Autumn is the season to get back to cozy chilis, soups and stews as the weather outside cools down. The shorter days and longer nights invite us to gather indoors around a hearty pot of easy vegetarian chili with beans. And this recipe couldn’t be any easier to prepare!
My Dad cooks a pot of hearty chili every Halloween night along with a batch of warm cornbread. Family gathers at the house to share in this simple yet satisfying meal. We used to warm our bellies with chili before heading out into the crisp Autumn air to go trick-or-treating. My Dad’s chili would provide us the sustenance we needed to spend hours outdoors loading our pillow cases with heaps of candy. Nowadays we enjoy his chili and cornbread while the doorbell endlessly rings and we pass out candy to costumed children.
This chili is vegetarian, loaded with protein from beans. But you can add ground meat like turkey or beef for a bulked-up chili.
Why You Should Make This Recipe
- There’s minimal prep work required, since many of the ingredients come in cans!
- This easy vegetarian chili with beans is extremely versatile. My Dad recommends adding carrots. But it also tastes great with bell peppers or squash.
- If you want more protein, just add some cooked ground meat when the chili is just about done simmering.
- This chili still tastes great when served as leftovers the following day.
- Extra virgin olive oil – Used to cook and soften the vegetables before adding the rest of the ingredients
- Onion – I recommend using a yellow or white onion
- Vegetables – I recommend using carrots, bell peppers, squash or a variety of all three
- Garlic – Mince fresh whole garlic cloves for the best flavor
- Chili powder – Adds a classic smoky, mildly spicy flavor
- Cumin – Adds a rich, savory flavor to the chili
- Salt and black pepper – Brings out the flavor of the rest of the ingredients
- Canned whole tomatoes – Most chili recipes call for diced tomatoes, but my Dad swears by using whole tomatoes. They break down while the chili simmers and create a really nice texture.
- Tomato paste – Adds a potent punch of sweet tomato flavor
- Canned chili beans – My Dad’s favorite beans to use in homemade chili are chili beans since they already have wonderful spices added to them
- Cilantro or parsley – Adds a pop of vibrant green color and fresh flavor to this savory bowl of vegetarian chili
- Canned tomato sauce – If you prefer a thicker chili, reduce the amount of tomato sauce added
How to Make Easy Vegetarian Chili with Beans
Cook the onions and vegetables: In a large pot on medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the diced onions and vegetables and cook until softened, after about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and spices: Sprinkle in the minced garlic and spices, and cook for another minute until it smells really fragrant.
Stir in the remaining ingredients: Stir in the drained whole tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and chili beans.
Bring to a boil then simmer: Bring the chili to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours, until the tomatoes have broken down and the vegetables have really softened.
Serve and enjoy: Ladle the chili into bowls and top with parsley or cilantro. Serve and enjoy!!
Storing and Freezing
Let your chili cool completely to room temperature before storing it in the fridge or freezer. If you place hot or even warm food in the fridge, it could raise the temperature of your fridge and risk spoiling the rest of your food.
Chili stored in an air tight container will last about 3 to 4 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
What is the best meat substitute for chili?
I prefer this easy vegetarian chili with beans because it’s simple and doesn’t require extra preparation of the protein. But you could also add textured vegetable protein (TVP) which has a similar texture to ground meat.
What veggies can you put in chili?
Onions and garlic are classics to add in chili. You can also stir in diced squash, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini or corn. Or celery, if you’re one of those.
What can I add to chili for flavor?
I sometimes sprinkle in taco seasoning for an extra boost of spice and savory flavor to my chili. Or try adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder to add a rich depth of flavor like Mexican mole.
What is the secret to good chili?
This chili is the best because it uses a couple secret ingredients: chili beans for extra flavor and whole tomatoes for a thicker texture in each bite. Plus, simmering chili for 2 to 3 hours instead of just 30 minutes allows the flavors and texture to develop into the best chili ever.
Easy Vegetarian Chili with Beans
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cans (28 ounces) whole tomatoes (drained)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
- 2 cans (30 ounces) chili beans (do not drain)
- cilantro or parsley, for topping
- Add the olive oil to a large pot on medium-low heat on the stovetop. Add the diced onions and carrots and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour in the canned whole tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and chili beans.
- Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer with the lid on for about 2 hours, until the tomatoes have broken down.
- Ladle into bowls, top with cilantro or parsley and enjoy!!