My Favorite Vegetarian Chili: full of healthy vegetables and "meaty" enough to satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores!

Here’s my favorite vegetarian chili recipe.  It’s extremely low-fat and loaded with fresh vegetables, yet even the carnivores in my house get excited about it.  Hopefully the carnivores in your house will love it too!  

On the theme of healthy and delicious, a few weeks back I got an invitation to join Cooking Light’s community of food bloggers called “The Cooking Light Blogger’s Connection.”  See the red box in the left sidebar?  It links to my Profile on the Cooking Light website.  I’m honored and thrilled to be connected with this incredible brand. I’ve been a subscriber to Cooking Light Magazine for as long as I can remember. In fact several of the recipes on my blog were inspired by Cooking Light. Their brand represents values that I hold dear: a focus on family, friends, community and cooking exciting and delicious food that’s also healthy and wholesome.

This is not a financial relationship. The perks for me are the endorsement by a brand that I admire and the  exposure to Cooking Light’s large and growing audience. For my part I look forward to sharing relevant and inspiring content from Cooking Light.


The recipe for this Chili comes from one of my most falling-apart old cookbooks called The Frog Commissary Cookbook.  


Don’t be discouraged by the large number of ingredients.  If you use a food processor for the chopping, it comes together in under an hour, start to finish.


By the way, the secret ingredient that adds a meaty texture to this dish is a cup of bulgar wheat.  And here’s a tip for giving your chili a wonderful depth of flavor:  use a mix of chili powders.  I used New Mexican chili powder and ancho in mine.

Recipe type: Soup, lunch, dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
This vegetarian chili has such great flavor and texture. You'd never imagine how healthy and low fat it is!
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • chopped veggies
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onions (1½ - 2 large)
  • 3 cups chopped mushrooms (15-16 ounces)
  • 1½ cups chopped carrots (4-5 medium)
  • 1½ cups chopped green pepper (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • spices
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (mix different types for added depth of flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Other ingredients
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1-3 cups tomato juice (Start with 1. Add more at the end to thin, if necessary)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup bulgar wheat
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon tabasco sauce
  • 2 15-ounce cans undrained red kidney beans
  • 3 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
  • Suggested Garnishes
  • yogurt or sour cream, chopped scallions, grated cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, cubed avocado
  1. Have all of the ingredients ready: chopped veggies in one bowl, spices measured out in a small bowl, cans opened.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven. Add chopped veggies and spices. Sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, using only 1 cup of the tomato juice. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, uncovered. Add additional tomato juice if you want to thin the chili. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Serve with assorted toppings.
  3. Note: Chili freezes well


If you and your family love chili, it’s a long winter. Mix it up and try some other variations. Here are the 32 top-rated chili recipes from Cooking Light to get you started.

I hope your new year is getting off to a wonderful, tasty and healthy start!


Disclaimer:  On occasion I provide links in my posts to cookbooks or other products, available for purchase on Amazon. If you purchase a product through these links, I receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.


  1. Chris Crooks says

    I made this this weekend…………….Amazing. hearty, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the new years diet and warming on a cold winters day!

  2. Liz says

    Any substitute suggestions for the worcestershire? Most brands have anchovy in them. :( Excited about trying this recipe otherwise!! :)

  3. Emma says

    It’s funny I didn’t have woWorcestershire sauce or wine but I had red wine vinegar which seem to work fine I loved it I made some corn bread and it was a wonderful rainy day meal. Oh and I substituted the bulgar for morning star crumbles (also vegetarian) lol and black beans for the kidney beans but I used everything else!

  4. Mary G says

    Great Chili Lisa…. Had it for dinner two days in a row, texture and taste both great. It will now become one of my staple recipies. Thanks for thinking of us vegetarians.

  5. Ashley Leger says

    Hi Lisa!

    Im looking forward to trying this recipe out next week! Thank you so much for sharing. I do have a quick question. How do you think this recipe would come out if it was slow cooked? Would I need to alter anything?

    • says

      Hi Ashley!

      I think the chili recipe would work in the slow cooker without changing anything. You’d just have to calculate how many hours to set your slow cooker for, since the chili would be cooking at a low temperature over a long period of time. But since this chili only cooks for a total of 20 minutes, I’m not sure it’s worth doing it in the slow cooker. If you’re out all day and want to come back to a pot of chili, it Might be better to chop all the veggies in the morning and put them in a big plastic bag in the fridge. Measure out all the spices and put those in a plastic bag. Get all the wet ingredients (cans) opened and poured into one big plastic container in the fridge. Then, 1/2 hour before dinner, dump everything into a pot, bring it to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes!

  6. Cindy says

    I love the ingredients in this recipe- BUT- I am gluten free so the bulgar does not work for me. Have you ever used quinoa instead? Or rice? Any ideas for how to make this a gluten free recipe?

    • says

      Hi Cindy, the bulgar adds a thick “meatiness” to the chili – it absorbs some of the liquid and puffs up as it cooks. I haven’t tried any substitutions but I bet quinoa or rice would serve the same purpose and work really well! I’d love to know what you end up using and how it turns out! ~ Lisa

  7. Laura says

    Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, just a little heads up for strict vegetarians planning to follow this recipe.


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