Colorful hearty vegan chili serves up rich flavors from the spices and great texture from the vegetables and beans. It comes together easily once your prep work is done. Simmer over low heat to blend the flavors for 20-30 minutes and get ready for a great bowl of chili. Even carnivores will love this! With so much texture and flavor, no one will miss the meat.
Colorful Hearty Vegan Chili Inspiration
A few years ago, we headed to the snowy playground of Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. Once an old mining town, it is a world-class winter sports destination. We spent the morning snowshoeing, dog sledding and snowmobiling. So fun!
Lunch was included in our adventure and onto rustic tables went generous bowls of vegan chili. It was the perfect lunch after an active chilly morning in the snow. I took notes and created this recipe at home.
Filled with colorful vegetables, aromatic garlic and onions, tender beans, herbs and smoked spices, no meat is needed. One of my clients requested this recipe almost every time I cooked for them, and it freezes great.
How to Make Vegan Chili
Start by prepping the vegetables and draining the tomatoes (saving the juices) and beans. Assemble all of your spices and herbs. Once your prep work is done the chili goes together easily.
Choose a nice heavy pot like a Dutch Oven, about 5.5 quart size. Add chopped onion to the pot and cook until soft, then add garlic and cook briefly, then add all of your spices and herbs. The heat and the oil help them release their flavors. If it's dry add some water to help the spices along. When the spices smell heavenly, add carrots and cook until softened, then add the rest of your vegetables and beans. Simmer for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors and heat through. For juicer chili add some of the tomato juices.
A note on beans - I use canned red kidney and Great Northern beans. Cannellini and small white beans also work.
Chili Spice Notes and Tips
A great bowl of chili is all about the spices. If you like smoky flavors, you'll love smoked paprika and smoked pepper. Find then at many grocers and online spice shops. If you don’t have smoked spices, make the chili with regular paprika and black pepper. Adding Urfa chilies or ground chipotle pepper ups the smoky flavors and gives the chili a kick of heat, but they are optional.
If you like dried chilies and have never tried Urfa chilies, they are a purplish-black color with an earthy, smoky flavor. They are a 3-4 on the chile heat scale so not too hot. Chipotle powder is made from ground, smoked jalapeno peppers so it packs quite a punch. Ground ancho chile is the foundation for the spice blend called chili powder. Its rich in flavor but packs no heat. If you like your chili hot, increase the chipotle and Urfa but do so sparingly.
Customize Your Chili with Garnishes
Customize your chili with tasty garnishes. Put them out in small bowls and let everyone have fun adding what they want.
- Diced avocado or guacamole
- Grated cheese (if you are not vegan)
- Sliced red onion or shallot
- Chopped cilantro or parsley
- A squeeze of lime juice
- Chopped radish
- A dollop of sour cream
- Sliced or chopped jalapeno pepper
Chili will keep for 4 days in the refrigerator and freezes well, always ready for a warming lunch or dinner. For another terrific vegetarian dinner try my Shepherds pie recipe.
- 1 pound carrots 6-8
- 1 medium yellow squash about 8 ounces
- 1 large zucchini about 8 ounces
- 1 medium onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 3 14 ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can red kidney beans
- 1 15 ounce can Great Northern beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons ground ancho chili pepper
- 1 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano or Italian blend
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
Optional Garnish Ideas (Vegan and Vegetarian)
- 3 green onions chopped
- ½ cup grated cheddar or Jack cheese
- 1-2 avocados peeled and chopped
- ½ bunch cilantro chopped
- ¼ red onion finely chopped or thinly sliced
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 lime quartered
- 3 radishes chopped or sliced
- Start by prepping your vegetables and beans. Scrub or peel carrots and chop into ½" pieces. Slice zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into quarters, then slice out the seedy spongy center. Chop squash into ½" pieces. Chop the onion small and the garlic fine. Open and drain the tomatoes into a bowl, saving the juices. Place the beans in a strainer over the sink, rinse and drain
- In a 5 ½-6 quart heavy pot heat olive oil over medium low heat; add onion and cook until soft and translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds stirring. Do not let the garlic burn. Add all spices and oregano and stir for 1 minute. Add a ⅓ cup of water to the pot to help the spices release their flavors and aroma.
- Stir in carrots and put a lid on the pot. Cook until carrots are softened when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add the zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and beans. Add half of the tomato juices plus the sea salt and pepper. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer until all vegetables are soft and flavors have blended, 20-30 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the chili. If you want the chili juicer, add the rest of the tomato juices and simmer for a few more minutes. Garnish as desired and serve hot.