!

  17. Really Great! Showed up to a Thanksgiving get together with one picky vegetarian, and after all the leftovers were in Tupperware, the meat- eater guys kept going back for more chilli! It was a big hit, and my new favorite recipe!- Also, I doubled it, but not the onion- and I used one can of diced tomatoes along with one can of crushed. Thank you so much for the recipe- I will be e-mailing this link to everyone I know!

    • Aww that is so great to hear Rose! Thank you for letting me know! I love making a double batch of this recipe too — sometimes I’ll even freeze the leftovers and they still taste great when we eat them!

  18. I’ve made this a couple of times now and it is awesome. Only had 1 can of beans on hand but that was plenty. I added some texture and nutrition by chopping up a couple of veggie patties I wasn’t crazy about and throwing them in there. I also added some sliced mushrooms and even my carnivore husband enjoyed it served with a sprinkling of cheese, chopped avocado and sour cream, It’s going in my permanent collection. Thank you.

    • That is so great to hear! Great idea to throw some veggie burger patties in for some texture too. Thanks for letting me know Sky!

  19. This is my go-to recipe for chili. I discovered it last fall and made it at least every other week! I generally don’t add the cocoa or the soy sauce & modify it to be slightly less spicy. I also use canned corn instead of frozen, as well as sub tomato juice when I don’t have veggie broth on hand. My favorite mod is adding vegetarian mycoprotein (Quorn grounds). I did this last year & fed it to a large group of guys. I didn’t tell them that there wasn’t any meat in it until afterward. They said it was the best chili they ever had and couldn’t believe it was vegetarian! The Quorn grounds add fabulous texture indistinguishable from ground beef & boost the protein content! I make my own modifications here & there, but this is an AMAZING recipe whether you follow the instructions exactly or feel comfortable enough to make it to your own taste!

    When I make cornbread to go with, I generally use good ol’ Jiffy corn muffin mix & add some no salt added canned corn & tablespoon or so of sugar.

    Thanks so much for this recipe, Anjali! You’ve forever raised my family’s standards on Chili 😉

    • Thank you so much for sharing all of this Chelsea! I love the modifications you made – and you’re absolutely right – this recipe can totally be tweaked to suit anyone’s tastes and preferences 🙂 Thanks again – so glad you liked this recipe!!

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