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This vegetarian chili recipe is a family favorite everyone loves! It has the best flavor and is so easy to whip up.

Vegetarian Chili recipe

When the air gets a certain chill, there’s a recipe we make on repeat: this Vegetarian Chili! In fact, we’ve made it so often for friends and family, they always request that we make “the chili!” It’s bursting with hearty, smoky flavor, with a savory tomato base loaded with two types of beans, corn, and quinoa. The best part is that it’s beyond simple to whip up: essentially a “dump and stir” recipe! Add cornbread and you’ve got a simple, comforting meal where no one will miss the meat.

Ingredients in this vegetarian chili recipe

Why make this vegetarian chili? Well, a great vegetarian chili goes beyond bean soup. It’s hard to replicate the heartiness of that signature flavor without using meat. But this recipe uses a combination of “secret” ingredients to bring a savory, salty umami: ketchup, mustard, and butter lend a richness and intensity to the flavor. Stirring in smoked paprika at the end adds an irresistible smokiness (it’s our secret weapon when it comes to plant-based dishes).

The recipe was originally inspired by open-fire cooking: we first made it in a pot over an open fire in our backyard! Because of that, it’s seriously easy to put together, a combination of great ingredients that bring massive flavor with little effort. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Onion and garlic
  • Olive oil and butter
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Canned fire roasted tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce, vegan (or omit)
  • Chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt
Vegetarian chili

It’s all in the tomatoes

One other flavor secret to vegetarian chili? It’s all in the tomatoes! You can make this vegetarian chili recipe with any type of canned tomato, but the best option is fire roasted tomatoes. This type of tomato is roasted over an open flame, which infuses a sweet and smoky flavor to the tomatoes. They taste better than standard canned tomato, which can taste flat and bitter.

Can’t find fire roasted tomatoes? San Marzano tomatoes can work in a pinch: this Italian type of tomato has a sweeter flavor right out of the can too. Or, simply use the best canned tomatoes you can find.

Toppings for vegetarian chili

One of the best parts of a vegetarian chili recipe is loading it up with toppings! Once you’ve whipped up a big, steaming pot on the stovetop, assemble your toppings of choice. Here are a few of our favorite options:

  • Shredded cheese: Try cheddar, Mexican blend or Monterrey Jack.
  • Sour cream: it’s required, in our opinion! For vegan, use Cashew Cream or Vegan Queso.
  • Green onion: Onion adds just the right savory flair.
  • Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds an herby nuance.
  • Hot sauce: Try a Mexican hot sauce like Cholula.
  • Crushed tortilla chips: Add a crunch with crushed tortilla chips.
  • Roasted pepitas: Pumpkin seeds also add a salty crunch.
  • Pickled onions: Make a jar of quick pickled onions in advance; they add bright color and tangy flavor to chili.
  • Pickled peppers: Try pickled jalapeños for a kick!
Stirring chili

Variation: make it vegan!

Want to make this vegetarian chili into a vegan chili? Simple use vegan butter or refined coconut oil in place of the butter. Either way, these ingredients add richness and fat, which is important in making a meatless chili taste satisfying. For the topping, use Cashew Cream instead of sour cream.

Sides to serve with chili

Turn this vegetarian chili recipe into a meal by adding a few simple side dishes! Cornbread is an obvious pair with this hearty stew, but there are lots of other options and ideas. Here are some sides to serve with chili:

Vegetarian chili

Make ahead and storage info

This vegetarian chili works great as a make ahead recipe for meal prep. However, keep in mind that the chili becomes very thick when refrigerated, so reheat on the stovetop and stir in a little extra water, then taste and add additional salt if necessary until the flavor pops. 

Leftovers store for up to 3 days refrigerated. They also freeze well: place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.

More chili recipes

This vegetarian chili is a family favorite that’s a delicious meatless dinner idea. Here are a few more chili recipes you might enjoy, many of them meatless:

This vegetarian chili recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili Recipe


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Description

This vegetarian chili recipe is the best: loaded with hearty flavor and good-for-you ingredients! Even better, it’s quick and easy.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (or 2) 15-ounce can black beans, drained* 
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced fire roasted tomatoes**
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1 15-ounce can corn (or 1 ½ cups frozen corn), drained
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (or omit)
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons each chili powder and dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon each garlic powder and cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven***, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender.
  3. Add all other ingredients except for the smoked paprika. Simmer for 25 minutes, then stir in the smoked paprika. Serve immediately with toppings of your choice. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for 3 months. Leftovers become very thick when refrigerated, so reheat on the stovetop and stir in a little extra water, then taste and add additional salt if necessary until the flavor pops. 

Notes

*Make this recipe with a total of 3 15-ounce cans of beans for an even more filling meal.

**Fire roasted tomatoes are key for the flavor here. If you can’t find them, use San Marzano tomatoes or best quality canned tomatoes. 

***This recipe is easy to cook over an open fire. If you’re taking it camping, prep the minced onion and garlic and place in a sealed container. Place the ingredients from water through kosher salt in another large sealed container, but keep out the dry quinoa and add it when cooking.

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chili
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Vegetarian chili, vegetarian chili recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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9 Comments

    1. Thanks for the note! We typically use vegan Worcestershire so I clarified that in the recipe. Thank you so much!

  1. @Ali, I put the link for this recipe into LoseIt’s recipe builder and if you use regular canned beans and tomatoes the sodium came out to a whopping 1744.8 mg/serving. I use no salt added varieties which significantly drops sodium content; it’s what I’ll do for this fabulous looking recipe!

  2. I love all chilis and have never made one that had quinoa in it, but should be fine with all of the other ingredients, I’m in, thank you!

  3. This new recipe looks delicious! However, I was obsessed with the old one. I remember it had bulgar and chipotle Chile. Would it be possible to share the original recipe? I’m majorly bummed I didn’t write it down before it was changed.

    1. Thank you for asking..I was like..wait..what happened to the original recipe?!! Glad it’s still available because I have been obsessed with the original chili!! The best!!!

  4. Can you please add the sodium content to the nutrition facts. I’m watching my sodium intake, so this would be helpful. Thank you.