This vegan chili recipe creates a savory, hearty meal, full of healthy veggies and two types of beans. Make this Tex-Mex meal for dinner tonight!
This meatless chili is our new favorite make-ahead dinner. In addition to recipes like my Mexican Tortilla Casserole and Slow Cooker Kalua Pork, I love preparing stews to reheat throughout the week or freeze into individual portions. Stews are especially perfect for winter!
Meatless dishes are all the rage right now, and this one is an absolute favorite of mine. I use just a few simple techniques that add a ton of flavor.
Once you try a spoonful of this mouthwatering meal, you may never go back to beef chili recipes again! But if you do want a good beef chili recipe, you will love my Cincinnati Chili.
Other go-to meatless dishes I love that are just as comforting are eggplant lasagna and mushroom pot pie. If you’re a tofu lover, then you definitely need to try crispy baked tofu with broccoli!
Flavorful Vegan Chili
When I look at the ingredients for meatless chili recipes, they all all seem so bland. I wanted to add more flavor, but how?
One recipe that caught my attention is from Cook’s Illustrated. They use ingredients like dried mushrooms, soy sauce, walnuts and bulgur to add umami.
However, several reviews claimed the recipe wasn’t actually good, especially for the amount of work involved. Very surprising since Cook’s Illustrated is often my go-to for this sort of thing.
Also, they were adding gluten and nuts to achieve results, two major allergens. Could I get around that?
To create richness, I use two classic culinary techniques that add tons of savoriness without requiring much effort:
- Adding mushrooms (for the umami)
- Deglazing the pan
Deglazing is a technique we learned on the first day of culinary school, and it was life changing:
- Allow ingredients to cook in a pan without moving them around too much, until a brown layer forms on the bottom. You want the color to be a nice deep brown, but not to the point where it’s burned.
- Next, you add some liquid to the pan, which will loosen the brown bits (also known as fond).
- Scrape up the brown bits with a firm spatula or wooden spoon and stir it back into the other ingredients, then start all over again.
- Repeat once, twice or as many times as you like. The more you glaze and deglaze, the more flavor you’ll have in the final dish. It requires a bit of patience.
NOTE: This technique will not work with nonstick pans. You want to use stainless steel, aluminum, or enameled cast iron. While the mushrooms are important for achieving the desired result, deglazing is the trick that will truly take the flavor to the next level. Don’t rush it if you want maximum flavor.
You can see step-by-step photos for how to deglaze a pan in my tutorials for caramelized onions and how to make a pan sauce.
- Extra virgin olive oil– Using extra virgin olive oil is a great way to ensure any dish has fully formed flavor.
- Mushrooms– You can use any type you like. Portobellos are hearty and hold up well, so they’re a good choice.
- Yellow onions– Any onion will do in a pinch, but these are the best because of their balance of sharpness and sweetness. By the way, I have a great tutorial on how to chop an onion!
- Bell peppers– Any color(s) of your choice
- Tomato paste– You can substitute this ingredient with 2 to 3 tablespoons of tomato pureé or tomato sauce.
- Garlic– This is something I toss into almost all my recipes to add flavor! Plus, there are some great health benefits of garlic.
- Chili powder
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce– These are simply jalapeños that have been dried and smoked. They bring a necessary heat to the dish.
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
Vegan Chili Recipe
With just 3 steps, this recipe really can’t get much easier to make!
- Saute the mushrooms. Heat olive oil over medium high before adding mushrooms. Let them brown for about 5 minutes.
- Cook the vegetables. Add onions and salt to the pan first, followed by bell peppers and celery. Cook for about 5 more minutes before adding tomato paste, then stir to combine all ingredients. Add water to the pan as needed.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder to the pot first. Then, add the diced tomatoes, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce and beans. Simmer for just a few minutes, then cook at a lower heat for at least 30 more minutes to allow the flavor to develop.
Q&A and Recipe Notes
What can I do to add even more flavor?
The BEST way to add more flavor to vegan chili is to deglaze your pan. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor it adds
For step by step photos on pan deglazing, check out my recipe for carmelized onions.
You could also spice up the dish by using hotter chilli peppers.
What toppings are best on meatless chili?
Choosing the toppings is the fun part of making this recipe! Everyone can customize their bowl exactly how they like it.
I like to add chopped tomatoes and finely diced red onions or shallots, along with a few slices of fresh avocado. If you don’t mind a vegetarian chili, sour cream or shredded cheese also work fabulously!
Can I freeze this meal?
Yes! The meal can be frozen for up to 4 months, making this an easy meal prep dinner. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container or freezer-safe storage bag.
TIP: To use less storage space, store the bags of chili flat in your freezer.
Vegan Chili with Beans
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, finely chopped (1 1/2 scant cups chopped, see notes)
- Kosher salt as needed
- 2 medium yellow onions (2 1/2 - 3 cups)
- 3 ribs celery, chopped (1 cup)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
- 2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce + 2 tablespoons sauce from the can
- 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained (see notes)
- Optional accompaniments: diced red onions or shallots, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, sour cream, sliced avocado, diced or thinly sliced jalapeno or serrano pepper, lime wedges
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom saucepan (do not use a non-stick pan), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Have a cup of water nearby. Add the mushrooms and brown for 5 minutes, increasing the heat if needed. If bits of mushroom stick to the bottom of the pan and start browning, periodically add a splash of water and use a spatula to scrape up the brown bits and stir them into the mushrooms.
- Once the mushrooms are browned, turn the heat to low and add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Turn the heat up to medium and add the celery and bell peppers. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring, then add the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring only occasionally, so that it forms a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan along with the vegetables. Splash water into the pan a few times when the glaze forms, stirring it back into the vegetables.
- Stir in the garlic, cumin, and chili powder, cooking for 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce, and beans. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the ingredients to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour.
- Serve hot with optional accompaniments. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months (I like freezing it in individual portions).
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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Renee Goerger says
This is a great recipe for Meatless Mondays! I love all the ingredients you’ve used!
Tayler Ross says
This chili looks so comforting and delicious! I can’t wait to try it!
I made this for dinner the other day and it’s the best vegetarian chili we have had. Very flavorful. Thanks for sharing!
Shadi Hasanzadenemati says
I was looking for a recipe like this, thank you for sharing!
Jessica Formicola says
This is a total comfort food win! I already can’t wait to make this again!
Kathy Stone says
I have made this and it is delicious. Will make it again.
5 stars! My kind of chili!
Delicious! We didn’t even miss the meat. Thanks for sharing.