This one-pot hearty vegan chili is packed with beans, vegetables, aromatic spices, and a satisfying meaty texture, making it the ultimate comfort meal ideal for cozy evenings, gatherings, or game-day feasts. This chili is a year-round staple in our household because it's delicious, satisfying, filling, and healthy. We love serving it for big get-togethers and on big game days.
This vegan chili is a departure from the usual vegetable-based chili versions packed with veggies. Don't get me wrong, those are delicious too, but I've taken a slightly different approach to make this chili feel heartier and, dare I say, a bit more "meaty."
How did I do it? Well, I added a combination of textured vegetable protein (TVP) and red lentils, giving it a nice thickness and creating a rich, satisfying texture. You won't even notice the red lentils, and the TVP gives it a great texture.
I threw in some cocoa and ancho chili seasoning, too. I know cocoa might sound like an odd choice to some of you, but trust me, along with the ancho seasoning, it adds a subtle depth and complexity to the flavor profile, making this vegan chili uniquely flavored and delicious. So, it's safe to say this vegan chili is a departure from the other vegan chili recipes you may have seen, and I'm excited for you to try it!
If you love soups and stews, try Lebanese-Inspired Vegan Fasolia (White Bean Stew), Vegan White Lasagna Soup, Vegan Split Pea Soup with Barley and Butternut Squash, and Healthy Red Lentil Soup | Easy Vegan Recipe.
What Makes a Good Vegan Chili?
I think these five elements lead to a vegan chili that's both delicious and unforgettable.
- Layered Flavors: A good vegan chili is all about depth of flavor. It combines a variety of spices and seasonings, from smoky paprika to cumin and chili powder, to create a harmonious and robust taste profile.
- Textural Variety: Textural variety is key when crafting the ideal vegan chili. This recipe has a meaty texture and a medley of tender beans and vegetables, creating a delightful balance of flavors and mouthfeel in every spoonful.
- Flavorful Seasoning: Don't skimp on the seasoning! Combining spices like cumin and paprika and adding unique elements like cocoa or ancho chili seasoning can elevate the flavor profile of your chili to new heights.
- Umami Boosters: Ingredients like tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire sauce enhance the umami (savory) flavors in vegan chili, making it richer and more satisfying.
- Balanced Heat: Achieving the right level of spiciness is essential. I used the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for that delicious heat.
- Simmering Time: Patience is key. Letting the chili simmer and develop flavors over time is crucial. Allowing it to meld together for a while ensures that every spoonful is delicious. While this chili can be ready more quickly, I find that simmering for 60 - 90 minutes develops the flavors beautifully.
What Is TVP?
I've singled out this ingredient because many of you may not have heard of TVP. TVP, or textured vegetable protein, is a plant-based protein source made from soy flour. It's a great addition to vegan chili because it mimics the texture of ground meat, adding a chewy and meaty quality to the dish. You can usually find TVP in major grocery stores' seasonings, dried beans, or grains section. Or you can always find it on Amazon.
One significant advantage of TVP in vegan chili is its high protein content. It's packed with protein, making it an excellent choice for those looking to increase their protein intake in a plant-based diet. Additionally, TVP is low in fat and a good source of dietary fiber, promoting feelings of fullness and supporting digestive health. It's cholesterol-free and provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source.
While you can substitute TVP in this recipe with any vegan protein you choose or omit it altogether from the recipe, I highly recommend trying it. I don't use it in many other meals, but I find it a great meat alternative for this vegan chili that adds a meaty texture and fullness to the stew.
Don't let the list of ingredients stop you from making this chili. It comes together pretty fast, and to craft a truly delicious chili, you need these layers of flavor. For specific quantities, refer to the recipe card below.
While you can use regular chili seasoning, ancho chili powder is a quick and easy way to add depth and flavor. It can be found in the spice aisle of many grocery stores and Latin American supermarkets. Remember that chili seasonings have different heat levels and flavor profiles, so the final taste of the chili may vary depending on the chili seasoning you use.
Adding brown sugar to your chili can help balance the flavors and add a touch of sweetness. Brown sugar has a subtle molasses flavor that adds depth. Substitute with maple syrup.
Adding jalapeño peppers is popular for chili because they provide medium heat and a bright, fresh flavor. Take out the seeds and chop them before sautéing them. Leave the seeds in if you like more heat.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are smoked jalapeño peppers with medium heat and a smoky, earthy flavor. Sold canned in adobo sauce, they add depth and complexity to chili with their smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor. You can adjust the number of peppers you use depending on how spicy you like it. Remember, even one pepper can bring the heat, so be warned!
Kidney beans are an ideal choice for chili due to their meaty texture and slightly sweet, earthy flavor. Light or dark kidney beans are fine.
Black beans are also a great, as they have a softer texture and a subtle flavor that can help balance the spices and other ingredients.
Bush's chili beans can be purchased mild or medium. A can of pinto beans is a good alternative if you can not find Bush's chili beans or do not want to use them.
Red lentils add a great texture to the dish while remaining virtually invisible. Moreover, the starch in red lentils naturally thickens the chili, giving it a hearty and satisfying texture. With red lentils, you can create a thick, rich chili without anyone knowing they are there except for you.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), as I mentioned before, is a plant-based protein made from soy flour. When rehydrated, it has a meat-like texture and is often used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes. I rarely use it except for this chili recipe because I love the texture it provides.
