Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili

A bowl filled with smoky chipotle vegetarian chili, topped with sour cream and scallions and a lime wedge.

To turn this chili into a full buffet party, follow a few easy steps. Bake a pan or two of cornbread. Set up bowls of garnishes (avocado, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges) on a countertop, preferably near the stove. Place bowls, spoons, and napkins next to the pot of chili. Have people load up.–Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine

LC You Complete Me Note

Nothing complements and completes a bowl of chili like, well, the aforementioned garnishes and side of cornbread, for starters. But let’s not overlook a few other sides, or actually bottoms, given that our tendency is to bury them beneath a ladleful of chili goodness. Tortilla chips. Steaming hot baked potatoes. Rice. Polenta. Fresh tortillas. To say nothing of a cold beer on the side. Are we missing anything?

Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili

  • Quick Glance
  • (5)
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 10
5/5 - 5 reviews
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Special Equipment: Slow cooker (if following the slow cooker method)


  • For the chili
  • For the garnishes


Make the chili

To make the Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili in your slow cooker, see the Slow Cooker Variation below.

To make the Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili on the stovetop, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and sauté until they’re beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.

Add the zucchini and yellow squash and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the garlic cloves, cilantro stems, green chiles, and chipotle chiles in a small food processor and process until minced. Add 1/2 cup of the stock and pulse to combine or stir together in a bowl.

Add the chile mixture and the tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the beans, salt, chili powder, cumin, oregano, beer, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups stock. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the chili thickens and the vegetables soften, about 30 minutes.

Serve the chili

Remove the pot of chili from the heat and plonk it on another burner, the countertop, or the table. Place each garnish in a bowl and call your guests. (The chili is best if made the night before and rewarmed gently over low heat. It can keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

Print RecipeBuy the In the Small Kitchen cookbook

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    Slow Cooker Variation

    • Can we make this vegetarian chili any easier? You betcha. Follow step 1 as directed, then transfer it to the slow cooker. Repeat with the zucchini and yellow squash. Then add the chile mixture, tomatoes, beans, salt, chili powder, cumin, oregano, beer, and stock to the pot, using only half the amount of beer and stock called for in the original recipe. Cook on medium, covered, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then cook on high, uncovered, for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      [Editor’s Note: Bear in mind, no two slow cookers are exactly alike, just as no two cooks are exactly alike. This slow-cooker approach worked really, really well for us, although if you have a different slow-cooker cooking technique you want to try by all means, do so. And, natch, we’d love if you’d share it with us in a comment below.] Curious to hear more about working magic with your slow cooker? Peruse our entire selection of slow cooker recipes.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    All I can say is…let football season—and the parties that come along with the games—start! I’m looking forward to replicating this recipe for a bunch of friends during football season, as this will be a hit! Spicy enough to enjoy a nice beer with it, yet not so crazy-spicy that kids (at least mine) won’t be able to eat it. The aroma was absolutely divine—the whole house smelled as good as the chili tasted. Also a great way to make kids and adults who usually shun veggies fill their tummies with wonderful fall vegetables.

    Wow. You definitely do NOT miss the meat in this flavorful chili! I was a little unsure about it at first, but with the combination of three different beans and the squash, layered with the depth of the chipotles, spices, and beer, this is a hearty, delicious meal. Definitely a keeper, and makes adding vegetarian meals (Meatless Monday, anyone?) into the mix a breeze. I served this with corn cakes (nothing fancy, just off the side of the Jiffy box, but with some added cheese), along with the leftover Negro Modelo, and it was a big hit for dinner.

    This is a great vegetable chili recipe. The ingredients all work well together and create wonderful texture and flavor in the dish. The chipotles add a dimension of smokiness not usually found in chili recipes. For garnishes, I cooked some rice and put out bowls of Cheddar Jack cheese, diced scallions, tomatoes, olives, shredded lettuce, cilantro leaves, guacamole, and sour cream.

    A perfect summertime chili. The seasonal vegetables taste fresh, and the short cooking time is always welcome during warm months. The beans give the chili substance, making it a hearty meal even for people who normally gravitate towards meat dishes. I served my chili with diced avocados tossed with lime juice and some honey cornbread. With the smoky heat of the chipotle chiles, our dinner had yin, yang, and then some! The recipe calls for just 1 tablespoon oil for the entire pot, so if your heart desires, go crazy with cheese and sour cream without any guilt.

    I love this chili. The taste is outstanding and ages very well. It’s very hearty, with a rich, smoky flavor, and healthy to boot. I don’t miss the meat in it at all. I did have to make a few changes. Fire-roasted tomatoes are hard to come by in Canada, and I had two 14-ounce cans with green chiles in my pantry from my last trip south of the border, so I used them and chose not to add an extra 14-ounce can regular tomatoes. This worked out fine. Also, I couldn’t find a yellow squash, so I just increased the amount of zucchini; again, fine. I omitted the veggie broth, as I had added the beer first, and the chili was quite liquidy already. It would have been chili soup if I had added the two cups broth, and that wouldn’t have been to my or my family’s liking. I simmered it with the lid askew, and there were plenty of juices for sopping up with either cornbread or rice. I will certainly make this again, but I’ll add some mushrooms next time, as they add a nice, dense, earthy meatiness. It’s my own bias that a veggie dish of this sort needs mushrooms, though I loved this perfectly as is. I would add the peppers towards the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking instead of sautéing them with the onions, as I would have liked a bit more firmness to them.

