Vegetarian Chili might be meatless, but it’s just as hearty, flavorful, and comforting as any other chili! It’s loaded with fresh vegetables, three kinds of beans, and of course plenty of aromatic spices. This chili will satisfy even the biggest carnivores and it’s gluten-free, vegan, and healthy!
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The first time my husband watched me make this chili, his first words were “where is the meat?” Well, this chili doesn’t have meat. Instead, it’s loaded with vegetables and beans! The look on his face was disappointed and understandably so, since he is the biggest carnivore I know. I have to trick him to eat vegetables like one of the kids!
The disappointed look on his face did go away after the first bite of this awesome chili. This dish maybe lacking in meat, but it certainly doesn’t lack in flavor and heartiness. A bowl of vegetarian chili is just as filling and comforting as a bowl of my Classic Chili.
The amazing flavor and texture of this chili lies in the perfect combination of several different vegetables, three types of beans and seasoning. It’s a perfect ratio of vegetables and and beans because neither one overpowers the other. The spices can also be customized if you want it more or less spicy, a little more smoky, and of course, more or less salty.
In my vegetable chili, I like using a combination of canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. Both ingredients add something special to the overall taste and I love the slight sweetness and freshness from the fresh tomatoes.
Beans – I enjoy using a medley of northern white beans, navy beans and black beans. You can always switch up these beans with your personal favorites, but I find that this mixture gives the best variation of textures.
Vegetable Stock – When I have a little extra time, I love using my favorite Homemade Vegetable Stock.
Celery – Always give your celery a rinse before chopping.
Onion – I find that red onions create the most bold flavor that really pops in this chili.
Bell Peppers – Red bell peppers have a subtly sweet flavor and vibrant pop of color. But you can use any color of belle peppers you love.
Garlic – It’s always best to use fresh garlic, rather than jarred minced option. I like to smash my garlic before I mince it because it releases a little more flavor.
Oil – Choose a neutral oil like olive or avocado.
Jalapeños – Scroll down to my FAQs to see howto adjust the spice level with your jalapeños.
Lime Juice – Freshly squeezed lime juice is preferred over the bottled alternative.
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Vegetarian Chili
Sauté the veggies. Preheat a Dutch oven and add some oil. Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery first until they start to soften (1). Add peppers, jalapeños, and fresh tomatoes to the pot and cook for a few minutes (2).
Add garlic. Make a little well in the middle and add the minced garlic (3). Let it sauté until fragrant and mix it all together.
Season. Sprinkle seasonings all over the veggies, mix it well, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Pour in stock, tomato sauce, beans, and canned tomatoes. Add bay leaves and mix everything very well (4).
Cook. Bring the mixture to simmer and lower the heat to low (5). Cover the pot with a lid but leave a small crack for the steam to escape. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Blend. Use a immersion blender and pulse the chili a few times. (6)
Add fresh flavor. Take out the bay leaves and mix in fresh minced cilantro and juice from 1 lime. (7)
Yes! Prepare the ingredients first and set the pressure cooker to “sauté” setting. Add some oil and sauté onions, carrots, and celery first. Once those start to soften, add all peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Sauté all the vegetables for a few minutes and mix in the seasoning.
Pour in vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and drained beans. Add bay leaves and mix everything very well.
Close the lid and make sure it’s latched, turn the valve to “seal,” and set the pressure cooker to cook on high for 10 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes to build up the pressure before it starts to cook. When it’s done, let it naturally release for 10 minutes and then carefully do a quick release. Make sure to consult your pressure cooker manual for the exact controls.
Discard bay leaves and stir in cilantro and lime juice. Pulse the chili a few times with an immersion blender to just blend some of it, not all of it.
Yes! When making vegetarian chili in a slow cooker, I like to take the extra step and sauté the vegetables first. So follow the steps to sauté the vegetables in a large pan, on the stove-top, and transfer it all into the slow cooker.
Add all remaining ingredients, mix well, and close the lid. Cook chili on LOW setting for about 6 hours or on HIGH setting for about 3 hours.
Discard bay leaves and mix in fresh cilantro and lime juice.
It’s important to keep in mind that spicy doesn’t necessarily mean flavorful! Heat level isn’t the same as flavor. With that being said, if you like your recipes to be on the spicier side, you can easily adjust the heat level in chili to best fit your tastes.
