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)
Looking for a meat based chili? Try this hearty no bean beef chili! Or, check out these family favorite cozy soups: Chicken Tortellini Soup, Italian Sausage Soup, Creamy Parsnip Soup, and Easy Chicken and Black Bean Soup
Update: This post was originally published in February 2020. I made updates to the post below to include more information about canned bean chili. Plus, I added a recipe video and step by step photos to show you how quick and easy this simple vegetarian chili is to make!
Vegetarian 3 Bean Chili
This thick and chunky vegetarian chili is made with humble 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 simple vegetarian chili 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!
Why you will love this recipe
- This chili recipe uses easy to find ingredients and affordable pantry staples!
- Quick to prepare – this recipe only requires 15 minutes of hands-on preparation!
- Made entirely in one pot!
- Packed with good-for-you-ingredients and nutrients – there’s plenty of beans and fresh vegetables!
- This vegetarian soup stores great and packs well for lunches or easy heat-and-eat dinners!
- Unlimited, totally customizable toppings! Pile on all your favorite garnishes for the ultimate chili experience!
What is vegetarian chili?
Vegetarian chili is a hearty stew made up of vegetables, tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, aromatics and flavorful dried spices.
What’s bean chili made of?
The exact ingredients in vegetarian chili with beans 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 chili is hearty and bursting with flavor! This fool-proof recipe relies on easy to find ingredients and pantry staples for the best comforting taste! (Scroll down for the detailed measurements in the printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
Ingredients in this recipe
- Beans: Kidney beans and black beans provide hearty, ‘meaty’ flavor, while refried pinto beans add a deliciously creamy, rich texture! I recommend you use a low- or reduced-sodium brand of beans. (See below to read about different varieties of beans you can use!)
- Vegetables: A trifecta of yellow onions, bell peppers and poblano peppers create a base of flavor, while kernels of corn add pops of sweet taste!
- Tomatoes: A combination of crushed and fire-roasted tomatoes adds a delicious earthy, rich tomato flavor. For the best taste, I highly recommend you use cans of certified San Marzano variety tomatoes.
- Garlic: Three to four cloves of garlic provide a subtle, yet distinctive punchy taste. Make sure you use fresh garlic, not the minced variety sold in a jar!
- Spices and Seasonings: Chili powder(s), cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, bay leaves, kosher salt and ground black pepper add a delicious depth of flavor!
- Tomato Paste: Two tablespoons of thick tomato paste gives the soup a bit of body while adding highly concentrated, almost meaty flavor to the soup.
- Liquid: Beer and/or stock forms the liquid base of this soup. I prefer to use a combination of beer and stock for the most flavor!
- Lime Juice: Lime juice adds a touch of acidity and balances out all the flavors. Make sure you use fresh lime juice in this chili!
What kind of beans are best for chili?
Three bean chili is all about the beans (obviously) in addition to fresh vegetables and bold chili flavors! While beans provide a very subtle flavor, each variety will bring something different to your chili.
There is no wrong or 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!
Varieties of beans for chili
- 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 first?
Dried Beans: If you are using dried beans to make chili, 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: Beans in a can 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 vegetarian chili uses canned beans and requires draining and rinsing the beans before adding them to the pot.
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!
Ways to thicken 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.
Tips for serving homemade chili
A delicious bowl of hearty chili is made even better when you top it with fresh flavors, pile it on potatoes, or serve it with your family’s favorite side dish! Below are the best serving ideas and simple ways to take your chili to the next level!
How to serve chili?
Chili is a comforting cold-weather classic that is perfect for busy weeknights, lazy weekends and game day parties! While serving it in a bowl and loading it up with all the toppings is great, sometimes you just want more! Below are a few easy, fun serving ideas for your next chili night!
- Chili Bar: Throwing a party? A chili bar is perfect for your next gathering – it’s economical, stretches to feed a large crowd and can be adapted to meet most dietary considerations. Set up your chili in a bar format complete with disposable bowls and cutlery, a plethora of toppings and a few side dishes!
