Spicy Vegetarian Chili

VeganChiliChili Beans

The BEST Vegetarian Chili! Make it with eggplant, plum tomatoes, onion, garlic, zucchini, bell peppers, jalapeños, white beans, kidney beans, and cilantro. You won't miss the meat!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Vegetarian Chili even a committed carnivore will love

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 Vegan Chili in serving dish

Vegetarian Chili Success

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, it was to remain a meatless chili—the beans were full of protein. And no, neither did we need potatoes. We served our vegetarian chili with French bread.

We used canned beans, but of course you can always make your beans from scratch on the stove or in the pressure cooker.

How to Store and Freeze this Chili

Like many chilis, this one is just as good the next day. It will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days and can be reheated over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

To freeze, let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer storage containers. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, or reheat straight from the freezer over low heat on the stovetop.

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Spicy Vegetarian Chili Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8 to 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
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin 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 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons 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 (use raw, beet, or coconut sugar for vegan version)
  • 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.

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Vegetarian Chili with Smoked Spices from Sally Cameron

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

60 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. JM

    This was a wow! I added grandma’s sweet cornbread as a side and it made all our tummies smile. I loved all the vitamin-packed ingredients and you were right, meat lovers didn’t miss the meat.


  2. Linda

    Hug your Dad for me! My husband and I are doing vegan cooking about 90% of the time after I had a cardiac event resulting in a stent, so these vegetarian recipes are much appreciated. It’s raining here again in San Diego, so this is the perfect day for a good bowl of chili. This is absolutely delicious!! I made a couple of minor changes since I didn’t want to go out to the store. Used portabella mushrooms instead of eggplant; added 1/2 T smoked paprika; a can of black beans; and I subbed some chipotle pepper (just the thick liquid from the jar) since I can’t do jalapenos. My throat literally closes up when I try to dice them. I’ve been tasting for the last 1/2 hour and can’t wait to have this for dinner with some crusty French bread. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!


  3. Just Lil

    Wow, this is almost exactly the same recipe that I have been making for 25 years from the Parade Magazine in the Sunday paper! My copy is taped together so it’s nice to be able to bookmark it in my tablet. The only thing missing is the 1/2 cup dry red wine added after tomatoes.

  4. anna

    Thanks Elise for the eggplant tip. I do make a veggie chili almost the same, not quite as spicy. I also add black beans and mushrooms. Roasting the eggplant and adding later prevents mushy eggplant


  5. Jelena

    Any substitute for beans, lentils? I happen to love veggies, except beans… Thanks!

    Show Replies (1)
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