Classic Vegetarian Chili

Classic vegetarian chili recipe

A standard in the vegetarian/vegan repertoire, this variety of chili consists of beans and vegetables in a spiced tomato base. It’s great for everyday meals as well as casual company dinners. It’s especially welcome when the nippy days of late fall arrive. This mildly spiced chili is good in its basic form, or try the variations for spicing it up and embellishing it. Leftovers are great for thermos lunches. Perfect paired with Green Chili Cornbread or Vegan Cornbread. Adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. Photos by Lori Maffei.

Serves: 6 to 8

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked pinto or pink beans (about 1 2/3 cups raw,
    or two 16-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1 to 2 fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and minced, or
    4-ounce can mild or hot chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons good-quality chili powder, more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until the onion is golden.

Add the remaining ingredients except the salt. Simmer gently, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the consistency seems too dense, add 1/2 cup of water at a time, until the consistency is just the way you like it (though let it stay nice and thick!).

Season gently with salt and adjust the other seasonings. If time allows, let stand for an hour or so off the heat, then heat through as needed before serving. Serve in bowls.

Vegan chili recipe

Variations and additions:

  • For a spicier chili, add one or two seeded and minced jalapeño or other chili peppers or jarred sliced jalapeños to taste. Let the chili simmer for 5 minutes or so after adding the jalapenos. You may want to set aside the portions of those who want to keep their chili mild.
  • Pass around a bowl of grated Cheddar-style nondairy cheese for topping individual portions.
  • If you’d like a textured chili without the “meaty” sensation, add 1 cup or so cooked quinoa, bulgur, or whole-grain couscous.

Here are more bean stews and chilies.


6 Responses to “Classic Vegetarian Chili”

  1. [...] in the fridge or freezer. This week I decided on vegetarian chili. I found this recipe off of It is delicious and I don’t miss the meat in it at all. I made a few changes to it to fit my [...]

  2. Brandie says:

    Sounds good! Just wondering if a liquid was omitted bc it seems really thick – more so than normal chili. I ended up putting water in it

  3. Nava says:

    Brandie, there are always varying factors involved, like the amount of liquid in the tomatoes, how much heat is applied, etc. I like my chili really thick, but I’ll put a note at the end of the recipe that if a less dense consistency is desired, the cook can add a bit of water, as you did. Thanks for your input!

  4. Brandie says:

    Yes- this recipe calls for crushed tomatoes. It smells really good- cant wait to dig in :)

  5. Brandie says:

    Thank you!! This recipe is really good – added a about a half cup of water and a bit more spices to make up for the water being added.

    Will be making this again :)

  6. Nava says:

    Glad you liked it, Brandie, and thanks again for your feedback.

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