To turn this chili into a full buffet party, follow a few easy steps. Bake a pan or two of Cheddar cornbread. Set up bowls of garnishes (avocado, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges) on a countertop, preferably near the stove. Tortilla chips. Steaming hot baked potatoes. Rice. Polenta. Fresh tortillas. To say nothing of a cold beer on the side. Are we missing anything? Place bowls, spoons, and napkins next to the pot of chili. Have people load up.–Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine


Can we make this vegetarian chili any easier? You betcha. Follow step 1 as directed, then dump it into 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.

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 it 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.

A white bowl with a slice of lime on the rim, filled with smoky chipotle vegetarian chili, sour cream, and topped with green onions.

Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian Chili

4.89 / 9 votes
Smoky chipotle vegetarian chili is so satisfyingly tasty because it's full of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and three kinds of beans. Add in some cheese, avocado, tortilla chips, and green onions and you're set.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories297 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes


  • Slow cooker (if following the slow cooker method)


For the chili

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, (if unavailable, double on red), chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, (leaves reserved for garnish)
  • One (7-ounce) can mild green chiles
  • 2 or 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • Three (15-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • Two (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • One (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • One (12-ounce) bottle dark Mexican beer, (Negra Modelo if you can find it)

For the garnishes

  • Leaves from 1 bunch cilantro
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 limes, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 avocados, seeded, peeled, diced, and tossed with lime juice


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.)


Can I make vegetarian chili ahead of time?

Actually, this chili is best if made the night before. Simply reheat the next day and enjoy. It also keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week.
In the Small Kitchen

Adapted From

In the Small Kitchen

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 297 kcalCarbohydrates: 30 gProtein: 9 gFat: 16 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 7 gCholesterol: 22 mgSodium: 1042 mgFiber: 10 gSugar: 10 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2011 Cara Eisenpress | Phoebe Lapine. Photo © 2011 Josh Shaub. All rights reserved.

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 of 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 of 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 in 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 didn’t realize he was eating a vegetarian dish until I mentioned it. I served it with cheese and fresh buttermilk 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 it for another 1.5 hours on high. Even though it came out softer than cooking it on the stovetop, 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe! Made it for the first time for the Super Bowl and my guests all commented on how delicious it was! Definitely a keeper recipe. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome, John. We’re so pleased that you and your guests enjoyed it. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know.

  2. Wonderful vegan possibility-just use vegetable broth! I also took this opportunity to clean out the freezer of odds and ends-like a little bag of corn and 1/2 of frozen pumpkin puree. All added to this wonderful mix and the chipolte chili peppers just made this an outstanding addition. Oh-I did use the slow cooker (all day chili aroma is a GOOD thing). Since I couldn’t track the instructions indicated, I cooked it on HI for 3 hours, and low for 2. Just fine, but of course each slow cooker varies.

  3. 5 stars
    Finally! A vegetarian chili that is packed with flavour. It was delicious last night when I made it but even better today for lunch. It wasn’t overly spicy so this could easily be a crowd pleaser. I made the recipe as written except for two things, I used Guiness and a total of five chipotle peppers. I also made the cornbread recipe that was mentioned in the headnote and I would highly recommend to anyone making this chili to also make the cornbread as well because it was fabulous! This chili recipe is definitely a keeper.

    1. Thanks, Aryn! We so appreciate you taking the time to comment. We can’t wait to hear what you try next.