This homemade vegetarian chili is thick, satisfying and deliciously spiced. It's loaded with veggies, beans and a special ingredient that makes it "meaty." My absolute favorite!
I've tried many veg chili recipes over the years. Some are heavy on the beans. Others are more about the vegetables. This one, made mostly from finely chopped vegetables and tomatoes, has a thick and satisfying base with just enough beans, and the perfect amount of heat. It wins the best vegetarian chili award, as far as I'm concerned. I live in a house of meat lovers and they (miraculously) look forward to veggie chili night. Hopefully the carnivores in your house will love it too.
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How To Make This Vegetarian Chili
Once you've chopped the vegetables and have all the ingredients in the pot, the chili will be ready in 25 minutes.
- Chop the carrots, onions, mushroom, celery, green peppers and garlic. drain the canned beans, measure out the spices, have the other ingredients at the ready: canned tomatoes, tomato juice, lemon juice, wine, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, canned beans and canned chilies.
- In a large heavy Dutch oven sauté the vegetable and spices in oil for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
You might be surprised to hear that this chili cooks for just 25 minutes but that's all it need for great texture and flavor, and to get maximum nutritional benefits from all those fresh vegetables.
The BEST time saving tip for making this veggie chili
Use your food processor to chop the veggies!
There are LOTS of chopped vegetables in this dish: mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, green peppers and garlic. They create a wonderful texture for the chili. I used to do all the chopping by hand but I've discovered that the food processor does a great job in a fraction of the time. If you want to give it a try, here's what to do:
- Set up your food processor with the chopping blade, also called the S-blade.
- Cut the vegetables into chunks so they fit nicely into the bowl of your food processor.
- Pulse the veggies until they are uniformly chopped (but not pulverized)
- For best results, chop each type of vegetable separately
My secret for making the BEST vegetarian chili
Whether you're making this vegetarian chili or any chili, this little tip will take your chili to higher heights of delicious.
- Use a mix of chili powders to add a wonderful depth of flavor to any chili.
- If a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of chili powder, use three different types, one tablespoon of each.
- In this vegetarian chili recipe I like to use a mix of New Mexican chili powder, chipotle and ancho.
I ALWAYS make a double batch of vegetarian chili and freeze half. I highly recommend doing this. For very little extra effort, you'll get another dinner or two cooked and ready. (See recipe notes for freezing instructions.)
Those times when you want something healthy and satisfying for dinner but you don't feel like cooking, just pull out a container of veg chili from the freezer and heat it up. Sprinkle on some cheese and chopped scallions and you've got a fantastic meal.
This vegetarian Chili recipe comes from one of my most falling-apart old cookbooks called The Frog Commissary Cookbook. By the way, the secret ingredient that adds a meaty texture to this dish is a cup of bulgar wheat. If you want to keep it gluten-free substitute an equal amount of raw quinoa.
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Here's My Favorite Vegetarian Chili Recipe. If you cook this I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!
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My Favorite Vegetarian Chili
- Total Time: 52 mins
- Yield: 8 1x
An all around excellent vegetarian chili, with great flavor and texture and just the right amount of heat.
Adapted from a recipe in The Frog Commissary Cookbook
For The Veggies
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 cups chopped yellow onions (1 ½ - 2 large)
- 3 cups chopped mushrooms (15-16 ounces)
- 1 ½ cups chopped carrots (4-5 medium)
- 1 ½ cups chopped green pepper (1 large)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
For The 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
- 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)
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 cup bulgar wheat (substitute 1 cup quinoa for gluten free)
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce* Note for strict vegetarians: some brands of Worcestershire sauce contain anchovies. If you omit the Worcestershire sauce, the chili will still be delicious.
- ½ teaspoon tabasco sauce
- 2 15-ounce cans undrained red kidney beans
- 3 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
- yogurt or sour cream
- chopped scallions
- grated cheddar cheese
- chopped cilantro
- cubed avocado
- Have all of the ingredients ready: chopped veggies in one bowl, spices measured out in a small bowl, cans opened.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven. Add the chopped veggies: onions, mushrooms, carrots, green pepper, celery and garlic, and the spices: cumin, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, chili powder, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring, for 4-6 minutes, just to soften the veggies a bit and toast the spices a bit.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, using only 1 cup of the tomato juice to start. 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.
