Vegetarian Chili

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Vegetarian Chili

Chili is one of those things that’s easy to make, but hard to perfect. Especially vegetarian chili – we’ve tried many variations, but often they end up just tasting like bean soup. We’ve even tried secret ingredients like beer and cocoa powder, but haven’t met with much success. They’ve been tasty, but not quite right.

The combination of a reader request and the upcoming Super Bowl prompted us to try another attempt. We’d done enough research that we knew some of what we wanted – bulgur wheat for some texture, green chiles (or jalapeños) for some spice and flavor, and amped up the chili powder. Once we combined everything, we used a bit of chipotle powder to add a bit of complexity, and it made for the perfect touch!

All that experimentation finally paid off, and we think we’ve come up with a vegetarian chili that’s hearty and not just “bean soup”. Give it a try for a casual evening with friends, or an upcoming big game!

If you’re an Indy local, Fields of Agape is a producer of local organic black and pinto beans. Check them out for a local source of the beans in this recipe (but make sure to cook them beforehand)! Our original post about Fields of Agape is here.


Vegetarian Chili

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  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Yield: 8


  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 15-ounce cans beans or 4 1/2 cups cooked dried beans (black, pinto, and kidney)
  • 2 32-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 4-ounce cans roasted green chilies
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Hot sauce, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, or chives for garnish


  1. Chop the two onions. Dice six cloves garlic.
  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and saute, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients: beans, tomatoes with their juices, green chilies, 1 cup bulgur wheat, 1 cup frozen corn, 1/2 cup chili powder, 3 tablespoons oregano, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder. Mix to combine. If necessary, add a bit of water to make sure everything is covered (we added about 1 cup).
  4. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the bulgur is soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and add additional seasonings as desired. Add hot sauce to taste; and serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and cilantro or chives.


The bulgur wheat adds a great texture – you can also substitute quinoa for a gluten-free option if desired. The chipotle powder is a bit of a hard to find, but it adds great complexity and flavor; we recommend using it if at all possible. Ancho chile powder also can add a nice bit of smokiness. Lastly, if 1/2 cup chili powder seems like a typo, it’s not! While it’s a large quantity, it did bring the flavor we were looking for to the dish. The resulting chili is not overly spicy (though it would be if you use spicy chili powder, jalapeños, or more chipotle powder than specified below); we like our chili with moderate spice and then adding spiciness at the table with hot sauce.


  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I love bulgur wheat and a good and hearty vegetarian chili. The meat based chili’s can sometimes taste like a big bowl of meat so I like that this one is meat free. You also got to have a little spiciness in your chili so the chipolte powder is a must!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 11:48 am

    This looks absolutely amazing! And I love the fact that you can make it gluten free if you want/need to. Yum!

  • Reply
    Sylvie (A Pot of Tea)
    January 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    What a great idea to add bulgur for some extra texture. I’ll definitely give that a go.

  • Reply
    Heidi @ Food Doodles
    January 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I’m a huge fan of chili and this looks awesome! I love the bulgur. I’ve never tried adding that to my chili, but I can see how it would be perfect! Must try next time :)

  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Now this looks like the ultimate bowl of comfort food. Love the addition of bulgur, need to try that soon!

  • Reply
    Christi's Chirps
    January 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Sounds absolutely fantastic! I haven’t cooked with bulgur wheat before! Sounds great! I also love your addition of honey!
    This will be simmering in my kitchen this Sunday! Thanks for the delicious recipe!


  • Reply
    Russell at Chasing Delicious
    January 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Yum! This recipe looks scrumptious. I love chili because its one of the few dishes you can throw a lot of ingredients into and it will still turn out.

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum
    January 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Love the pic with the jersey on! I saw it on FG and thought, that’s cute, I wonder what person is posing with the chili… and then I saw it was yours. :) Which one of you was the model?? The chili looks great, BTW!

    • Reply
      January 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Haha! Thanks :) That is Sonja as the model – she has much more lovely hands than I! The chili is great, big time food photographer, you should try it!

  • Reply
    Mara @ Elemental Custard
    February 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I have been dying for a good vegetarian chilli recipe. This looks exactly how I want mine to turn out – like a hearty, meaty chilli!

  • Reply
    February 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

    This looks like such a delicious, hearty chili. And I’m happy I’m not the only one who adds copious amounts of chili powder to my chili :)

  • Reply
    February 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Delicious recipe. It was my first go at vegan chili, so I can’t compare anything, but I thought it turned out well. I omitted the honey / sugar. Instead of 2 32oz cans of diced tomatoes, I cut up five c. of roma tomatoes, then added 15oz of tomato sauce. I also used 15oz of canned corn because that’s what I had on hand. I only used one large jalapeno, and my batch wasn’t spicy at all. I’d recommend a different pepper if you want a kick (or simply more jalapenos). I used half of a large red onion, but could’ve used the whole thing– I was cooking quite modestly to make sure I didn’t ruin it. I personally omitted the cheese and sour cream, but used plenty of cilantro. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I made this yesterday and simply love it! Thanks for such a wonderful recipe!

    • Reply
      February 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting us know :)

  • Reply
    February 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Even on leftovers night (round 2 of this chili), my husband had to comment (again) how good this was for being meat-free. Thank you!

    • Reply
      February 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed it (AND the leftovers)!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

    This was wonderful…thank you for the easy and delicious veggie chili…not bean soup!!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    This is the best vegetarian chili recipe! I added some green pepper and carrot for and replaced one can of diced tomatoes with a can of whole peeled tomatoes (roughly chopped), but the bulgur really makes the dish. I found your site by searching for vegetarian chili recipes and I’ve already bookmarked a dozen other of your recipes to try!

    • Reply
      October 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting us know :)

    • Reply
      October 21, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it, Katherine! You additions sound delicious. Let us know if you try any other recipes out!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Hi! thank you for the recipe! i was just wondering if you knew around how many calories was in this chili. Thank you! I’m excited to try it.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I thought this recipe was really good. I loved the addition of bulgur. However, I thought the oregano was over powering. I was also missing the cumin. Might add that next time. I also made it in the slow cooker since we just moved and I have no idea where my big stock pot is. I cooked it on high for 2 hours and low for 3 hours.

  • Reply
    Stacy McClain
    April 18, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Had a chili cookoff at my Masonic Lodge last Sat. Saw this recipe online thought it looked good and gave it a shot. Well I won first place with about 20 entries. A lot of people loved it and quite a few wanted the recipe.

    • Reply
      April 19, 2016 at 7:53 am

      Ha! That’s amazing :) Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    My husband and I enjoyed your recipe tonight. It’s a keeper! I have to admit, I didn’t think it needed a 1/2 cup of chili powder so I estimated what I thought seemed right. It was the right tweak for us. Will make this one again!

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