This easy Vegetarian 3 Bean Chili has all the rich and hearty satisfaction of a meat-based chili, minus the meat! It’s jam packed with both flavor and texture thanks to the combination of creamy beans, fresh vegetables, corn, tomatoes and smoky seasonings! Ready in 45 minutes or less, this chili will become your family’s go-to recipe when you want a healthy, yet cozy, warming meal! (Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, plant-based and dairy-free if you watch your toppings)
Vegetarian 3 Bean Chili Recipe
This thick and chunky vegetarian chili is made with simple ingredients, but full of texture and flavor! Smoky, savory and spicy in taste, this recipe is packed with a combination of three creamy beans, aromatic onions, piquant peppers, sweet corn, fire-roasted tomatoes, delicate crushed tomatoes, fragrant garlic and flavorful dried spices. It’s hearty, rich and so utterly delicious you won’t miss the meat at all!
Made in one pot and ready in 45 minutes or less, it’s a cozy and healthy meal that will keep you warm all season long!
Plus, this recipe is completely customizable and allows you to control the level of spicy heat! And, since this chili tastes even better the next day, I definitely recommend making a double batch to have on hand for quick and easy lunches or weeknight dinners! Or, you can freeze and store the chili so you can always have a hearty meal ready to go right at your fingertips!
What is vegetarian chili?
Vegetarian chili is a hearty stew made up of vegetables, tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, aromatics and flavorful dried spices.
What ingredients are in vegetarian chili?
The exact ingredients in vegetarian chili can vary greatly from recipe to recipe. However, most versions will include at least fresh or canned vegetables, tomatoes, beans, broth or beer, and some form of chili peppers (either diced raw chilies or chili powder)
This easy vegetarian three bean chili contains the following:
- Beans – kidney beans, black beans and refried pinto beans
- Vegetables – onions, peppers and corn
- Aromatics – garlic and bay leaves
- Spices – chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and coriander
- Liquid – beer or vegetable broth
What kind of beans are best for chili?
Three bean chili is all about, well, the beans in addition to the vegetables and bold chili flavors! While beans provide a very subtle flavor, each variety will bring something different to chili.
There is no right answer when it comes to what kinds of beans are “best” for chili. You can use any variety and combination of beans you personally prefer or have on hand.
- Kidney Beans – Dark red and light red kidney beans are the most traditional bean used in chili. Both varieties are hearty, meaty and take on the flavor of seasonings they are cooked with. They keep their shape and remain firm when heated, which adds a nice thick texture to chili.
- Pinto Beans – Also known as ‘light speckled kidney beans’, pinto beans are smaller and more plum than kidney beans. They have a unique, robust and earthy flavor.
- Refried Beans – Commonly made from Pinto beans that have been cooked and mashed. Refried beans give chili and incredibly creamy and thick texture.
- Chili Beans – Chili beans are nothing more than pinto beans cooked in a mild chili-spiked sauce.
- Black Beans – Black beans are soft and creamy in texture. They are richer and heartier in flavor than a pinto bean without being overwhelming.
- Cannellini Beans – Also referred to as white kidney beans, they are meatier than navy or great northern beans. They have a tender flesh and earthy, nutty flavor. Cannellini beans are often used in Italian soups such as minestrone, but can be used in white chili.
- Great Northern – Great Northern beans, which resemble lima beans, are slightly nutty in flavor. They are larger than navy beans, but lighter in density with a thinner skin. They are often used in quick white chili recipes and require less time to cook than navy beans.
- Navy Beans – Navy beans are also often used in white chili. They are smaller and slightly plumper than great Northern beans, however they have a denser texture and thicker skin. They take longer to cook to become tender.
Do I drain beans for chili?
If you are using dried beans, they need to be soaked and picked over for stones prior to using. Dried beans also need to be cooked carefully after soaking as their outer skin contains toxins, which are rendered harmless during the cooking process.
Canned beans have already been cooked. The cloudy liquid found in canned beans is made up of mostly starch and salt, which can alter the taste of a dish. You should drain and rinse beans prior to using them, unless the recipe states otherwise.
This easy 3 bean chili uses canned beans and requires draining and rinsing the beans prior to proceeding with the recipe.
How to make vegetarian chili thicker?
Regardless of if your chili is bean, beef, or vegetarian, it should be stew-like and thick! Nothing is worse than a bowl of thin, watery chili when you are hoping for a cozy, hearty meal.
In case you accidentally end up with sad, soup-like chili, below are a few different ways to quickly and easily thicken up your chili!
- Use refried beans. Using refried pinto beans is an incredibly easy way to make thick chili! The refried beans blend seamlessly into vegetarian or bean chilies and give the stew a deliciously creamy texture. This recipe below utilizes refried beans. Pro-tip: Using refried beans is similar to the below method of mashing, minus all the extra effort!
