Greetings from a winter wonderland. Little icicles line the rooftops and the trees are encased in thick layers of dazzling ice. I’m warm and cozy inside with my family here in central Oklahoma.
We can’t be the only ones who are avoiding the grocery stores today, so I thought I’d share my new favorite vegetarian chili recipe. It’s perfect for watching football games with a crowd, since it’s a hearty meatless option that carnivores will enjoy. Plus, it can be vegan and gluten free if you choose your toppings carefully.
How to Make the Best Vegetarian Chili
While the ingredients in this chili recipe are super basic, the flavor is anything but. Simple ingredients can taste exceptional when they start off with aromatics like onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
Add traditional chili spices and some smoked paprika for an extra-savory, smoky note. Canned beans and tomatoes contribute delicious plant-based protein and heft.
Blending a small portion of the chili makes it look and taste like a chili that has been cooking all morning long, but it only needs about 30 minutes of simmering. That’s a little trick that I learned from my lentil soup, which is another cozy option for cold days.
Finishing off the chili with a little splash of vinegar and fresh cilantro will make it taste super fresh.
Lastly, add any toppings you’d like! This chili is vegan as written, and you can keep it that way be choosing vegan toppings like sliced avocado and tortilla chips. Vegetarian options include grated cheddar cheese, sour cream or crème fraîche.
Please let me know how this chili turns out for you in the comments! I always love to hear from you.
Stay warm out there, and if you love this hearty soup, be sure to check out the eight soup recipes in my cookbook!
Watch how to make vegetarian chili
Homemade Vegetarian Chili
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 40 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- Category: Chili
- Cuisine: American
The smoky, complex flavor of this simple vegetarian chili comes from basic pantry ingredients, vegetables and spices! It makes great leftovers, too. This chili recipe is gluten free as written (just be sure your garnishes are also gluten free), and vegan (unless you top it with dairy products like sour cream or cheese). Recipe yields 4 large or 6 moderate servings of chili.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder*
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika*
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large can (28 ounces) or 2 small cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes**, with their juices
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar or lime juice, to taste
- Garnishes: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream or crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese, etc.
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the drained black beans and pinto beans, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. Remove the chili from heat.
- For the best texture and flavor, transfer 1 ½ cups of the chili to a blender, securely fasten the lid and blend until smooth (watch out for hot steam), then pour the blended mixture back into the pot. (Or, you can blend the chili briefly with an immersion blender, or mash the chili with a potato masher until it reaches a thicker, more chili-like consistency.)
- Add the chopped cilantro, stir to blend, and then mix in the vinegar, to taste. Add salt to taste, too—I added ¼ teaspoon more at this point. Divide the mixture into individual bowls and serve with garnishes of your choice. This chili will keep well in the refrigerator for about 4 days (I haven’t tried, but I bet it would freeze well, too).
Recipes consulted during the making of this recipe: vegetarian chili with winter vegetables (The New York Times), vegetarian chili (Saveur) and winter vegetable chili (Food and Wine).
If you love this recipe: You’ll also love my butternut squash chipotle chili and sweet potato chili. You might also enjoy my hearty lentil soup and black bean soup.
*Spice note: If you are sensitive to spice or using particularly potent spices (I hear that chili powder purchased outside of the U.S. can be very hot), you might want to scale back on the spice here. Start with half of the amounts listed and add more to taste. That said, I enjoy spicy food and found this chili to be well-balanced as written.
**Canned tomatoes note: I recommend Muir Glen brand—they have the best flavor and their cans are BPA-free!