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Vegetarian Chili

Posted Apr 12 2011 4:17pm

Vegetarian Chili

Chili is one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways and is really hard to mess up, unless you try to get too creative with your spice combinations.  If you stick to the basics and control the amount of spice, it’s hard to go wrong.

Through the years I’ve made dozens of different kinds of chili from mild to spicy, including vegetarian chili, ground beef chili, chicken chili, turkey chili, four bean chili, white chili and even made it once with ground venison I received as a gift when living in northern Wisconsin.

It’s a great easy recipe that’s perfect for busy cooks because once you get the ingredients put together it can simmer away, mostly unattended, on the back of the stove or in a slow cooker. Then it’s ready when you are. It’s also a great make ahead dish that can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days until you need it.

Vegetarian chili has become a personal favorite recently. It’s lighter and healthier than traditional chili with meat but still deeply satisfying.

I’ve gathered my favorite vegetarian chili recipes here in one place and also included links to a few more I want to try in the future.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

This delicious vegetarian chili calls for bulgur, which gives it a chewy meat-like texture. If you’re not familiar with bulgur, it’s a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that’s been partially cooked, dried and ground and is commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. (It’s the main ingredient in  tabouli .) You can find it in health food stores and most well-stocked grocery stores.


1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons chili power
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup bulgur, preferably coarse
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 (15 ounce) cans beans (kidney, black or pinto or a combination)
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
5 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Put a large soup pot on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, cayenne, bay leaves and bulgur. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes, beans, tamari, water, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often so the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Before serving, taste and add more salt, pepper and/or cayenne if needed.

Source: Adapted from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

This is a quick vegetarian chili that is perfect for a weeknight supper. It calls for ground Chipotle chile, a powder made from ground dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. It lends both smoky flavor and spice and can be found in the spice section of most well-stocked supermarkets. (Omit it if you prefer your chili mild.)


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the sweet potato and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to get soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle (if using) and salt and cook, for 30 seconds, stirring the whole time. Add the water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the sweet potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes

Add the beans, tomatoes and lime juice and increase heat to high until the mixture comes back to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until the chili thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Source: Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

An easy and delicious recipe for vegetarian chili made in your slow cooker. This is a mild chili so if you like yours spicier, add a little more chili powder and maybe some cayenne.  This chili is good served over rice.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours
Yield: 10 servings
Best Slow Cooker Size: 3-1/2 – 4 Quart


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1/4 pound, fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 cup water
1 (14 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Put a large skillet over medium heat and add oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining fresh vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to your slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.

Source: Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time:
All day
4 servings

This version of vegetarian chili comes from my favorite food writer, Laurie Colwin , a successful fiction writer who also wrote about food and cooking. Although I usually take the easy approach, making my chili with canned beans, this deliciously easy version using a variety of dried beans is on my list of recipes to try. I first need to gather small quantities of all the beans required, which will be some work in and of itself, since it will require a trip to the natural foods store and probably the Indian market!  (She claims you don’t need to soak the beans first, which seems kinda radical for a girl like me who has always always soaked her dried beans before cooking them!)


1 cup dried  black beans
1 cup dried little red beans
1/2 cup aduki beans
1/2 cup  urad dal (tiny Indian black beans)
1 large (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large medium dried chile
1 bay leaf
Chili powder to taste
4 cups water, more as necessary

Extra virgin olive oil, for serving


Wash all the beans, drain and place them in a large soup pot. Add all the remaining ingredients (except olive oil) and stir them together until well combined. Put the pot on the stove and let them simmer as gently as possible, all day, stirring them every now and again. (Add more water if necessary.)

Adapted from Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by laurie Colwin

Links to more great vegetarian chili recipes:

Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili – 101 Cookbooks
Easy Vegetarian Chili – Happy Tummy
Ridiculously Easy Vegetarian Chili – Rachael Ray
Chunky Vegetarian Chili – My Recipes
Cook-Off Winning Veggie Chili – Whole Foods Market

Article by Martha McKinnon

Martha is a Healthy Weight Loss Coach and Cooking Coach who loves to help women stop dieting and instead discover the pleasure of happy healthy balanced eating, cooking and living. Sign up to receive her FREE Healthy Homemade Granola Bar Recipes eBooklet and future tips, techniques, ideas and easy recipes to help you live a healthier, happier more nourished life.

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