- Mash some of the chili. You can use a potato masher to smash the vegetables and beans in your chili. Mashing will cause the beans release their natural starches and help thicken the stew. Mash as much of the chili as desired. Alternatively, you can transfer some of the chili to a high powered stand blender or food processor and process a portion of the chili and then stir it back in for the same result.
- Add cornmeal or masa harina. Add a tablespoon or more to a simmering pot of chili and cook for 10-12 minutes. Cornmeal and masa harina will thicken the chili. However, both additions can slightly alter the texture and taste of the chili to be a tad grainy.
- Cook the chili longer. Simmer the chili, uncovered, for a longer length of time. Continuing to cook the chili will reduce the liquid. However, please note if you cook the chili for longer than recommended in the recipe, it could cause the ingredients in your chili to become mushy.
- Add chips. Add a few handfuls of crushed chips (tortilla or corn) to your chili. The chips will absorb excess liquid and at the same time give a bit of texture to your chili.
What garnishes to serve with bean chili?
Garnishes are the best way to customize your chili to your specific taste! Feel free to keep it safe, or get creative and load your chili up with all the fixings!
The best toppings for bean chili:
- Shredded Cheese
- Chopped Cilantro
- Diced Avocado
- Minced Red Onion
- Sliced Scallions
- Diced Tomatoes
- Sliced Jalapenos
- Shredded Lettuce
- Sliced Olives
- Shredded Carrots
- Sour Cream
- Greek Yogurt
- Salsa or Pico de Gallo
- Crushed Fritos
- Tortilla Chips
- Hot Sauce
What to eat with vegetarian chili?
Bean chili is extremely hearty and can be served as a stand-alone meal. However, you can also serve chili over cooked grains such as quinoa or cooked pasta!
If you are serving a crowd or a ravenous family and need a side dish to round out the meal, below are a few delicious options that pair well with chili!
Best side dishes to eat with bean chili:
- Chips and Salsa or Guacamole
- Cornbread or Biscuits
- Avocado Salad
- Corn Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Kale Salad
- Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
- Sauteed peppers and onions
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Hush Puppies
- Grilled Cheese
Is bean chili healthy?
Vegetarian three bean chili is a wonderful healthy meal option! It is packed with good-for-you ingredients and a great way to sneak more vegetables into one meal!
Bean chili is chock full of nutrients such as fiber and it’s filled with plant-based protein!
To ensure your bean chili is as healthy as possible, follow these easy tips:
- Use low-sodium ingredients. Select vegetable broth and canned beans labeled as ‘low sodium’. If you can’t find beans labeled as such, look at the nutrition label and find the brands with the lowest sodium possible.
- Use broth instead of beer. Skip the beer and opt for no-sodium beef broth instead.
- Sneak in more veggies. Add extra vitamins to your chili by stirring in extra vegetables such as shredded carrots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cooked, cubed sweet potatoes or cooked, diced butternut squash. Or, simply use more peppers, onions and corn in the chili to add nutritional value without altering the taste!
- Add whole grains. Serve your chili over brown rice, farro, quinoa, barley or bulgur to add more fiber to your chili. Alternatively you can add grains directly to the chili, just make sure you add more broth or stock.
- Garnish your chili with fresh ingredients. Skip the cheese and chips! Instead select minced red onion, fresh cilantro and diced tomatoes! Avoid the guacamole and opt for diced avocado to add healthy omega 3’s. Swap the sour cream for Greek yogurt to boost protein.
How many calories and carbs in bean chili?
The exact number of calories and carbohydrates in chili will depend upon the precise measurement and ingredients used. This easy three bean chili recipe serves ten and has approximately 85 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
How much protein in chili?
The exact amount of protein in vegetarian chili will depend upon the recipe and exact ingredients used. This recipe has approximately 2 grams of protein per serving.
Is chili gluten-free?
This recipe as written is gluten-free. However, always check brand labels to ensure you are using gluten-free products!
Is chili low carb and keto-friendly?
The three bean chili recipe below can easily be adapted to be keto-friendly. To make this recipe low-carb, omit the corn and substitute more beans, or your favorite grain, legume or vegetable of choice. Also, make sure you use either a low carb beer or substitute the beer for vegetable broth.
How to make 3 bean chili?
This vegetarian bean chili is healthy, made in one pot, easy to prepare and can be ready in 45 minutes or less! (Scroll down for full printable recipe)
- Sauté vegetables: In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and all three peppers. Sauté (sweat), stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powders, cumin, paprika, oregano and coriander. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste is caramelized, about 1-2 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan: Slowly add the beer to deglaze the pan, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bit from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Cook: Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid, stir and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Add the beans and corn: Add the kidney beans, black beans, refried beans and corn. Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Immediately reduce to low and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the soup is thickened and chili is warmed through. Stir in lime juice. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper, hot sauce and/or lime juice. Use tongs to remove bay leaf and discard.
