Darn Good Vegan Chili

2019 is off to a pretty good start here in our household. We’ve both been sticking to (most of) our goals–our journey to be intentional with one another has led to several fun weekends in the kitchen. I shared on Instagram one of our goals was also to reduce our food waste and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. That’s going pretty well, too.

One of the easiest ways to limit food waste is to actually eat the leftovers in the fridge. I’ve never really been a fan of leftovers– so this has been a good challenge for me personally to set out to finish whatever we had made the night or day before. I find myself now setting aside some of whatever meal to intentionally have leftovers the next day. As a food blogger, I want to keep pushing myself to create new things–but I also want to make sure I’m helping keep the grocery budget in check by limiting our food waste and finding ways to “save the food”.

Our weekends have recently been spent working on several new things– Pasta Fagioli, Chocolate Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream and this Darn Good Vegan Chili.  

Andrew and his dad first made this chili over Christmas break and since then we’ve made it multiple times with adaptations so I’m excited to finally share it with you! Darn Good Vegan Chili is not your typical veggie chili–it has a bean base with meatless grounds which makes it more like traditional meat chili. The veggies in this (onion, peppers and tomatoes) are stewed in a flavorful chili puree so they develop lots of flavor but you’re not getting chunks of veggies.

A big pot of this chili goes a long way in a house of 2 people 🙂 so naturally we’ve enjoyed lots of leftovers. Just like most soups, this is even better the next day (or 3). I’ve tried the chili with baked potatoes, nachos and walking tacos. It’s great on its own but there are so many possibilities!

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Darn Good Vegan Chili

A hearty and flavorful bean and “beef” chili. Perfect on its own or as a topping for nachos, potatoes and more. Medium heat with rich undertones. This chili keeps well in the fridge and reheats easily. Consistency and profile of traditional (meat based) chili.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Chili, Darn Good Vegan Chili, Vegan Chili
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Soaking beans 8 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 346kcal


Base (Beans)

  • 8 cups water (enough to soak beans)
  • 1 lb dried dark red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp fine salt

Chili Puree Ingredients

  • 3 dried whole New Mexico red chilies seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp whole coriander, ground = 1 tsp ground
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire (vegan) *one without anchovy (we use Annie’s)
  • 2 whole cloves, ground = 1/6 tsp ground
  • 1/2 of 1 star anise, ground = 1/4 tsp ground

Remaining Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 ounces canned petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 pkg meatless ground/ soy crumbles 10-14 ounce pkg
  • 1.5 cups finely diced yellow onion = 1 large onion
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4.5 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic = 3-4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Buffalo hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • water, as needed


Prep Beans

  • Place beans, 2 tbsp salt and 8 cups water in large container or bowl. Allow to soak at room temperature 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse soaked beans.

Make Chili Puree

  • In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot, add dried New Mexico red chilies with 1 cup vegetable broth. Cook over medium low heat until chilies are softened and liquid is reduced by half, approximately 8-10 minutes. Liquid will be deep red (matching the peppers).
  • Pour chilies and broth mixture into a small blender. Add the following to the blender: tomato paste, ground coffee, cocoa powder, cumin, soy sauce, coriander, Worcestershire sauce, cloves and star anise.
  • Puree spice and chili mixture until very smooth, scraping sides as necessary. This takes approximately 2 minutes. Set puree aside.

Make the Chili

  • In the same heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat the 1/4 cup vegetable oil over medium until simmering. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, stirring often but not browning.
  • Add fresh peppers (poblano, jalapeno and Anaheim) along with oregano and garlic to the stockpot. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Add the chili puree to the stockpot and stir well. Heat 2-4 minutes. Mixture should be thick and coat the bottom of the pot when stirred (building flavor base for the chili).
  • Add 2 bay leaves and remaining vegetable broth (4 cups) to chili base. Stir well and bring to a simmer, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add the drained and rinsed kidney beans to pot. Reduce heat to low and cover the pot, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook until beans are tender, approximately 2 hours. Stir beans occasionally.
  • Stir in apple cider vinegar, diced tomatoes and meatless ground. Return lid, leaving slightly ajar and cook an additional 1.5 to 2 hours, or until desired consistency is reached and beans are fully tender. Add water to chili as needed to keep beans and mixture mostly submerged (we only use 1 additional cup).

Finish the Chili

  • Using tongs, remove bay leaves and discard. Add in the hot sauce and brown sugar and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and/or additional hot sauce.
  • Serve with your favorite toppings immediately or allow to cool and refrigerate in a sealed container. This chili will keep for up to 1 week stored properly in the fridge and tastes even better the next day.


 Adapted from: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/01/the-best-chili-recipe.html
This vegan chili eats like a traditional meat based chili with beans. It is not a standard “veggie” chili filled with veggies. This is perfect for a hearty bowl as is or as a nacho or potato topping. 
We recommend using soaked dried beans but canned kidney beans can definitely be used! To sub canned beans, use 30-32 ounces dark red kidney beans. The cook time in the beginning of the chili will be reduced by approximately 1 hour.
  This chili has medium heat. You can adjust the amount of heat by reducing the jalapenos to 1 and/or omitting the hot sauce at the end.


Calories: 346kcal

This chili is seriously so good. Worth the 5+ hours and the process of making chili puree (instead of using powder). I promise something magical happens when you throw a bunch of hot peppers + beans + “meat” in a big pot and let it simmer for the afternoon. Share this with your vegan or vegetarian friends–or anyone trying to cut down on red meat 🙂

I hope your 2019 is off to a great start–and I can’t wait to see where the year takes Andrew and I in our culinary adventures 🙂 Let me know if there’s something you’d like to see here!


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