- Baked Potatoes: Baked potatoes topped with chili will become your new favorite comforting dinner! You can even microwave the potatoes to keep your dinner quick and easy!
- Hot Dogs or Veggie Dogs: Spoon a generous amount of bean chili over hot dogs or veggie dogs for a tasty twist on your favorite ballpark meal!
- Waffles: Top warm cornbread waffles with chili, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream and plenty of shredded cheese for a hearty weeknight meal!
- Spaghetti: Give Cincinnati chili a vegetarian twist! Serve simple bean chili over hot spaghetti with your choice of toppings and plenty of oyster crackers!
- Spaghetti Squash: Craving decadent Cincinnati chili but want to keep things healthy? Swap out spaghetti and use spaghetti squash! For a fun twist, keep the strands of squash in the skin and serve it up spaghetti squash ‘boat-style’!
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 up your chili with all the fixings!
The best toppings for bean chili
- Cheese: Shredded cheese is a classic topping choice!
- Fresh Herbs: Delicate green onions, citrusy cilantro and mild parsley are a great way to add a pretty aesthetic and fresh flavor!
- Avocado: Creamy avocado is a wonderful way to balance the spicy heat!
- Red Onions: Finely diced red onions are a great way to add another layer of flavor! Use giant red onions for a sweeter flavor.
- Tomatoes: Juicy tomatoes make a delicious, fresh topping!
- Jalapeños: For those of you who like it hot, jalapeños are a must!
- Lettuce: Turn your chili into a taco-like experience by adding plenty of shredded lettuce!
- Olives: Raw olives can add a nice salty component to your chili!
- Carrots: While totally not traditional, shredded sweet carrots are a delicious topping option!
- Sour Cream: Is it even chili if you don’t top it with a dollop of sour cream?
- Greek Yogurt: Love sour cream, but want to cut some unwanted fat? Try Greek yogurt instead!
- Guacamole: Rich guacamole is a must for all you avocado lovers!
- Pico de Gallo: Love the idea of adding tomatoes but want more flavor? Give fresh pico de gallo a spin!
- Crushed Fritos: If you know, you know!
- Tortilla Chips: Crushed tortilla chips and chili are a classic for a reason!
- Hot Sauce: Your favorite hot sauce is the perfect way to bring the heat!
What to eat with vegetarian chili?
Bean chili is hearty enough to serve 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 of my favorite side dishes to compliment homemade chili!
14 of the best side dishes to serve with bean chili
- Bread: Chili begs for some sort of bread for sopping! Cornbread, biscuits and dinner rolls are all totally satisfying!
- Chips: Crunchy tortilla chips are the perfect vessel for scooping up bean chili!
- Salsa or Guacamole: Pico de gallo, homemade salsa or creamy guacamole are a wonderful option, especially if you are also serving chili with chips!
- Avocado Salad: Creamy avocado salad is the perfect cooling side dish to balance the heat in chili!
- Coleslaw: Light and crunchy coleslaw is a delicious light pairing option!
- Corn Salad: Fresh corn salad is another lighter side that pairs beautifully with chili!
- Broccoli Salad: Creamy raw broccoli slaw or salad is a great way to add a bit of crunchy, fresh texture to your meal!
- Kale Salad: Warm kale salad is a healthy, yet hearty salad that pairs perfectly with bean chili!
- Seasonal Vegetables: Roasted, sautéed, braised or steamed vegetables are a great way to add an extra serving of vegetables to your table!
- Peppers and Onions: One of my personal favorite side dishes to pair with chili is sauteed peppers and onions!
- Sweet Potato Fries: If you are looking for a chili ‘experience’, try serving your chili atop a pile of crispy sweet potato fries!
- Hush Puppies: Light and flaky hush puppies are unbelievably delicious with chili! If you’ve never tried this pairing – it is a must!