    This is a great take on vegetarian chili, with lots of fresh vegetables to bulk everything up and make you feel less guilty about the layer of cheese you’ll throw on top. The chipotles en adobo make it hot and smoky, and the beer adds a lot of flavor. It’s a super hearty meal with an endless number of ways to change it up for an entire week’s worth of lunches! My chipotles must have been exceptionally spicy, because the resulting chili was a touch hotter than I would have liked. I think next time I’ll start with 1 and go from there. My boyfriend and I have been eating this for days in a number of ways, all good: On tostadas with a crumble of queso fresco and chopped avocado; over eggs with some shredded cheddar; poured over baked sweet potatoes (a favorite); and finally, just as is — with plenty of oyster crackers and cheese. Yum. P.S. I’ve never plucked the leaves of cilantro off the stems in order to use only the stems before. That was interesting!

    The vegetables took a good deal of time to chop. I was wondering if the resulting chili would be worth the effort. It really was worth it. The chili was chunky, hearty, and satisfying. The flavor had depth, heat, and a touch of sweetness. My husband did not realize he was eating a vegetarian dish until I mentioned it. I served it with cheese and fresh cornbread. It was a crowd-pleaser, and it makes enough for a pretty big group; great game-day fare.

    I decided to make this recipe in the slow cooker. I started by following step 1 exactly: I sautéed the onions and peppers and then added them to the slow cooker. Then I added the zucchini and squash. After that, I added the tomatoes and the paste. I only used half the beer, as well as half the stock. I first covered it for the first 1.5 hours on medium, then I uncovered for another 1.5 hours on high. Even though it came out softer than cooking it on the stove top, the flavors were still all there.

    I followed the directions for making this chili in the slow cooker but also relied on one of the commenter’s thoughts about reducing the liquid. The chili is gorgeous with all of the pepper colors and textures of the vegetables. Overall, I thought the recipe was delicious, but it’s not a great recipe for the slow cooker since you have to dirty a pot to precook the onions/peppers, zucchini, etc. I substituted summer squash for corn, which I added at the end, and it was delicious. I’d try it again on the stove but wouldn’t make it in the slow cooker again.

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    1. I just wanted to say that I made this tonight and even though we didn’t have beer on hand (we subbed 1 part apple cider vinegar to 3 parts veg broth) it was AMAZING!! I have been looking for a use for the can of chipotle chiles in my pantry for months and this was perfect. Adding to our permanent rotation. Thanks so much!!

    2. Sheila – if you really want the nutritional information just Google Recipe Nutritional Data Calculator. There are some great websites where you simply copy and paste all the ingredients above in to them and they calculate it for you. If you haven’t already definitely make this recipe, it’s incredibly flavorful, filling and delicious!

        1. Hello, I got inspired by this recipe and I made it for my office Chili Cook off and won the Most Unique!! yay!! I tweeked little bit, added half a can of smoky chiles but these are sooo good, nice smoky hot flavour. I used it for the first time and its keeper. Can you recommend smoky chiles for more dishes?

          1. purvi, that’s wonderful. Congratulations! As far as any other recipe to use with smoked chiles–it’s wide open. Any of our chilis, Mexican braises, carnitas, stews. Really, any dish that already has strong flavors and that can hold up to the heat and smoke is perfect.

    3. No one mentioned chili-mac as an alternative. Kids love it, and vegetarian chilis go particularly well with leftover mac ‘n’ cheese.

    4. Just about to start making this but can not for the life of me find the right beer. I do, however have some dark Guiness laying around. Do you think that would work instead?

      1. Hi Jay, we didn’t test it with Guiness but I bet it would be would fine. Let us know how it turns out.

        1. Well, I decided to double the recipe. WRONG IDEA! After an hour and a half of chopping, it’s in the pot simmering. I used the Guiness and the initial taste tests are great. I added mushrooms, sweet potatoes and subbed butternut squash for the yellow squash. Can’t wait. Wish I could upload a picture.

    5. We’re having a chili and snowcone party (hey, it’s August in Texas, what else could you possibly want, aside from beer?) and want to offer a regular chili (with beans and meat – don’t argue with me about this) and a vegetarian chili, and this one looks perfect. One question: How big of a crockpot would you (any of you) recommend?

      1. Hi Ferness 42, I checked with Sofia, one of our crock pot testers, and she used a typical 5-quart one. She said that it worked really well but noted that the most important thing is not to add as much liquid as the original recipe specifies. She added that she loved the idea of sno-cone and chili!

        1. Excellent – thanks! And, it’s that time of year, so I’m planning on subbing roasted Hatch chiles for the chipotle. My husband is seriously excited about that!

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