This classic vegan chili is made with bulgur wheat and kidney beans for a whole grain, whole food vegetarian chili that tastes just like you remember. Made in just 30 minutes!
In nearly 7 years of blogging, My Darling Vegan doesn't yet have a classic vegan chili recipe.
I have a Smoky Pumpkin and Tempeh Chili and, of course, the fan-favorite Maple Bourbon Sweet Potato Chili but in all these years, I have neglected to make one of the very first meals I ever cooked - classic vegetarian chili.
It was back in college when I was first learning that things like pasta sauce didn't have to come from the store. By my senior year, most of my weekends were spent making granola, cookies, soups, and homemade pasta. I suppose it was no surprise that after college I ended up in culinary school. Once I started learning the art of cooking, I couldn't get enough.
This vegetarian chili recipe was one of the first recipes I ever perfected. Newly vegan, I was eager to start making alternatives to the classic recipes I had grown up eating.
And that's why I think you're going to love this chili. It is hearty, meaty, spicy, savory - a vegan chili that doesn't compromise on taste or texture made with whole, plant-based foods.
Let's take a look at what makes this chili the best ever vegan chili.
Recommended Ingredients & Equipment
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Oil - Use a high heat oil such as coconut or avocado.
- Red Onion
- Red Bell Pepper
- Spices - You will need chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, paprika, cayenne, and salt.
- Tomato Paste
- Maple Syrup - This is to sweeten the chili slightly. It can be omitted if you prefer.
- Vegetable Broth
- Diced Tomatoes
- Black Beans - This recipe calls for one (15oz) can of black beans. That is about 1 ½ cup cooked or ¾ cup dried beans.
- Kidney Beans - This recipe calls for one (15oz) can of kidney beans. That is about 1 ½ cup cooked or ¾ cup dried beans.
- Bulgur Wheat - Bulgur is a whole grain popular in Mediterranean cooking (the common base for tabouleh salad) made from dried, cracked wheat that is partially boiled. When cooked, it has a similar consistency to couscous or quinoa although with a slightly more meaty texture. It can be found in most grocery stores among the grains or in the health foods section. If you are looking for gluten-free alternatives to this chili you can substitute couscous or quinoa, brown lentils, or a vegan meat alternative such as TVP, Beyond Meat Crumbles or Gardein's Beefless Crumbles.
- Toppings (optional) - I like to top my chili with avocado, green onions, cilantro, and vegan sour cream.
Most importantly, you will need a good soup pot. I love my Dutch Oven from Le Creuset for soups. Made from cast iron, they are perfect for slow cooking and simmering soups and stews. Although it’s a bit pricey, you will use it over and over again (for soups, stews, sides, bread, and even desserts!) and it will last you a lifetime.
Check out the full list of my recommended kitchen tools and gadgets.
How to Make Vegan Chili
Step One - Sauté the Vegetables
Let's start by sautéing some vegetables.
In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. For this recipe, my oil of choice is avocado oil. It is a healthy oil that handles heat well. You could also use coconut oil or vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté them until they are translucent and fragrant. This takes about 5 minutes. Once they have filled your house with the sweet aroma of onions, add the garlic and bell peppers and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Step Two - Add the Spices
Spice is key to every good chili recipe and this one uses 5 important spices. Those spices are:
- Chili powder
It's the perfect hot, herbal, and smoky combination that pairs with the hearty meatiness of this chili. The spices get mixed together and then added to the vegetables, stirring until they are well coated.
Step Three - Remaining Ingredients
That's your bulgur wheat, tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, and everything else. Add the ingredients to the soup pot and stir together. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the bulgur wheat has doubled in size and the chili is thick, rich, and heated all the way through.
That's it! So easy. Now let's serve it up and chow down.
Serving And Storing
Serve this chili immediately. Top with fresh cilantro, lime, and avocado.
Store leftover chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for 2 months. To thaw, place it in the refrigerator the night before. The following day, gently reheat the chili over the stovetop.
Frequently Asked Questions
While bulgur wheat is my meat alternative of choice for this chili recipe, it's unfortunately not gluten-free.
If you are looking for gluten-free alternatives to this chili you can substitute couscous or quinoa, brown lentils, or a vegan meat alternative such as TVP, Beyond Meat Crumbles or Gardein's Beefless Crumbles.
More Vegan Chili Recipes
- Pumpkin Chili with Smokey Tempeh
- Maple Bourbon Instant Pot Chili
- 3-Bean Vegan Chili
- Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili
Classic Vegan Chili
- 1 tbsp. avocado oil
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 3 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ¼ - ½ tsp. cayenne
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans
- 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans
- ¾ cup bulgur wheat
- 1 - 1 ½ tsp. salt
- 1 small avocado, cubed
- 2 green onions, diced
- fresh cilantro
- vegan sour cream, optional
- Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add onions and sauté for 5 minutes until fragrant and translucent. Add garlic and red onion and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Add spices and stir to coat.
- Once vegetables are thoroughly coated, add the remaining chili ingredients. Stir together, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes until the bulgur wheat is cooked all the way through.
- Serve immediately with toppings of choice.