33 In Main Courses/ Soups

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

Slow-Cooked Black Bean Chili

When I first got into food, I started reading food blogs incessantly. And by reading, I mean looking at the gorgeous photographs and wondering how real life people had the time to make so many different recipes and take professional-looking photos of them.

Years later, after taking countless photographs of what we’d made in the kitchen, Alex and I decided to start our own food blog, mainly because our personal blog at the time had become full of pictures of food. But I still didn’t really “read” anything on written on other food blogs – I just gawked at the photographs and referenced the ideas for inspiration. What I wrote in the early days was a short, enthusiastic quick blurb about my discovery of a new food.

After a few years of maintaining a blog, I finally started reading the words on other blogs – and found a great insight into the lives, philosophies, and dreams of beautiful people around the globe. I realized these food bloggers wrote not just about the food, but life.

In the beginning, we disliked writing much about our lives because we wanted it to be all about the food. And that’s partially true – the reason we love to blog is because we love to share recipes rather than write a personal journal. But we’ve realized that food and life are so intricately intertwined that it’s hard to see one without the other. Food is about people – the people who make it, and those who enjoy it. That said, we’re looking forward this year to sharing more about life, food, and everything in between.

Slow-Cooked Black Bean Chili

Now, none of this was related to chili. In my old days of blog writing, I would have skipped to the good part: the part where the author talked about whether the chili was good.

Yes, the chili was quite good, actually.  It was “commissioned” by a good friend of ours who wondered whether we had any good vegetarian slow-cooker / crock pot recipes. Turns out we didn’t. We developed this vegetarian slow cooker black bean chili, which uses dried black beans, something we always want to use more of. I love it with a healthy dose of hot sauce. And the mushrooms add a nice savory note (though you could leave them out if you are not a mushroom fan).

Does anyone have any great other vegetarian / meatless slow cooker ideas? We’d love to hear them. And thanks to all of you who read the words written here. We love hearing from you and knowing you are reading (though we’ll admit, we wouldn’t write if it weren’t for the recipes)!

Some of our favorite blog writers
Sprouted Kitchen
Turntable Kitchen
Food Loves Writing
The Vanilla Bean Blog
Eat This Poem

Slow-Cooked Black Bean Chili
Serves: About 8
What You Need
  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound baby portabella mushrooms
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (for garnish)
  • 3 green onions (for garnish)
  • Sour cream (for garnish)
What To Do
  1. The night before making the chili, rinse and cover the black beans with water in a bowl. Soak overnight at room temperature.
  2. Prepare the fresh ingredients (this can be done early and kept in the refrigerator): Dice 3 medium onions, mince 3 cloves garlic, and slice 1 pound of mushrooms.
  3. Saute the vegetables (can be done early, or directly before on the day of making): On the stove, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Stir in 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder, ½ tablespoon chipotle powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Saute for 5 minutes until the onions are tender.
  4. About 10 hours before serving, discard the liquid on the beans and place the beans in a large slow cooker.
  5. Transfer the onion and mushroom mixture to the slow cooker with the beans. Cover with 1 quart vegetable broth and 28-ounces of crushed tomatoes. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with cheese, green onions, and sour cream.

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  • Reply
    January 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Yes! I couldn’t agree more. I find so much pleasure in good food—but I find inspiration and challenge and likemindedness from the talented, fascinating bloggers who write about it, including you guys! Glad this blog world brought you into our lives and glad we get to peek into your story over here, at your table and in your paragraphs. It’s such a pleasure.

    And love all the blogs you mentioned, too! Honored to be listed next to them.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      Thanks, Shanna! You’re one of those who has helped us see that writing about food can be more than just about whether it tastes good! While we write mainly to highlight the recipes, we love the way you bring themes into your food writing about more than just the food. Thanks for being an inspiration! And such a pleasure to meet you in real life as well :)

  • Reply
    janet @ the taste space
    January 27, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    My foray into blogging parallels your course. Life is completely intertwined within my food and recipes and now I could not imagine blogging without sharing my personal life. I also don’t always have the time for perfect photos, so I hope the stories and description of the delicious food compensates. I don’t have a slow-cooker but I imagine most one-pot soups and stews could be easily converted into such a recipe.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      I love what you said about life being completely intertwined with food – it’s hard to know where one stops and the other begins! Yes, I believe this recipe could easily be converted to a stove-top recipe. I would cook the black beans separately (or use canned), and then follow the remainder of the recipe, but once everything is added, simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes until everything is cooked through and the flavors have melded well.