Thick or Thin Chili? Chili consistency is a personal preference - some prefer thick and hearty, while others prefer thinner and soupier. Red lentils and TVP are already doing a good job thickening this chili, but if you want it even thicker, you can bring in the optional masa harina. Wait until the chili has had a chance to cool down before adding it. As it rests, it naturally thickens up. Note that masa harina is not the same as cornmeal. Masa harina is finer and smoother than cornmeal. See this post on Masa Harina vs Cornmeal for more information.
- Vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, corn, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and celery can add a variety of flavors, textures, and colors to the chili, so feel free to add your favorites.
- Other meat replacements like Impossible Meat or Beyond Burger are delicious additions. Sauté the meat in some oil and then add to the chili when adding the beans and canned tomatoes. They will also bulk up the chili and add texture.
- Use any beans or legumes you like, such as navy beans or chickpeas.
How to Make Vegan Chili
This meal comes together in one pot with canned beans and only a few fresh ingredients. For detailed instructions, see the recipe card.
Here are some pictures of what you'll be doing.
Add the onion and sauté until golden brown and fragrant.
Sauté the garlic and jalapeño for about one minute.
Add your desired amount of chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and tomato paste.
Sauté the spices for about one minute. Add some beer to deglaze the pot and mix it all together until the beer has evaporated.
Add crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, kidney beans, black beans, chili beans in sauce, and red lentils to the pot, stirring to combine. Then, mix in brown sugar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, ensuring everything is well mixed. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 60 minutes.
Add the TVP, lime, cilantro, and masa harina (if using) to thicken the soup. Add the masa harina one tablespoon at a time, up to two tablespoons.
Adjust the seasoning and add your favorite toppings, such as scallions, avocado, cilantro, lime, tortilla chips, or vegan sour cream.
The lentils and TVP thicken the chili, so the masa harina is optional. Wait for the chili to simmer, uncovered for 90 minutes, so it can thicken up before adding the optional masa harina.
If you like your chili thinner, add more vegetable stock when simmering.
Add red pepper flakes or leave the seeds in the jalapeño peppers if you prefer a spicier chili.
You can make this chili in advance and store it in the fridge or freezer for later. Just reheat it on the stove or microwave, and add some vegetable broth if it gets too thick.
- Garnish your chili with green onions, spicy pickled jalapeños or onions, cilantro, lime, vegan shredded cheese, vegan sour cream, avocado, or crunchy tortilla chips. These things add another layer of delicious flavor.
- Enjoy this chili with delicious vegan Cornbread or a Classic Vegan Coleslaw Recipe.
- This chili is great as a topping for baked potatoes, nachos, or vegan hot dogs or as a filling for burritos, quesadillas, or tacos.
This vegan chili is a healthy meal with fiber, protein, and vitamins. It's also low in fat and contains no cholesterol.
You can freeze it for up to three months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and heat on the stove or microwave.
You can make vegan chili in a slow cooker by sauteing the onions and garlic, combining all the ingredients, and cooking on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Yes. If I'm not using the TVP, I brown other plant-based meats like Beyond or Impossible after the onions have become translucent.
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (1 tablespoon, minced)
- 2 jalapenos (chopped and deseeded for less heat)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder (substitute with regular chili powder)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
- 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo (chopped; use 1 - 2 chipotle pepper + 1 teaspoon adobo sauce)
- ¾ cup beer (sub with red wine)
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz each)
- 2 cups vegetable broth (substitute with vegan beef broth)
- 1 can red kidney beans
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can chili beans in sauce (I recommend Bush's Chili Beans; Alternatively, use a regular can of pinto beans.)
- ½ cup red lentils
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (sub with Tamari or soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup TVP
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¾ cup cilantro (optional)
- 3 tablespoons masa harina (optional to thicken if necessary)
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes until it becomes translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and jalapeños, and sauté for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste and minced chipotle peppers until the tomato paste darkens slightly.
- Stir in the Mexican oregano, ancho chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika, and sauté for about a minute, allowing the spices to bloom.
- Pour the beer to deglaze the pot, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, red kidney beans, black beans, chili beans in sauce, and red lentils to the pot. Stir well to combine.
- Mix in the brown sugar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix everything well and bring to a boil.
- Lower to a simmer and cook for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The lentils should be tender and the flavors well-developed when it is done.
- Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro to brighten the flavors.
- Optional: If you prefer a thicker chili, add up to 2 tablespoons of masa harina to the chili. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes to thicken. It will thicken more as the chili cools down.
- Serve your vegan chili hot, garnished with chopped scallions or cilantro if desired. It's perfect with a slice of crusty bread or over rice.
Nutrition information is only an estimate.
Lentils and TVP naturally thicken the chili; adding masa harina is optional. Let it simmer uncovered for 90 minutes to thicken before considering masa harina.
For a thinner chili, add vegetable stock during the simmering process.
Enhance the heat by adding red pepper flakes or keeping the jalapeño seeds.
Prepare this chili and store it in the fridge or freezer. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave, adding vegetable broth if needed for consistency.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Category: dinner, lunch, main course
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- Serving Size: 2 Cups
- Calories: 177
- Sugar: 5
- Sodium: 944
- Fat: 4
- Saturated Fat: 1
- Carbohydrates: 28
- Fiber: 9
- Protein: 8
- Cholesterol: 4.4 mg