Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian chili with eggplant, plum tomatoes, onion, garlic, zucchini, bell peppers, jalapeños, white beans, kidney beans, and cilantro.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Those of you who have been reading Simply Recipes for a while probably sense (rightly) that my father is a committed carnivore.

Thus you may appreciate that dad, spending an afternoon making this vegetarian chili with vegetables that he had bought at the farmers market that morning, would only put so much care into a meat-free chili, his dinner, if that chili were darn good.

This vegetarian chili is that good.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

It’s excellent. Spicy, flavorful, delicious. Of course my mother did have to convince dad that no, we didn’t need steak in addition to the chili, the beans were full of protein. And no, neither did we need potatoes. We served the chili with French bread.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8-10

The level of spiciness in this vegetarian chili will depend on how much chili powder, and how many jalapeños you put in the chili. If you like things on the mild side, start with the smaller amounts of both, and add to taste.


  • 1 1-pound (450g) eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, diced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, finely minced (Taste and check the heat of the jalapeños. If very hot only use one, if mildly hot, use two. Wash hands with soap and water after handling. Do not rub eyes.)
  • 1 28-ounce (794g) can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, including liquid (or 2 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chopped oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked white beans (1 15-ounce or 425g can), drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans (1 15-ounce or 425g can), drained and rinsed
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (can sub parsley if you have an aversion to cilantro)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1 Roast the cubed eggplant: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Scatter eggplant cubes in a shallow roasting pan and slather with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2 Sauté the onions, garlic, peppers: While the eggplant is roasting, start on the rest of the vegetables. In a large (5-6 quart) thick-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more. Add the red bell peppers, zucchini, and jalapeño chili peppers. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 Add the tomatoes, spices, chili, and roasted eggplant: Add the tomatoes to the pot along with any liquid that may have been in the can (if using canned). Add oregano, cumin, and fennel seeds. Add chili powder to desired heat. Stir in the eggplant cubes (carefully as to not break them up), and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

4 Add the beans, lemon, sugar, cilantro, salt, pepper: Add the white beans and kidney beans, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and chopped cilantro. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5 Serve with garnishes: Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and chopped green onions.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Spicy Vegetarian Chili on Simply Recipes. Thank you!


If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!


Vegetarian Chili with Smoked Spices from Sally Cameron

Showing 4 of 56 Comments

  • Lynda Wanzel

    Are you able to make this dish ahead of time and freeze it?

  • Debra Wilson

    I made this chili for New Year’s Day to eat during the football game. I cooked it on the stove and placed in crock pot to keep warm. I used white and black beans instead of kidney. It was a great hit! You know it is popular when folks want the recipe.

  • Veg boy

    This looks really delicious. Is there a crockpot version of this recipe?

  • Meesh Crum

    this was amazing! My “I hate beans and love all meats” husband had some right before I added the beans, our 15 month old daughter couldn’t get enough, and this vegetarian was in love! I cannot wait to make this again and even trick some of my “healthy food/food without meat is gross” family into loving this at the next big family meal. :) Thank you!

  • Pat

    This is sort of a chili-flavored ratatouille — with beans — and it’s delicious. I added crimini mushrooms cut into a small dice to give a more earthy flavor and meatier texture. I roasted the eggplant in a loose aluminum foil envelope so cleanup was quick (dusted the eggplant with thyme before roasting). Timing is perfect , as the eggplant is ready just when you’re ready to add it to the pot. Taste before adding the sugar– you may not need it. Dried and fresh oregano are so different they might as well be different herbs. To my taste this is definitely a dried oregano dish. As someone mentioned, it will look nothing like that staged photo, but it is bright and appetizing nonetheless. I think it would be good with butternut squash added, or with a good balsamic substituted for the lemon juice.

View More Comments / Leave a Comment
Spicy Vegetarian ChiliSpicy Vegetarian Chili