The best vegetarian chili recipe we’ve ever tried. Even better, it’s easy to make, just spicy enough, and can simply be tossed in the slow cooker.
*How To Ensure Your Vegetarian Chili Is Gluten-Free
One of our trusted recipe testers, Melissa Maedgen, reminded us that not all chipotle chile in adobo is gluten-free. Some brands of chipotle in adobo have wheat flour in them, so check the ingredients carefully. Maedgan recommends San Marcos brand, which does come in a 3.5-ounce can and also happens to be gluten-free. La Costeña brand is also gluten-free.
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 3 H, 30 M
- Serves 6
Special Equipment: 5-quart or larger slow cooker (if following the slow cooker method)
Dump the beans in a large pot and cover with enough water to cover. Let the beans soak at room temperature overnight.
After you’ve soaked the beans overnight, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Toss the onion into the pot and cook until it’s slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and just beginning to barely brown, another 3 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, chili powder, and oregano and stir to combine.
If making the chili on the stovetop, drain the beans and dump them in your Dutch oven along with the scallions, chipotles chiles in adobo sauce (you may want to first stem and seed the chiles and puree them with some of the sauce), tomatoes, and broth. Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover, and cook at a very gentle simmer until the beans are tender and chili has reached the desired consistency, about 3 hours.
If making the chili in a slow cooker, drain the beans and dump them in your slow cooker along with the contents of the Dutch oven, the scallions, chipotles chiles in adobo sauce (you may want to first stem and seed the chiles and puree them with some of the sauce), tomatoes, and broth. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender and chili has reached desired consistency, at least 10 hours and up to 16 hours.
Ladle the chili into bowls, strew some scallions on top, and pass the lime wedges on the side for squeezing.
Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Variation
If you want to get this vegetarian chili on your table even quicker, just break out your Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Follow steps 1 and 2 above and then drain the beans and dump them in your Instant Pot or pressure cooker along with the scallions, chipotles chiles in adobo sauce, tomatoes, and broth. Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and seal according to manufacturer’s directions. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and, if using a pressure cooker, allow it to depressurize but do not take off the lid. (The cooling process will decrease the pressure naturally, which ought to take about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the pot under cold running water to release the pressure.) Once the pot has fully depressurized, remove the lid and ladle the chili into bowls, strew some scallions on top, and pass the lime wedges on the side for squeezing.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Over the years, I've tried many vegetarian chili recipes, only to be disappointed with both the amount of work and the result. This vegetarian chili recipe is the exception. Not only was it simple to prepare with little preparation required, but it also had a wonderful, spicy flavor from the chipotle peppers. It may be a bit fiery for some, but it was the perfect amount of heat for our household. I made this three-bean chili in the slow cooker and the only problem I ran into is the beans weren't done after 10 hours cooking on low. I turned my slow cooker up to medium and cooked for an additional 5 hours and they were perfect at that time. I will definitely be making this recipe in my slow cooker again, but next time I will try cooking it on high instead of low to reduce the cooking time.
Keep an open mind. That's what I had to keep telling myself as I made this recipe. Coming from Texas, I have strong opinions about what should and should not be in chili, and sometimes it's hard to get around them. Even though beans will get you disqualified from a chili cookoff, I understand and accept that most home cooks in Texas DO use beans in their chili, for the simple reason that it extends the meat and makes for a more economical dish. Chili is not supposed to break the bank. So beans, OK. Vegetarian chili, OK. But chickpeas? Tomatoes? We're pushing the limits of respectability here. I'm glad I kept an open mind and made this vegetarian chili recipe, because it turns out that it is excellent. Even a grouchy Texan like me will admit to that. I made the homemade chili powder that goes along with this recipe, and it's worth the trouble. I've never used commercial chili powders, because I like to know the proportion of chiles, cumin, etc., going into my chili. I'm going to confess here that I did go a little heavy on the chili powder when I made this chili, using 2 tablespoons instead of 1. I couldn't help myself. The chipotle in adobo is what adds the heat to the chili, and the amount used is just perfect, so you have a mild burn but still enough room to add spicy garnishes if you desire. Overall, this recipe has a nice balance of heat, savory richness, and a great texture. I was worried with three types of beans that they wouldn't get evenly cooked, but they did. The 3-hour cooking time was perfect. All in all, this was a great vegetarian chili with flavors a little brighter and less heavy than my usual tomato-less version. The beans sold by Goya as "small red beans" are fantastic for chili and would work well here.