Vegetarian chili is a tasty way to get a hearty meal on a plant-based diet—or even if you're a meat eater. Some ingredients, like onions and beans, are essential to veggie chili, but you can really customize the dish with other ingredients to suit your taste. Use your favorite vegetables or experiment with some traditional additions to create your own signature recipe.
Beans and Vegetables
Canned beans are convenient and taste great. Use red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, great Northern beans, garbanzos, white kidney beans—or even a combination. For each two or three cans of beans, include one diced sweet potato or one can of corn, and one can of diced or crushed tomatoes.
Add peppers for a kick—bell peppers for mild chili, or habaneros or jalapenos for spicy chili.
Traditional red chili includes tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and, in Mexico, dried oregano. For chili with smoky and spicy flavors, swap out the chili powder for an equal amount of puréed chipotle in adobo sauce. Or experiment with new flavors: 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder or 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate adds depth of flavor.
For green chili, reduce the amount of diced or crushed tomatoes, and substitute green salsa (also known as salsa verde), canned green chiles or roasted green chiles such as poblanos or Anaheim chiles. Or make your own authentic Mexican green salsa with tomatillos, a small lime-green fruit that you can add to salsa either cooked or raw. Keep the green theme going by including 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Putting It All Together
Chili comes together in one pot on the stovetop. Begin by sautéing chopped onions and garlic, then add cumin, beans, vegetables and chili powder, if using. Let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes, then add chipotle purée and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar to bring the flavors to life. Simmer the chili for another 5 minutes.
In a slow cooker, add all the ingredients to the pot, and let the chili cook on high for 4 to 5 hours.
Classic chili toppings include sour cream, shredded cheddar, chopped cilantro and chopped green or white onions. If you're a fan of toasted almonds or raisins, those would also work as garnishes with either red or green chili, balancing the heat with salt and sugar. Corn bread and crusty sourdough are traditional bread options. Tortilla chips are also great for dipping into the chili.