If you're looking for the best vegetarian chili you've ever tasted, you're in the right place! Adapted from an America's Test Kitchen recipe, this vegan chili is thick, meaty, balanced, deeply flavorful, and so satisfying. This isn't the easiest chili recipe you'll come across, but the few extra steps are MORE than worth the effort! Includes gluten-free and WFPB/oil-free options.
Though vegetarian chili comes in many styles, this is my favorite. The classic flavors and comforting, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs texture of this vegan chili are hard to beat! If you grew up eating chili made with both meat and beans, this just might become your new vegan favorite.
Often, vegetarian chili ends up being nothing more than a tomato-y, vegetable stew, but not this one! The recipe I'm sharing today is lightly adapted from an America's Test Kitchen recipe I came across years ago. Over the years I've tweaked the recipe each time I make it, with a few additions, subtractions, and process changes here and there in an attempt to streamline the prep.
And for simplicity's sake, I always cook it on the stove top instead of in the oven as the original recipe suggested. This vegan chili is seriously the BEST - meaty, classic, just spicy enough, and rich thanks to ground walnuts. This is a chili that has us looking forward to cooler temperatures every year. And I hope it becomes your family's favorite, too.
You'll find this recipe to be very welcoming of your own substitutions. Want more spice? Add another jalapeño or some hot sauce. Want it thicker or thinner? Adjust the water/broth. Want to add cocoa or other flavor enhancers commonly found in chili? Do it!
What makes this vegan chili different?
The key components that make this chili SO good are:
- the spice mixture made from dried chiles and shiitakes
- ground walnuts
- bulgur wheat (use quinoa for a gluten-free option)
- The dried chiles and shiitakes add an authentic savoriness and spice.
- Ground walnuts thicken the chili and add richness.
- The bulgur fills out the chili and gives it a meaty bite that's shockingly similar to ground beef.
I'm not going to ramble on and on about this chili, because well, you just have to try it for yourself! The recipe may seem a bit complicated upon first glance, so read through it a couple of times. As you follow along, the process will start to make sense, and after you make it once you'll see it's actually pretty simple.
For serving this kick-ass Vegan Chili, here are a few toppings to try:
- vegan sour cream or my quick and easy Lime Cream Sauce
- green onion
- vegan cheese
- tortilla chips (a personal fave), corn chips or The Best Vegan Southern-Style Cornbread!
- pico de gallo
- avocado or guacamole
But truthfully, I almost always eat this chili plain. It's so good as-is, toppings just distract me from it's deliciousness.
In all my years of being vegan and testing recipes, this truly is STILL the best damn chili I've ever had, and I hope you love it, too! If you try it I would love to hear from you.....
Leave a comment and star rating below or tag a photo with @myquietkitchen on instagram and let me know what you think!
P.S. Check out the nutrition facts on this chili. Aside from the sodium (which you can decrease if you like), this chili couldn't be healthier! Cheers to enjoying tons of flavor and your health, too!
You might also like these recipes:
45-Minute Lentil Chili
Creamy Vegetable Noodle Soup
1-Pot Curry Black Lentil Soup
Vegan Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
The BEST Vegan Southern-Style Cornbread
Smoky White Bean Tacos
Spicy Thai Soup With Soy Curls
Vegan Chili for All
- 2 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried New Mexican chiles
- ½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (adds savory, depth of flavor)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- ½ cup walnut halves (adds body and fat for richness and mouthfeel)
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 large jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
- ¼ cup soy sauce, shoyu or tamari (use tamari for GF)
- 5 to 7 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp oil (omit for oil-free; replace with water or broth during sautéing of onion and spices)
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- scant ⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, optional
- 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 5 cups plus 1 cup water, divided (or sub homemade broth and omit bouillon listed below)
- 1 ½ tsp Better than Bouillon veg variety or equivalent bouillon cube (omit if using broth)
- ⅔ cup bulgur (sub quinoa and/or serve with cooked rice) (bulgur adds meaty texture and thickens)
- ½ cup red quinoa (optional) (can be used in addition to the bulgur or in place of)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange walnuts and chiles on a baking sheet and bake 8 minutes or until the chiles are fragrant. Transfer all to a plate to cool for a few minutes.
- Remove stems and seeds from chiles. Add toasted chiles, mushrooms, and oregano to a food processor or coffee/spice grinder and process until finely ground. *Be cautious of chile dust as it's quite an irritant!* Transfer spice mixture to a bowl.
- Add walnuts to the empty food processor and process until finely ground. Add the nutritional yeast and smoked salt and pulse to incorporate. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl.
- Add 1 cup of tomatoes, jalapeños, soy sauce, and garlic to empty food processor and process until pureed, about 30-45 seconds.
- If using bouillon, combine it with 1 cup hot water in a bowl and stir to dissolve.
- Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in ground chile mixture and cumin, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the 5 cups water and 1 cup broth, beans, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil.
- Stir in the bulgur and/or quinoa, ground walnut mixture, tomato mixture from food processor, and the remainder of the can of tomatoes. Return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, stir well, and let stand 20 minutes before serving.