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    January 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    This looks fabulous! My slow cooker hasn’t been on in a while and needs something comforting. Great recipe!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks, Katrina! Let us know if you have other ideas for comforting crock pot recipes — we’re in the mood too!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    This post is so insightful. As a beginner blogger, I’m all about the food. The most important part for me is taking a good picture and what I say with the post is always an afterthought. There is so much truth behind your words, food is universal, it’s the one thing that brings people together on a daily basis and that is something worth talking/reading about! Thank you.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Yes! We used to feel the same way about words being an afterthought. I actually didn’t think anyone read them (since I didn’t, haha!). Thanks for reading, and best of luck on continuing to hone your blogging style!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Oh I so agree with you. The blogs I return to time and time again are the ones which teach me something. They bring the food alive by giving it context and allow me a peek into their lives and I always feel enriched after a visit. Just like I do here. Thank you, both of you, for this space that you have created.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      Thank you, Kathryn! That is so nice of you to say. Thank you so much for reading and being so supportive!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I love making black bean chili in the winter. Never added mushrooms though — will have to try that! Thanks for mentioning Eat This Poem — I’m in wonderful company!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      You are welcome, Nicole! We love what you’ve been doing in that space and how you’ve been able to combine your passions in a beautiful way.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    wow, thanks for including us! I’m flattered. I always return to the blogs that give a bit more of themselves in the writing. I don’t really need to hear about the recipe too much – I see it and I want your two cents, but I like to see a PERSON behind the food! That’s what is so neat about this big community we have, there are so many great people. Love visiting your site. The chili looks great!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Thank you so much, Sara! You (and Hugh!) are a huge source of inspiration for us, not only in your words but beautiful recipes, photographs, and truly generous spirit. Thank you for your support!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Hooray for foodblogs! I had a hard time starting to really get involved, but now? It’s like all those cliches about being part of a community, sharing your interests, and getting inspiration actually mean something! Strange but true. And, of course, that chili looks perfect for the chill. And now that looks like I was trying to make a pun but failed miserably. Oh well. :)

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Agreed! I love what you said about cliches becoming true. This experience blogging has been full of that — forming real relationships and finding some of the most generous and inspiring people I’ve ever met. It’s a 100% true statement, no matter how cliched it sounds :)

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks so much, Sonja and Alex. I am so flattered to be on your list! And, your chili looks lovely. I love black beans, Mmm.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      You are full of inspiration for us, friend! Thank you for doing what you do so beautifully.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    It’s so true Sonja, the food is the “hook”, but it’s everything else that I think makes food blogs so compelling for me. I first found you guys after reading about your cookbook. Your trip to Cambodia and the stories you told about it revealed so much about what amazing people you both are, and I now come back for both your beautiful food AND to hear about you!

    • Reply
      January 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      What a nice thing to say, Jess – thank you so much! That means a lot. Writing about Cambodia is one of the first more personal things we wrote about in this space. It was hard both because of its personal nature and the difficulty of some of the issues there. It was wonderful to feel supported by a community during that time — thank you for reading along and for all your support!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Look so yummy, but I’m just not into mushrooms – got any ideas for a good substitute?

  • Reply
    anna maria
    January 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Loved reading this post – I totally agree that a food blog is so much more than just the food and have loved reading yours :) Have you read “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler? I just finished it and absolutely loved it – so much more than a cookbook, it was like reading a philosophy of food and cooking, and even a way to live – simply and purposefully. I highly recommend it. Will have to try this chili sometime soon :)

    • Reply
      January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

      An Everlasting Meal is on my nightstand right now… I love how she can devote so much to just the idea of boiling water :)

  • Reply
    January 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Stumbled across your blog today and I love it! This black bean chili sounds amazing! I can’t wait to make it. My hubby and I are big fans of black beans.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Thank you, and thanks for stopping by! Glad to meet you and let us know if you try it out!

  • Reply
    February 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hello! I just discovered your blog yesterday. This black bean chili recipe looks fantastic. I do occasionally neglect my slow cooker (it spends most of its days towards the back of my small appliance storage closet) but occasionally I re-discover it’s usefulness. Coming home to the delicious smells of a meal that is waiting for you never gets old! I wanted to share a chili recipe with you that I have been making for years. This Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili comes from Robin Robertson’s cookbook entitled, “Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker”.


    1 Tbsp olive oil
    1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 Tbsp (or more!) chili powder
    1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
    one 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
    one 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 1/2 c. water (or veggie broth)
    1 Tbsp minced canned chipolte chiles in adobo sauce, or to taste

    1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to coat with spices.

    2. Transfer the mixture into a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans, and water (or veggie broth), season with salt, cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

    3. When ready to serve, stir the chipotles into the chili. Taste to adjust the seasonings.

    I sometimes substitute a can of chopped green chilis in place of the chipotle chiles in adobo. I serve this with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of chopped green onions. It goes great with corn bread. Enjoy!

    • Reply
      February 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Wow, this sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful recipe idea :) And thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I made this yesterday and it was extremely lacking in flavor. That is probably because the mushrooms, onions, and beans really start to take on the flavors of the other food cooking with them and they were just cooking with each other so it tasted bland and sweet. I used fire roasted tomatoes to help add a kick, and then I added in basil, oregano, parsley, and even more chipotle and chili powder. After adding in the extra spices and herbs and a good bit of salt (after the beans had cooked) it tasted great.

    • Reply
      July 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Sorry the flavor was a bit off — glad you were able to amp it up!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Love this recipe! Cant wait to make it . I love it when I can find a healthy inexpensive meal that will stretch. One question, my husband hates mushrooms (weirdo, I know)…can you think of any substitutions for the mushrooms that would go well in the chili? Thanks for the recipe and help!!

  • Reply
    November 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Would you recommend freezing half of the recipe? Or would it just be easier to cut the recipe in half? Love this blog by the way. It has made my transition into being a vegetarian so much more enjoyable.

    • Reply
      November 4, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Dalia — yes, this recipe freezes well! Thank you so much for the kind words!

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    Happy Cooking! ~ Sonja & Alex