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VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI


Three bowls filled with this vegetarian chili recipe topped with cheese and cilantro and a side of oyster crackers and sour cream

We’re smack dab in the middle of soup season in our house. It’s cold outside, the snow is blowing, and the freezing air just saps the warmth right out of you! If you’re like me, there’s only one thing this situation calls for: chili.


Isn’t it a bit ironic that the dish most known for heat and heartiness shares a name with the coldest time of the year? Irony aside, this vegetarian three bean chili recipe is the sure-fire cure for the winter chills.


My husband and I have probably made this recipe more than any other during our marriage. This vegetarian chili is actually what convinced my husband that an intentionally meatless meal could a) actually fill you up, and b) be 100% delicious, even with all the extra vegetables that are in this chili (which he was initially skeptical about). So if he can sign on and say it’s worth making again and again, I think we’re on to something! This is our go-to comfort food recipe mid-winter and is also the recipe we gravitate towards when we’re looking for an easy, healthy meal to put on the table.


Another reason to love this chili recipe is that it holds up well in the refrigerator, making it an excellent option for meal prep. We always make a large batch of this vegetarian chili to enjoy all week long.


TELL ME ABOUT THIS VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI


Level of difficulty: Easy. Lots of chopping, but nothing fancy; only basic kitchen equipment needed too.

Flavor: The chili spices are the prominent flavor in this dish, so making sure you’ve got a blend you like is key. While making your own spice mix is fun and allows you to control what gets included, this chili recipe is written out using the chili seasoning packets you can find at the grocery store. They’re easy, convenient, cheap, and taste good.

Texture: Chunky. The variety of vegetables and the varying sizes of the beans make this three bean chili a meal, not just a side dish!

Time: This will vary depending on the cooking method you select. After 15-20 minutes of prep work, you can either cook your vegetarian chili in a slow cooker (4hrs on high or 8hrs on low) or the stove top (30 minutes cook time).


Ingredient shot for this vegetarian chili recipe. Includes 3 types of canned beans, bell peppers, carrots, onion, V8 juice, diced tomatoes, and chili seasoning.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED


Fresh Veggies: This easy vegetarian chili recipes uses carrots, bell peppers, and a medium onion. Using fresh vegetables gives good texture to your chili. The vegetables also release water as they cook, helping to give your vegan chili a nice consistency.

Canned Beans: We’ve experimented with endless combinations of beans for this recipe, sometimes making batches with just one bean, and sometimes going all the way up to 6 types of beans. We’ve found three is just the right number. Lower and the flavor can be boring; higher, and you lose the flavor of each type of bean.

Chili Seasoning: You can use seasoning packets, bulk-purchased chili seasoning, or homemade chili seasoning for this vegetarian chili recipe.

V8 Juice or Canned Tomato Sauce: This adds liquid (and more veggies) to you chili


Collage showing the steps to make this vegan chili recipe in a slow cooker.

OVERVIEW: HOW TO MAKE VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI - SLOW COOKER DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and chop your veggies: prep your veggies per notes on ingredient list

  2. Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook: drop all ingredients into the slow cooker and mix to ensure all vegetables are coated in liquid and the spices are distributed. Select heat (low or high) and set a timer (6-8 hours for low, 3-4 hours for high).


OVERVIEW: HOW TO MAKE VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI - STOVE TOP DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and chop your veggies: prep your veggies per notes on ingredient list

  2. Give your root veggies a head start: Sauté the onions & carrot on their own before you add the other ingredients. Because raw root vegetables are tough, they need a bit of extra time to soften up and release their flavor.

  3. Add in your bell pepper: the pepper won’t need as much time as the onions and carrot, so add them to the pot about 5min after the first veggies go in.

  4. Add your chili seasoning: stir to coat your veggies.

  5. Add in tomatoes and their juices: add in the diced tomatoes. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze your pan.

  6. Add beans and V8 juice: Stir until well combined and bring your chili to a boil.

  7. Simmer low and slow: Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 20min. Chili is ready to eat once carrots are fork-tender.


Top down view of a bowls of chili topped with cheese.

THE BEST CHILI TOPPINGS


You can use any of your favorite chili toppings on this vegetarian chili! Some ideas include:

  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

  • Shredded cheese such as cheddar, colby jack, Mexican-blends, etc.

  • Lime wedges (for squeeze fresh lime juice onto your chili)

  • Sliced jalapeño peppers

  • Sliced avocado

  • Green onions

  • Oyster crackers (or crushed saltine crackers)


EXPERT TIPS


Help! My veggies are still crunchy! What do I do?

  • If you made your chili on the stovetop: you likely didn’t sauté them long enough at the beginning of the recipe. Think of it this way: you want the onions, carrots, and peppers to be about 90% cooked by the time you add the rest of the ingredients. No worries, though! If you’ve reached the end of the recipe and the veggies are crunchy, bring the pot back up to a boil, maintain that boil for about 5min (covered), and then reduce heat to medium-low for another 5min (covered). This isn’t optimal (the beans may become overcooked), but it’ll save the batch of chili: an overcooked bean is far more preferable than an undercooked carrot.

  • If you made your chili in a slow cooker: continue to cook your chili, it needs more time. Check in on it periodically to check the status of your veggies.


Can I use a different combination of canned beans for chili? Definitely! We also like using cannellini beans, black eyed peas, garbanzo beans, and great northern beans in this recipe. Mix and match your canned beans to find your perfect combination. Note: I would not recommend using butter beans as they tend to disintegrate as they cook...not ideal for chili.


My partner just has to have meat in their chili. What do you recommend? Leftover rotisserie chicken is a really tasty addition to this vegetarian three bean chili recipe. It adds a deep savory flavor without drawing too much attention to itself. Using chicken also adds protein without adding a lot of fat, making the chili heartier while still letting the veggies and beans be the stars of the show!


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