How to Make Vegan Chili

Last Update: April 3, 2024

If you don’t have a go-to vegan chili recipe in your repertoire yet, we’ve got tips to make your best bowl yet. When done right, a vegan chili can appeal to anyone—even those who aren’t strictly following a plant-based diet. That’s because when you remove the meat, you make room for even more ingredients (think squash, quinoa, and jackfruit) that can liven up this comforting meal, no matter the season. And here’s the best part: Not only is vegan chili a healthful option that’ll satisfy a variety of taste buds, but you can cook it a few different ways. Simply choose the method that works best for your lifestyle. Whether you prefer low and slow stovetop cooking on a lazy Sunday or a “set it and forget it” approach during the workweek, there’s no excuse not to include the best vegan chili in your regular rotation.

Essential Vegan Chili Ingredients

When you’re throwing together a comforting pot of vegan chili, follow this guide to help layer flavors in the right order for maximum impact.

  • Flavor base: To get your chili going, you’ll want to sauté some aromatics in oil. Garlic and onion are great bets, but you can also swap in shallots.
  • Veggies: Without meat, you can fill up your pot with a variety of vegetables like peppers of all colors, tomatoes (fresh and chopped or diced from a can), corn, or butternut squash for an autumn spin.
  • Protein: For vegan chili, it’s all about the beans. They’re nutrient-packed and add real heft to every bite. You can use one variety (like black beans or pinto beans) or do a mix. Meaty jackfruit is also an option and comes pre-cooked so it’s easy to incorporate.
  • Spices: Depending on how fiery you like things, choose your spices accordingly. Cumin is always a good option—it’s bold but doesn’t bring too much heat. You can also stir in chili powder, dried oregano, and cayenne or red pepper flakes.
  • Liquid: Vegetable stock will add extra flavor, although water works in a pinch.
  • Grains: In addition to your veggies of choice, you can also layer in cooked quinoa, bulgur, or farro to not only help thicken the chili, but to add an extra nutritional boost as well.
  • Toppings: Our motto is: The more toppings the better. Set up a platter of crunchy tortilla chips, avocado, chopped cilantro, pickled onions, and lime wedges so everyone can pile their bowl high with their favorite finishing touches.

How to Cook Vegan Chili

To cook vegan chili, you have three options: on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker.

Cooking Vegan Chili On the Stove

No matter which recipe you use, the basic method will be similar. Here are some simple instructions to keep in mind. Add 1 tablespoon neutral oil to a large stockpot and warm over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and stir, cooking for 1 minute more. Add chopped veggies and stir, followed by the spices, then your stock. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced. Before serving, add your proteins and grains of choice and cook 5 minutes, until warmed through.

Cooking Vegan Chili In a Slow Cooker

If you’re heading to work or running errands, get dinner started before you leave. From My Bowl has a delicious slow cooker recipe featuring quinoa and kidney beans. You have the option to cook it on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 3 hours. You can either throw everything into the pot and go, or add a bit more flavor by sautéing the aromatics and vegetables on the stove before adding them to the crock pot to finish cooking.

Cooking Vegan Chili In an Instant Pot

If you’re using an Instant Pot, you’ll want to follow a recipe closely and use the recommended amounts of liquid to ensure the finished dish comes out just right. But don’t let the rules hinder your enthusiasm, because letting the pressure cooker do the work for you means you don’t need to babysit the chili on the stove. Here’s a recipe from Detoxinista that’s ready in just 40 minutes. (The chili only requires 10 minutes of cooking time, but you need to account for the time the Instant Pot needs to warm up and release the steam after cooking.)

How to Thicken Chili

There are a few ways to thicken chili that are completely vegan.

  • Purée a batch: Once the chili is done simmering, add a few ladle’s-worth of the mixture into a blender and puree it until smooth, then pour it back into the pot. This will thicken up the soup and add extra creaminess.
  • Stir in cornmeal: A few spoonfuls of cornmeal will help thicken your chili. Just let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes until fully absorbed.
  • Crumble tortilla chips: Take a cue from tortilla soup and crumble tortilla chips right into the soup. They’ll help absorb the liquid and dissolve into the soup, adding a bit of texture along the way.
  • Add arrowroot powder: Adding a teaspoon of arrowroot powder mixed with an equal amount of cold water will help thicken the chili, and it’s flavorless so it won’t detract from the finished dish.

8 Pantry Ingredients for the Best Vegan Chili

You’ll need some fresh produce to make the best vegan chili recipe, but your pantry is a real workhorse to help get you prepped.

Westbrae Natural Organic Chili Beans

This can does the work for you, offering black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans in a convenient mix you can just add to your favorite chili recipe.

Thrive Market Organic Black Beans

Here’s a pouch that stacks easily in the pantry and delivers 7 grams of protein per serving.

Thrive Market Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Add extra heat to your stock pot with fire-roasted tomatoes that have been charred over an open flame and packed with a hint of sea salt.

Pacific Foods Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock

Veggie stock is a must-have for any pantry. It’s been slow-simmered using a base of onions, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, celery, and garlic for maximum flavor and nutrition.

Simply Organic Ground Cumin Seed

Spice things up with a pinch (or a tablespoon) of ground cumin seed. This jar comes pre-ground so it’s ready when you are.

Thrive Market Organic Chili Powder

You’ll love this blend of organic chili pepper, oregano, cumin, and sea salt, which adds extra heat to vegan chili, tortilla soup, tacos, and more.

Jackson’s Honest Lime & Sea Salt Tortilla Chips

A little crunch is a vegan chili must-have. Crumble these organic tortilla chips on top of your bowl—you’ll love the natural citrus flavor.

Thrive Market Non-GMO Tortilla Chips

A tasty dinner is in the bag. Gluten-free and ready for your next fiesta, this snack has been stone-ground from USA-grown blue corn and adds a nice color contrast to your plate.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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