Hearty Vegetarian Chili
Chili is easily one of my favorite meals to prepare and has become a staple in our household for many reasons. It’s cozy, hearty, flavorful, and perfect for potlucks and weeknight dinners - what's not to love?
As if chili couldn't get any better, it is also a foolproof meal when you are experiencing poor mental health. Allow me to explain.
With the significant rise in food costs, just thinking about grocery shopping can be anxiety-inducing. Luckily, the base ingredients needed to make vegetarian chili are non-perishable canned goods and dried spices, which are relatively inexpensive, can be purchased in bulk when on sale, and stored in your pantry/cupboard until needed.
Chili can also be made in bulk, producing a ton of leftovers. You can make a big batch, store it in the refrigerator, and have a guaranteed lunch or supper meal all week. If you don't feel up to eating leftover chili every day, the leftovers can be frozen and reheated on a day when you need a nourishing meal in a pinch or are feeling unmotivated and too drained to cook.
PRO TIP FOR SAFE STORAGE: Transfer the cooked chili into a shallow dish/pan, or multiple single-serving air-tight containers, and allow it to cool to room temperature on the stovetop for no longer than 2 hours. Then seal the cover and place it in the fridge for 3-4 days. To freeze, follow the exact instructions for refrigeration - using freezer-friendly containers - and place it in the freezer on the day you cook it. Chili typically freezes well for up to 3 months.
It’s easy to prepare (and clean up).
I am a HUGE fan of one-pot meals, simply because there are fewer dishes to clean up afterward. Added bonus if the meal is plant-based - I've lost count of how many times I've forgotten to take meat/poultry out of the freezer to thaw for an evening meal.
Outside of prepping your veggies of choice and measuring out your spices, meal prep for vegetarian chili doesn't require much thought - just open the cans, dump them into a stock pot or slow cooker, and simmer until desired doneness.
You can simplify the preparation process even further by purchasing a frozen chili vegetable blend or pre-chopped veggies at the grocery store (though this option may be slightly more expensive, as you are paying for convenience). One of my favorite time-saving cooking hacks is purchasing pre-minced garlic (I'm a big fan of the large jar of Kirkland minced garlic from Costco - we add garlic to everything), as it saves a ton of time peeling and pressing the garlic, and then tediously cleaning out the press!
Don't sweat the long ingredient list found in chili recipes - once you've established your chili base*, the recipe is easily modifiable to accommodate likes/dislikes and what ingredients you may or may not have at home.
*Chili base = olive oil, onion, garlic, crushed and diced tomatoes, red kidney and black beans, and the dried spice blend.
Potential chili ingredient swaps and add-ins include:
Protein: adding in an extra can of beans or lentils, or animal protein of choice, such as lean ground beef, chicken, or turkey.
Veggies: instead of the traditional diced bell peppers and jalapeño, try adding diced zucchini, mushrooms, sweet potato, or puréed pumpkin.
Toppings: chopped cilantro, diced avocado, diced green onion or chives, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, jalapeño slices, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or crushed tortilla chips
Fun scooping options: You can either eat chili as is with a spoon, or scoop it out with corn chips, naan bread, or a dinner roll.
The below Chili recipe is one I have tweaked and modified over the years, in both flavor and consistency, with an added secret ingredient I learned from my Dad - cinnamon! I will generally use this recipe as a base and make occasional swaps and additions depending on what ingredients I have in the house, for example, you may note that, in the photo at the top of the blog post, the chili contains zucchini - this is because I had half a zucchini sitting in my crisper that was about to spoil. Veggies like zucchini and mushrooms are fairly neutral in flavor and absorb the flavors of whatever they are cooked in, which makes them excellent additions to bulk up any dish!
Makes: 6 servings | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes
1 yellow onion, diced (or 1 Tbsp onion powder)
4 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and diced (optional)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tsp oregano
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Large handful of corn chips (I prefer the Que Pasa Twist of Lime)
Gather and prepare all ingredients.
In a large stock pot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat and sauté the diced onions until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add in the diced green and red bell pepper and jalapeño and continue to sauté until softened.
Stir in the seasonings and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.
Pour in the diced and crushed tomatoes, along with the corn, kidney beans, and black beans. Stir to combine.
Bring the chili to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, dish into bowls, and top with shredded cheddar cheese and cilantro. Serve with corn chips for scooping.