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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: 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).



Top down view of 4 bowls of this veggie chili recipe, with a mixture of toppings both on the chili and in small bowls on the side

KEY INGREDIENTS FOR VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI


Fresh veggies: The fresher, the better. Not only will the flavor be stronger, but with all the heat the veggies will get, you need them to start firm if you want them to maintain their texture throughout the cooking process.

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: chili seasoning is usually a combination of spices that might include chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic power, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. There are a ton of great chili seasoning recipes if you want to make it on your own, but we’ve found the seasoning packets pack a ton of flavor too and make for an easier process.

The fixings: can you really even call it chili if you don’t serve it with all the goods? Well, technically yes, but toppings always add a lot to any chili recipe. Our favorite toppings for this vegetarian chili include sour cream, cheddar cheese, oyster crackers, and/or green onions.


OVERVIEW: HOW TO MAKE VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI


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

  2. Give your root veggies a head start: Saute 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. [I recommend using this time to open all your canned goods and drain the beans so they’re read to go at the end of step 4.]

  4. Add your garlic and chili seasoning: timing is key here. You want to give your garlic and seasoning between 30 seconds-1min in the pan before dropping in anything liquid in. This helps the spices release their flavors under higher heat, but doesn’t keep them subjected to that heat long enough to scorch them.

  5. Add in tomatoes, beans, and V8: Stir until well combined and bring to a boil.

  6. 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.

  7. *If using a slow cooker*: 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 (4hrs or 8hrs). Put feet up. Read a book. Drink some wine...aren’t slow cookers the BEST?!


Another view of this vegetarian chili served up and ready to eat along with a variety of topping options


TIPS & TRICKS FOR MAKING THE BEST VEGETARIAN THREE BEAN CHILI


Help! My veggies are still crunchy! What do I do? You likely didn’t sautee 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.


How did you settle on what beans to use in this recipe? It was a combination of two factors: taste and texture. Each of these beans taste great, and they each hold up well under the high heat of stovetop cooking (or the never-ending heat of the slow cooker). Some beans tasted great but turned to mush after cooking (I’m looking at you, butter beans…); some beans maintained their texture but really had no discernable taste at all. However, you can try different combinations to find what you like best! We also like cannellini beans, black eyed peas, garbanzo beans, and great northern beans in this recipe.


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!