Easy Vegetarian Chili

With a well-stocked pantry, this Vegetarian Chili is an easy weeknight meal! Let it simmer while you set the table, unload the dishwasher, or relax on the couch. Loaded with beans, tomatoes, and spices, it's a good one to add to your chili rotation.

How to Make Vegetarian Chili
Alison Bickel

Vegan chili is my favorite pantry dinner. I know that no matter how harried my day, I always have spices, cans of beans, tomato sauce, and an onion laying around the house, which I can transform into an easy weeknight chili.

Great Chili Without the Meat!

For this recipe, I take basic vegan chili up a notch by adding quick-cooking bulgur wheat, which can be found in health food sections at the grocery store, and minced mushrooms. The combination of bulgur and mushrooms mimics the texture of ground beef.

  • Don’t like mushrooms? No biggie. Skip the mushrooms and double the amount of bulgur.
  • Have a wheat allergy? Just leave out the bulgur and double the amount of mushrooms.
  • Don’t like or can’t eat either? How about brown rice? (You’d probably want to skip quinoa, however—it just won’t stand up to the liquids in this recipe and instead will get too mushy.)
  • Want to make your beans from scratch? Here's how to make them on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker!
Vegetarian Chili with Bulgur Wheat
Alison Bickel

Don't Skip the Toppings!

The best part about chili is that it tastes great when comprised of the most basic elements, but it’s even better dressed up with toppings such as minced red onion, fresh cilantro, and avocado.

A Word About Cleaning Mushrooms

You can clean mushrooms by rubbing them with a paper towel, or feel free to rinse whole mushrooms under running water just before you’re going to use them. Cook’s Illustrated broke down the dos and don’ts of mushroom cleaning. It turns out a quick rinse before you chop them is indeed just fine.

Easy Vegetarian Chili with Bulgur Wheat
Alison Bickel

What Is Liquid Smoke?

I’ve called for Liquid Smoke in this recipe. You can usually find it in the spice or vinegar aisle of your local supermarket. It adds that hint of smoky flavor you would usually get if you smoked meat for hours on end.

It’s just a little something extra and is commonly made from hickory smoke flavor, vinegar, and sugar. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, don’t worry about it. The chili will still be delicious.

How to Store or Freeze Vegan Chili

Vegan chili is great for a weeknight pantry meal, is highly adaptable, and can satisfy even the most dedicated meat eaters among us.

Leftovers keep for five days in the fridge, and I’ve been known to freeze them for up to 3 months.

Check Out These Other Great Chili Recipes!

Easy Vegetarian Chili

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 6 servings


  • For the chili:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans (light or dark or a combination), drained
  • For the toppings:
  • 1 handful cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Lime wedges

Special Equipment

  • Food processor


  1. Prep and begin cooking the mushrooms:

    Put the mushrooms in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse for about 30 seconds until they are smaller than a pea.

    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms to the pot with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper.

    Cook for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms release some of their liquid and turn a darker color.

    How to Make Vegan Chili load the mushrooms into the food processor
    Alison Bickel
    Vegan Chili with Bulgur Wheat process the mushrooms
    Alison Bickel
    How to Make Vegan Chili cook the mushrooms
    Alison Bickel
  2. Cook the veggies and spices:

    Add the onion to the food processor (no need to clean) and pulse about 6 to 8 times until the onions are the size of a small dice. Add the onion, along with the chopped green bell pepper, minced jalapeño pepper, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, and cinnamon to the pot.

    Cook for about 8 minutes until the onions are translucent and the green peppers just begin to soften. Stir in the brown sugar. Cook for about 1 minute just to incorporate it.

    Vegan Chili with Bulgur Wheat process the onions
    Alison Bickel
    Best Vegan Chili add the peppers
    Alison Bickel
  3. Simmer the chili:

    Add the fire roasted tomatoes (and all their juices), tomato sauce, and three cups of stock or water. Stir to combine.

    Cover the pot and bring the chili up to a boil. This should take about 4 to 5 minutes.

    Once the chili is boiling, stir in the bulgur, then reduce the heat to medium low. Let the chili simmer for about 12 minutes until the bulgur is cooked through. It should be chewy and tender.

    Add the drained beans to the beans and liquid smoke to the pot. Stir to combine. Let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes.

    How to Make Vegan Chili add the bulgur
    Alison Bickel
  4. Season and serve:

    Stir. Taste, and add salt or pepper as you see fit. Ladle into bowls, and top with the cilantro, red onion and avocado. Serve the lime wedges alongside the bowl.

    Vegetarian Chili with Mushrooms
    Alison Bickel