This smoky vegetarian chili is packed with beans and mushrooms, with a few secret ingredients added to the spice combination that add a smoky, umami flavor and create a velvety smooth texture! It’s hard to believe this chili is 100% plant-based and vegan because it’s so packed with flavor, and it’s great to stash in your freezer.
This has to be one of the most hearty and delicious vegan meals I have ever had. Filled with meaty mushrooms and beans, this chili is filling and nutrient-packed, and even meat-lovers will devour it.
It’s cheap to make, and this recipe makes a TON so you can freeze leftovers or a second batch for another meal or two or three or four. And you can even make it go a bit further by serving it with cooked rice, quinoa, or cornbread.
The secret ingredients and spice combination
What really makes this vegetarian chili really stand on its own is the secret spice combination.
It’s smoky from smoked paprika, smooth and velvety from cocoa powder(!!!) and cinnamon, and spicy from chili powder and cayenne.
It’s a mind-blowing combination unlike anything I have ever tried in chili before. The cinnamon is an homage to my Greek roots (the Greeks really like cinnamon with their savory meals, like in manestra and Greek Spaghetti).
And the cayenne pepper gives it just a subtle extra kick.
And the other secret ingredient? Soy sauce! It adds a savory, umami punch that helps compensate for the lack of meat.
I also added just a little bit of honey to help round out everything and add a touch of sweetness. You can leave it out if you want, or use sugar or maple syrup if you need a 100% vegan version.
How to make the best vegetarian chili
Just sauté some peppers, onions, and mushrooms, add the spices, beans, soy sauce, and honey, and cook! Here are some tips for success:
- When you sauté the mushrooms, cook them with a pinch of salt until most of their liquid evaporates and stir them only occasionally. Here’s more on how to sauté perfect mushrooms.
- You only need to cook this for 20 minutes once you have all the ingredients in, but for the best flavor and texture I recommend cooking for 60 minutes. The longer you cook it, the more time the flavors have to develop.
- I recommend adding cilantro to the chili, but it’s optional. If you do choose to use it, I recommend adding the cilantro at the end, since the fresh flavor of the herb will stand out more the less time it has to cook.
What to serve with vegetarian chili
While this chili is delicious on its own, it would also be great topped with fixings, such as:
- sour cream
- sliced onions
- chopped tomatoes
- shredded cheese
- diced avocado
- hot sauce
- pickled jalapeños
I plan on serving this recipe for halloween dinner, along with pumpkin chili. I’m just going to keep it hot in a slow cooker and let guests help themselves, with all the fixings in little bowls.
I love serving chili with cornbread (skillet cornbread or jalapeño cornbread are both great). It’s also delicious served on top of cilantro lime rice or cornbread, or another cooked grain like quinoa, barley, or pasta. For a grain-free alternative, try serving it over spaghetti squash.
- To make vegetarian chili with no tomatoes, omit the crushed tomatoes and add 1-2 cups more vegetable broth.
- Make it heartier by adding 1/2 cup of rinsed, uncooked quinoa when you add the beans, along with 1 cup more of vegetable broth or water.
- Save some money by cooking up dry beans before making this, instead of using canned.
- Omit some of the spices or change them up, depending on what you have in your pantry!
Can I make it in my slow cooker or instant pot?
Yes! It’s easy to adapt this recipe to make in your crockpot or pressure cooker. Here’s how.
- To make it in your slow cooker, add all the ingredients to your crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Use only 1 cup of vegetable stock, and if all the ingredients don’t fit, cut the amount of mushrooms and/or beans down.
- To make it in your instant pot, use the sauté function to cook the onions, peppers, garlic, and mushrooms as directed for stovetop. Then, add the remaining ingredients, cover, and set pressure to manual, high for 20 minutes. Allow to naturally release or quick release, waiting until the float valve has depressed before opening the pressure cooker.
Other easy chili recipes
- Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
- Instant Pot Pumpkin Chili
- Crockpot Turkey and Vegetable Chili
- Instant Pot Chili with Ground Beef and Dry Kidney Beans
Other vegan or vegetarian soups/stews
- Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes Soupa)
- Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- Vegetarian Spilt Pea Soup with Potatoes
- Irish Potato Leek Soup
Here are all my vegetarian recipes.
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Smoky Vegetarian Chili with Beans and Mushrooms
- Large pot
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bell peppers diced (any color)
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 16 oz. mushrooms roughly chopped
- 6 cups cooked beans such as kidney, black, and/or pinto beans, washed and drained (four 15-oz cans)
- 28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes preferably fire roasted
- 2 cups corn frozen or fresh
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
- 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, or water
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey or 1/2 tablespoon sugar, optional
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro optional
- Sauté peppers and onion in olive oil (2 tablespoons) until softened and starting to brown over medium-high heat in a large pot (approximately 5 minutes).
- Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Add chopped mushrooms and a pinch of kosher salt; sauté until softened and liquid has evaporated, stirring only occasionally.
- Add remaining ingredients except cilantro; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Add cilantro during last five minutes of cooking.
- Serve on its own or on top of cooked rice or quinoa, with cornbread, and/or with fixings, such as sour cream, shredded cheese, diced avocado, red onion, and more cilantro.
- Slow cooker directions: To make in the slow cooker: add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Use only 1 cup of vegetable stock, and if needed, cut amount of mushrooms and beans in half.
- Freezer directions: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months. When ready to eat, run hot water on the outside of the container, pop out into a large pot, cover, and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through.
- For a no-tomato version, omit the crushed tomatoes and use 1-2 cups more vegetable stock.
- Don't have some of the spices? Don't worry! You can omit a few and still be fine. The most important one is chili powder, and I also recommend trying to keep the cocoa powder and the smoked paprika.
- Money saving tip: cook dry beans instead of buying canned.
This recipe first appeared on Bowl of Delicious in May 2014. It has been updated to include an improved recipe, more relevant information in the post, and clearer instructions and photos. The original version did not include tomatoes- feel free to omit them if you prefer!