- How To Save Time: Use your food processor to chop all the vegetables.
- How To add even more great flavor: use 2 or 3 different types of chili powder.
- How to Freeze and reheat This Chili: Freeze chili in an airtight container. It will last for at least 4 months in the freezer. Defrost before reheating or transfer frozen chili to a large heavy pot with a lid. Add ½ cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat, until defrosted and heated through.
- How To Make This Vegan: Omit the Worcestershire Sauce or find a brand that doesn't contain anchovies.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 22 mins
- Category: Soup, lunch, dinner
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: vegetarian chili recipe, best vegetarian chili
Originally published January 2014. Updated October 2018 with added nutritional information and some tweaks to the written post.
Hi! What wine would you suggest cooking with? Is there a specific one you like to use?
Hi - yes, I usually use dry Vermouth whenever a recipe calls for dry white wine. It has a long shelf life and we generally have it around for Martinis. It's the perfect dry white wine for cooking.
I’ve been making this chili for more than 25 years. I also own a well loved copy of the Frog Commissary cookbook. My whole family adores this chili and everyone I make it for asks for the recipe. I’ve given it to so many. I’m happy to see that it continues to be enjoyed , and is now internet available/googleable!
I can see why you've been making this for such a long time. No need to look elsewhere once you've had this veggie chili - it truly is the best. I used to share the recipe with friends even before my blog and I am so happy to be able to spread the word even further, here on my blog. Thanks so much for your comment Laura. Happy cooking! 🙂
This was my favorite dish at the Commissary back in the day.
I’ve probably made this a dozen times since you first posted it. This is a mainstay in our house and never disappoints! It’s the best!
Awesome vegetarian chili. I used quinoa which came out great. Thanks!
Hey Christopher, I'm so glad you enjoyed!
Great flavor! It’s easy to adjust ingredients if you want (we did corn and extra beans in place of mushrooms). My husband was a bit skeptical but he really enjoyed it! Never would have thought to add lemon juice or wine!
Thank you for your recipe!
Hi Ashley, corn and beans sound like tasty substitutions. I'm so glad you and your husband enjoyed!
This was by far my favorite vegan chili I’ve made yet! I don’t know why I never thought to put my chili veggies in the food processor.... love the texture. I actually think it makes it seem more “meat-like.” The bulgar kind of gives that ground beef texture. I never would’ve thought to put mushrooms in chili and loved it. I didn’t have tomato juice so I used V8, the whole 3 cups. This makes a ton of chili! Thanks!
Hi Tracey, I'm so glad you loved the chili! Thanks so much for coming back to leave a comment.
Just wanted to say that this chili is awesome. I swapped out the olive oil for sechuan pepper oil... And one of the pepper powders I used was jalapeño... Holy cow it gets warm. I also threw in one pound of pork. Great recipe!
This is one of those recipes that tastes so good it's hard to believe how healthy it is. I made it and put half in the freezer only to defrost it the next day and eat the rest... then I made it again. 5 stars!
I'm not the greatest cook, so I do have a question. Green peppers & celery are not veggies I can include. Given the amounts, would leaving them out and not subbing something else alter the consistency too much in your opinion?
I would up the amounts of carrots, mushrooms and onions to compensate. That should work well.
Thank you kelly
Would this recipe be considered vegan?
Yes. It's vegan as long as you omit the Worcestershire sauce which contains anchovies. It'll still be delicious!
Would this recipe be considered vegan, as well?
Wow this is good! Easy to make, I used quinoa and it provided the body of a thick chili just right. I guess you can tweak it, but go with the recipe first- it's outstanding!
Ok this is the dumbest question ever. This chili is delicious however I had to cook it longer and really high temps to get the quinoa to cook. Was I supposed to cook the quinoa before adding?
Not a dumb question at all! If you're not accustomed to cooking with quinoa, you probably don't know that it cooks in 10-12 minutes, so if you put it with everything else and simmer the whole pot for 20 minutes, you should be good to go!