You can easily increase or decrease the spice level here by adjusting the ingredients. If you want spicier chili, use older jalapeños with more visible veins on the skin. You can also choose to leave the seeds in (that’s where a lot of the heat is). Of course, you can always swap the jalapeños with something spicier like serrano peppers.
To make the chili less spicy, choose younger jalapeños with smooth skin and get rid of the seeds. You can add less chili powder or no chili powder at all.
Properly stored, vegetarian chili will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
It’s best to store chili in an airtight container, in the refrigerator. When using a spoon or a ladle yo get a portion out, make sure it’s clean and dry.
Vegetarian chili is great to freeze for later.
Cool chili as quickly as possible if you plan to freeze it. This will give bacteria less chance to build and will help extend the shelf life of food. The best way to cool food quickly is to place the pot of chili into a larger container filled with ice and make sure to stir it from time to time as it cools.
Once it’s cooled, portion it into zip-lock freezer bags, let all the air out, and close it tight. Remember to label and date. Lay the bags flat on the cutting board and freeze. Once frozen, it will be easy to stack bags of chili. Freeze for up to 2 months.
To thaw, take the bag out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to slow-thaw it overnight. Note, place the bag into a large plate to catch condensation liquids.
Best Toppings for Vegetarian Chili
- Sliced avocado
- Shredded cheese (substitute vegan if needed)
- Extra squeeze of lime juice
- Sour cream (substitute vegan if needed)
- Tortilla strips (check the label to see which ones are gluten free)
- Diced fresh vegetables like: onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, or green onions
Best Ways to Serve Chili
There are so many ways to enjoy this vegetarian chili recipe!
- Chili is great with bread, like potato dinner rolls. Serve it with a side of cornbread, like Buttermilk Cornbread or Jalapeño Cornbread. It’s also great with Buttermilk Biscuits and Jalapeño Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits.
- Turn this chili into a dip by serving it with tortilla chips, crackers or veggies!
- Serve turkey chili as a topping for nachos, tacos, eggs, baked potatoes and/or fries.
- Serve it over macaroni or other pasta.
More of the Best Easy Chili Recipes
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Vegetarian Chili Recipe
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 red onion
- 2 large carrots
- 3 celery ribs
- 2 tomatoes on a vine
- 2 bell peppers
- 1-2 jalapenos
- 6 garlic cloves
- 14.5 oz canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 15 oz can pinto beans
- 15 oz can black beans
- 15 oz can northern white beans or cannelini beans
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder (more or less according to personal taste)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 1/2 tsp white granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt more or less to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
- 1 lime – juice
- Prepare ingredients ahead of time: dice the vegetables, measure stock and seasoning, and open all the cans, and drain the juices off the beans.
- Preheat a Dutch oven over medium heat and saute onions, carrots, and celery first until it starts to soften.
- Add peppers, jalapenos, and fresh tomatoes to the pot and cook for a few minutes.
- Make a little well in the middle and add pressed (or minced) garlic. Let it saute until fragrant and mix it all together.
- Sprinkle seasoning over the veggies, mix it well, and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Pour in stock, tomato sauce, beans, and canned tomatoes. Add bay leaves and mix everything very well.
- Bring the mixture to simmer and lower the heat to low. Cover the pot with a lid but leave a small crack for the steam to escape.
- Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take out the bay leaves and mix in fresh minced cilantro and juice from 1 lime.
- Use a immersion blender and pulse the chili a few times. This will blend some of the beans and vegetables for a better, thicker texture. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can take out about half the chili, pulse it in a food processor, and return blended chili into the pot with the rest of it.)
- Storing: store cooled cooked chili in the refrigerator, in the pot with an air-tight lid or in an air-tight food storage container. Properly stored, vegetarian chili will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
- Freezing: Cool chili as quickly as possible if you plan to freeze it. This will give bacteria less chance to build and will help extend the shelf life of food. The best way to cool food quickly is to place the pot of chili into a larger container filled with ice and make sure to stir it from time to time as it cools. Once it’s cooled, portion it into zip-lock freezer bags, let all the air out, and close it tight. Remember to label and date. Lay the bags flat on the cutting board and freeze. Once frozen, it will be easy to stack bags of chili.
- To thaw, take the bag out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to slow-thaw it overnight.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles in January, 2020.