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February 21, 2024

Vegetarian Chili

Colorful and warming, vegan chili is a dairy-free, gluten-free, one-pot, wallet-friendly wonder that freezes well and is also very delicious.

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a bowl of homemade vegetarian chili made with bell pepper, sweet potato, onion and beans topped with avocado and green onions

More Easy, Weeknight-Friendly Vegan Recipes To Try!

Our Best Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Since this recipe relies heavily on canned ingredients, if you’ve got a decently well-stocked pantry, congratulations! You’re 75% of the way to making vegan chili. Vegetarian chili is easy. As in, open a few cans, dump and simmer—it’s that kind of easy. Don’t forget to make some Homemade Cornbread or Cornbread with Creamed Corn and Jalapeño Infused Honey!

sweet potatoes, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and spices in prep bowls

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Ingredients For Homemade Vegetarian Chili

  • Onions and garlic

  • Bell peppers! For a jolt of color, we like the combo of one red pepper and one green but really, whatever kind you like best will work just fine.

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Beans! Black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans.

  • Canned tomatoes

  • Red enchilada sauce—not exactly a “secret” ingredient, but definitely a “bang-for-your-buck” trick. Canned or jarred enchilada sauce is a flavor-giving powerhouse, adding a complex, smokey, spicy richness to this meatless chili. We always have it in our pantry.

  • A few simple herbs and spices! Chili powder, cumin and bay leaves.

onions, peppers and garlic being cooked in olive oil in a large pot
onion, pepper, sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, chili powder, cumin, bay leaves and salt in a large pot
homemade vegetarian chili in a pot made with peppers, onion, sweet potatoes, beans, spices and enchilada sauce
homemade vegetarian chili being stirred in a pot made with peppers, onion, sweet potatoes, beans, spices and enchilada sauce

How to Make The Best Vegetarian Chili In The World

  1. Grab your favorite Dutch oven or soup pot—just anything big and simmer-y, really. Cook onions, bell peppers, sweet potatoes until the onions begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.

  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, and pour in just enough water to cover the beans.

  3. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour. Almost everything is cooked, but this simmer will do a few things; it cooks the sweet potatoes, and it merges all of these complementary flavors into a cohesive whole.

  4. When the sweet potatoes are soft, and you just can't wait any longer, kill the heat and dish up! We love to lay out a toppings bar of avocado, sliced scallions and cilantro so that everyone can customize their own bowl to suit their own tastes.

homemade vegetarian chili being stirred in a pot made with peppers, onion, sweet potatoes, beans, spices and enchilada sauce
a bowl of homemade vegetarian chili made with bell pepper, sweet potato, onion and beans topped with avocado and green onions

How to Store Leftover Chili + Tips

  • Vegan chili is ideal for freezing, and keeps for longer than a meat-based chili. In other words, it’s ideal for meal trains, meal prep, and loading your freezer so that someday when you just don’t have the energy even to order take-out, a frozen brick of vegan chili will be lurking in the back of your freezer, waiting to save the day.

  • This is best with a variety of beans. But if you only have black beans and pinto beans (or some combo therein) that’ll work too. You might get a little crazy and throw some chickpeas in there! Our Black Bean Soup recipe is another great bean recipe.

  • We serve this with sour cream and shredded cheese, too, and there’s also great plant-based versions of these dairy products available at many grocery stores if you’d like to keep this vegan.

a bowl of homemade vegetarian chili made with bell pepper, sweet potato, onion and beans topped with avocado and green onions

More Great Chili Recipes From The Modern Proper

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Vegetarian Chili

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 15 min
  • Calories: 228

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1¼ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely diced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (20-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For Serving

  • Minced cilantro (optional)
  • Chopped green onions (optional)
  • Dived avocado (optional)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the onion, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

  2. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, chili powder, cumin, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder and salt until combined. Add enough water to cover the beans (1 to 2 cups).

  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened.

  4. Divide among bowls and serve topped with cilantro, green onions and avocado, if using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories228
  • Protein10 g
  • Carbohydrates38 g
  • Total Fat5 g
  • Dietary Fiber11 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium830 mg
  • Total Sugars8 g

Vegetarian Chili

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Laura

    What could I substitute the sweet potatos for?

    You could use regular potatoes instead.

  • Donna

    I'm vegetarian and started became a vegetarian since Sunday 26th March 2023. I would like some vegetarian recipes

    Check out our post titled 60 Best Vegetarian Meals. https://themodernproper.com/60-best-vegetarian-meals

  • rachel

    Did anyone else find this crazy spicy? 1/3 cup of chili powder was waaay too much for us!

    Sorry to hear that, we don't find it too spicy but of course feel free to cut back!

  • Colin

    I’m thinking of making this but am wondering if you think it would be good with a chili Arbol added? Was thinking I could toast a dried one and then rehydrate and put it in with the bell peppers.

    Hi Colin, don't see why that wouldn't taste good. Let us know how it goes!

  • Brandon

    If I used 28 oz of enchilada instead of the 20 oz, should I just let it simmer longer? Or not worry about it

    It shouldn't need to simmer longer. It will probably come out a bit thinner than expected though.

  • Denise

    This was delicious! Besides chili, I used it as a filler for bean burritos along with cheese, cabbage and avocado. Yum.

    Thanks, so glad you loved it! Sounds delicious in a burrito, nice work.

  • Kelly

    You don't need meat to have a fantastic chili. This recipe was full of flavor!

    I don't love sweet potato, so I subbed in butternut squash. It's only the two of us... so I omitted one can of beans (kidney specifically) and only added a 16 oz can of the enchilada sauce. Butternut squash takes less time to soften, so I only had it simmer for 30 minutes. It was really good!

    Thanks Kelly, so happy you loved it!

  • Linda

    This is quite spicy and delicious! I added a can of stewed tomatoes and a drained can of corn. My plan is to eat this for lunches and freeze portions for later. I highly recommend this meatless chili.

    Thanks Linda, we are so happy you love this recipe!

  • Katie

    Fantastic recipe. This recipe won a chili contest compared to other meat chilis! The way I make it it's definitely a labor of love, but I prep the sweet potatoes, onions/peppers, and beans the day before so the day of I can throw everything in the crock pot.

    A few recommendations:
    - If you have the time, try roasting the sweet potatoes and getting those caramelized edges. I also sautéed the onions and peppers in a pan before I added.

    - I used dried beans for this - a great extra step if you have the time. I cooked the dried beans the day before (though I know there are some chili recipes where you can use dried beans).

    - The crock pot worked great for this dish - slow cooked it for 8 hours and was nice to set it and forget it.

    - Added a little bit of nutritional yeast for that depth of cheesy flavor, and the juice of a lime at the end. I'm curious if there are any other secret ingredients, like red wine/beer/bourbon, coffee, or chocolate would enhance the flavor even more (though I didn't try these).

    So excited to hear it won a contest! Thanks Katie, glad you loved it!

  • Marianne

    Amazing! We’ve been trying to add more vegetarian/vegan meals each week. Made this tonight and it was fantastic! Hands down one of the best chili recipes I’ve made.

    I used homemade enchilada sauce and replaced the water with some vegetable broth I had in the fridge. Cannot wait to have this for lunch tomorrow!

    Thanks Marianne, so happy to hear you loved it!