The Best Vegetarian Chili EVER!

veggie chili in potby Anjali Shah, The Picky Eater

This Vegetarian Chili is my absolute favorite recipe. It’s one of the first I made when I was starting out as a home cook and hosting my first dinner party. I was super nervous about how it would turn out because I wasn’t used to making up recipes or modifying ones I had found! But luckily, it turned out to be amazing and has become one of our go-to recipes in our house. It has won chili cook-offs, has made its appearance at birthdays and celebrations and is an all time family favorite!

My husband has always been a bit skeptical of vegetarian chilis.

The classic response from him when I make a vegetarian chili recipe is: *taste* *pause* “this is pretty good. but it’s not chili.”

My theory is that he responds this way because he used to eat meat (he turned vegetarian at age 15) and probably never got used to the non-meat flavor in veggie chili. (I could probably ask him why he didn’t like it but it’s more fun for me to speculate in this post, and I’m pretty sure that’s the reason :) ).

Since the Super Bowl is only days away, I thought I’d get into the mood by posting some of my favorite, healthy, game-day recipes. Even though my Niners lost (sniff!), I’ll still be watching the game with friends on Sunday, eating – what else? – game day food, and my vegetarian chili.

This recipe blew my husband away. He no longer responded with “this isn’t chili,” but instead said “this is really good!” He even went back for seconds. It’s got the smokiness of traditional meat chilis, but is much healthier and vegetarian friendly. The smokiness in this dish came from a recipe I found on Kath Eats. Her secret is adding a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder to the recipe, and honestly it makes a big difference. I made quite a few modifications to Kath’s recipe, and added a few other ingredients to enhance the smokiness. I also served my chili with cornbread and fun toppings like Greek Yogurt (tastes just like sour cream!), cheese, green onions, and crushed tortilla chips.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 12 ladles of chili, or 6 servings

Serving Size: 2 ladles

Calories per serving: 300

Fat per serving: 1.7g


  • 1 15oz can Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15oz can Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15oz can Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp Ghirardelli cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp (or a bit less) cayenne pepper
  • A couple splashes of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp regular paprika
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, o% Greek Yogurt (or Low Fat/Fat Free Sour Cream), tortilla chips

Veggie chili1-anjaliThe Directions

Step 1: Chop the garlic, onion, and bell peppers. Saute lightly over medium high heat in 1-2 tsp olive oil. Meanwhile, wash the beans until all of the canning liquid is gone.

Step 2: Once the veggies have sauteed for about 5 minutes, add everything else into the pot (tomatoes, beans, spices, etc.). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 min or longer as needed.

Note: I added cornbread to this recipe, because what’s chili without cornbread? While cornbread isn’t exactly healthy, I just served the pieces in smaller portions for a tiny bit of indulgence. I used this mix from Trader Joe’s, which makes the most delicious cornbread I’ve ever had (and all of the ingredients are all-natural, no weird preservatives included!)

Step 3: Once the chili is done cooking, you can top it with anything you like: 1 Tbsp cheese, fat free sour cream or 0% greek yogurt, or tortilla chips. I served mine with a piece of cornbread (of course)!

The nutritionals on this chili are pretty great. This recipe makes 12 ladles of soup, and each ladle has ~150 calories, 9g protein and 10g fiber. Each bowl I served had probably 2 ladles of chili (300 calories) + 1 piece cornbread (150 calories). The husband wanted his chili with cornbread and a bit of cheese (so his dinner had only about 50 calories more than mine did). Even with the toppings, it’s still a really healthy and hearty dinner!

Nutritional Information Per Serving (2 ladles of chili, 1/6 of the recipe): 300 Calories, 1.7g Fat, 800mg Sodium, 61.8g Carbs, 20.2g Fiber, 4.3g Sugar, 18.1g Protein

anjali-1Anjali Shah is a food writer, board certified health coach, and owner of The Picky Eater, a healthy food and lifestyle blog. Her work has been featured on, Women’ s Health, Cooking Light, Reader’s Digest, CNN, Food Network, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Whole Foods, SHAPE, and at Kaiser Permanente. Anjali grew up a “whole wheat” girl, but married a “white bread” kind of guy. Hoping to prove that nutritious food could in fact be delicious and desirable, she taught herself how to cook and successfully transformed her husband’s eating habits from a diet of frozen pizzas and Taco Bell to her healthy, yet flavorful recipes made with simple, wholesome ingredients. Through her blog, The Picky Eater, Anjali shares her passion for tasty, healthy cooking.