- Grilled Cheese: Grilled cheese with chili is a great option if you are looking for a more substantial pairing!
- Sausages: Have meat eaters at your table?! Grilled or sautéed sausages are a wonderful way to add some meat-based protein!
Three bean chili nutritional information
Is vegetarian 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!
Easy tips to keeping chili as healthy as possible
- 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?
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?
The exact amount of protein in vegetarian chili will depend upon the recipe and exact ingredients used. This easy bean chili 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 it 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 so simple and fool-proof to make at home! This recipe is easy to prepare, made entirely in one pot and ready in 45 minutes or less! (Don’t forget to scroll down for the detailed instructions in the complete printable recipe at the bottom of the page.)
- 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 to make vegetarian chili at home step by step photos:
Tips for storing and freezing vegetarian bean chili
Food safety is important when it comes to storing leftovers! Follow the simple tips below for properly storing, freezing and reheating this homemade chili!
How to store chili?
Allow leftover chili to cool completely to room temperature before storing. Transfer the chili to an airtight storage container.
How long will it last?
Properly stored, chili will keep well for 4 days in the refrigerator.
How to reheat chili?
Leftover vegetable chili makes a great, fast heat-and-eat meal! You can reheat leftover chili a couple different ways depending upon your preference! The chili will thicken up during storage, so be sure to add enough beer, stock or broth to thin the chili as desired!
- Stovetop: Transfer leftover chili to a medium saucepan or large pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm throughout.
- Microwave: Add an individual portion of leftover chili to a microwave-safe container. Place the lid on the container, leaving the lid slightly cracked at the side to form a vent. Reheat for 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until warm throughout.
Can you freeze chili?
Three bean chili freezes beautifully! Freezing is the perfect way to further extend the shelf life of your chili. Plus, it’s a great way to save time and money! Make a big batch of chili and store the leftovers in your freezer to ensure you have an easy meals on hand for quick lunches and hectic weeknight dinners!
Store leftover vegetarian chili in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Properly stored, chili will last 6 months in the freezer.
To freeze chili:
- Cool: Allow the chili to cool completely, or at least to room temperature before storing.
- Proper storage: Transfer the cool chili to a freezer-safe container or zip-closure bag. Make sure you 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 it: Label the container or bag with the expiration date and transfer to the freezer.
- Freeze: Store in the freezer for up to six months.
- To use: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat according to instructions above.
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!
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!
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👇
Vegetarian 3 Bean Chili Recipe
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven
- 2 TBS Olive Oil
- 1 large Yellow Onion – small dice (about 2 -2 1/2 cups)
- 2 large Bell Peppers – stemmed, seeded and small dice (about 2 -2 1/2 cups) (SEE NOTES)
- 1 large Poblano Pepper – stemmed, seeded and small dice (about ¾ cup)
- 3-4 cloves Garlic – minced
- 1 TBS EACH: Dark Ancho Chili Powder, Chipotle Chili Powder & Ground Cumin (SEE NOTES)
- 1 ½ tsp EACH: Smoked Paprika, Ground Coriander & Dried Oregano (NOT ground)
- 2 TBS Tomato Paste
- 1 ¾ Cups Beer or Stock - (I use 12 ounces Beer + 2 ounces Stock) (SEE NOTES)
- 1 (14.5 ounce) Can EACH: Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes & Crushed Tomatoes - UNDRAINED
- 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
- Optional Toppings: Hot Sauce, Shredded Cheese, Sliced Scallions, Chopped Cilantro, Diced Tomatoes, Diced Red Onions, Sliced Jalapenos, Chips or Cornbread
- 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 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. Bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and bring back to a simmer. 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 frozen 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!
- Bell Peppers: You can use any type of bell peppers you would like. I used a combination of red and green.
- Chili Powders: 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)
- Liquid: 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 stock. Or, you can use a combination of beer with stock!
- 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.
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