- Serve: Ladle warm chili into individual bowls and garnish with desired toppings. Enjoy!
How long is vegetarian chili good for in the fridge?
Leftover vegetarian bean chili should be allowed to cool to room temperature before being stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, chili will last for 3 to 4 days.
Can you freeze chili?
Three bean chili freezes beautifully! Freezing is a great way to further extend the shelf life of your chili. It’s the perfect way to ensure you have an easy meal on hand for hectic weeknight dinners or quick lunches!
Leftover chili should be stored in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Properly stored, chili will last 6 months in the freezer.
To freeze chili:
- Allow the chili to cool completely, or at least to room temperature before transferring to a freezer-safe container or zip-closure bag.
- Leave one inch of headspace in the container or bag to allow for expansion. If using a freezer bag, squeeze excess air out of the bag before sealing closed.
- Label the container or bag with the expiration date and transfer to the freezer. Use within six months.
Pro-tip #1: Portion out individual servings and store in single-size freezer-safe containers or zip-closure bags to have on hand for easy meals!
Pro-tip #2: To maximize freezer space use heavy-duty freezer bags. Lay the bag flat on a small baking sheet and transfer to the freezer. Once frozen you can remove the baking sheet. Freezing the bag flat on a baking sheet ensures it freezes in a flat, room-saving shape!
How to reheat chili?
If chili is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
To reheat, place the chili in a saucepan and add a few splashes of beer, broth, stock or water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until chili is heated throughout.
Easy to make, hearty and incredibly flavorful, this vegetarian 3 bean chili is so cozy and delicious you won’t miss the meat at all!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to chili sans the beef!
The best Vegetarian Three Bean Chili recipe👇
This easy Vegetarian 3 Bean Chili has all the rich and hearty satisfaction of a meat-based chili, minus the meat! It's jam packed with both flavor and texture thanks to the combination of creamy beans, fresh and canned vegetables, tomatoes and smoky seasonings! Ready in 45 minutes or less, this chili will become your family's go-to recipe when you want a healthy, yet cozy, warming meal!
Recipe can be scaled up or down by using the slider if you hover your mouse over the number of Servings.
- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 1 large Yellow Onion – small dice (about scant 2 cups)
- 2 large Bell Peppers – stemmed, seeded and small dice (about 3 cups) (SEE NOTES)
- 1 large Poblano Pepper – stemmed, seeded and small dice (about ¾ cup)
- 4 cloves Garlic – minced
- 1 TBS EACH: Dark Ancho Chili Powder, Chipotle Chili Powder & Ground Cumin (SEE NOTES)
- 1 ½ tsp EACH: Smoked Paprika, Dried Oregano & Ground Coriander
- 2 TBS Tomato Paste
- 1 ¾ Cups Beer or Broth (SEE NOTES)
- 1 (14.5 ounce) Can EACH: Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes & Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 (14.5 ounce) Can Red Kidney Beans – drained & rinsed
- 1 (14.5 ounce) Can Black Beans – drained & rinsed
- 1 (16 ounce) Can Refried Beans – (SEE NOTES)
- 1 Cup Frozen Corn Kernels
- 1-2 TBS Fresh Lime Juice – or more to taste
- Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
Sauté vegetables: In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and all three peppers. Sauté (sweat), stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powders, cumin, paprika, oregano and coriander. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste is caramelized, about 1-2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan: Slowly add the beer to deglaze the pan, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bit from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cook: Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid, stir and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
Add the beans and corn: Add the kidney beans, black beans, refried beans and corn. Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Immediately reduce to low and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the soup is thickened and chili is warmed through. Stir in lime juice. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper, hot sauce and/or lime juice. Use tongs to remove bay leaf and discard.
Serve: Ladle warm chili into individual bowls and garnish with desired toppings. Enjoy!
- You can use any type of bell peppers you would like. I used a combination of red and green.
- If you don’t have both ancho and chipotle chili powders, you can substitute plain chili powder. The recipe as written is SPICY.
- For medium spicy chili, use a total of 4 teaspoons chili powder (or 2 teaspoons ancho and 2 teaspoons chipotle)
- For mild, use a total of 2 teaspoons chili powder (or 1 teaspoon ancho and 1 teaspoon chipotle)
- The liquid helps flavor the chili. If you like a lot of flavor, I recommend using beer. Alternatively, you can use either vegetable or chicken broth. Or, you can use a combination of beer with broth!
- Refried beans help make this chili thick and creamy in texture. If you like a thinner chili, you can substitute 1 (16 ounce) can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed.
Recipe Yield: Approximately 11 1/2 Cups
Recipe Serves: 8-10
Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 8 servings.
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