It’s freezing cold outside, and has been for days. All I want to eat is cozy comfort food like this vegetarian chili recipe. It’s my favorite, and leftovers taste even better the next day.
This chili is 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. This chili will satisfy everyone.
I originally published this recipe four years ago. Since then, it’s become your favorite chili recipe as well (four-hundred reviews and counting).
I’ve cheered when you’ve told me that it won your chili competition, and love hearing that it’s become a staple recipe in your kitchen. Hooray!
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 sherry vinegar (or lime juice) and fresh cilantro makes it taste vibrant and fresh. The vinegar offers a little acidity and complexity, and it makes all the difference.
Watch how to make vegetarian chili
This chili is dairy free and vegan as written. You can keep it that way be choosing vegan toppings like sliced avocado and tortilla chips.
Here’s a full list of options:
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Sour cream or crème fraîche
- Sliced or diced avocado
- Tortilla chips (crumbled if desired)
- Additional cilantro
- Lime wedges
This chili makes great leftovers that keep well for four days in the refrigerator. Reheat your chili in a bowl and it’s good to go.
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 hearty soup recipes in my cookbook.
Homemade Vegetarian Chili
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 40 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- Category: Chili
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
The smoky, complex flavor of this simple vegetarian chili comes from basic pantry ingredients, vegetables and spices! It makes great leftovers, too. Recipe yields 4 large or 6 moderate servings of chili.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin 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 of the salt. Stir to combine and 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 the heat.
- For the best texture and flavor, transfer 1 ½ cups of the chili to a blender, making sure to get some of the liquid portion. 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 or you can freeze it for longer-term storage.
Make it vegan/dairy free: This chili recipe is vegan as written. Just be sure to choose vegan/dairy free toppings, such as avocado and tortilla chips.
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!