Good Vegetarian Chili is Impossible; Or Is It?

Good Vegetarian Chili is Possible

It has been said that good vegetarian chili is impossible. But nothing makes me crave chili more than a cold winter’s day. Providing meal plans with chili for your clients during the winter is a great idea. But what if they are a vegetarian? What if they live in a mixed household with vegetarians and omnivores? Can you still give them a chili entree that all will enjoy? Is there such a thing as good vegetarian chili? I say there is. 

Try This Recipe

Amazingly, this is great for vegetarians and omnivores alike, this recipe is based loosely on the American Test Kitchen Vegetarian Chili recipe from the Vegan for Everybody cookbook. I did not have time to soak beans and roast chili peppers, I was missing a few ingredients, and I do not use oil for sautéing, so this modified recipe was born.

Vegetarian chili photo

About the Ingredients

Vegetarian chili ingredients

I like to maximize the phytonutrient/antioxidant content of recipes, so I use a lot of different dried spices and often top my dish with a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables. I added marjoram because it has almost double the antioxidants and similar flavor to oregano – if you don’t have marjoram, just double the oregano. Same goes for the coriander – if you don’t have ground coriander seed just add extra cumin. The bulger gives chili a ground beef texture and is a nice complement to the creaminess of the beans. Also of note, cracked wheat is not the same as bulgur and will not work in this recipe.


½ cup walnuts, roasted

2 pounds onions, chopped small

4 cups low sodium vegetable both, divided

8 ounces mushrooms, diced small

2 tablespoons ancho chili powder

2 tablespoons chili powder

½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teaspoon ground coriander seed

4 cans low sodium beans, drained & rinsed (any combination of pinto, red kidney, black or navy beans works)

1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons Braggs amino or soy sauce

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried marjoram

2/3 cup medium ground bulger

¼ cup fresh minced cilantro

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

Optional Topping Ideas: grated cheese, avocado slices, diced red onions, chopped spring onions, sliced black olives, pico de gallo, salsa, fresh or canned sliced jalapeños

How to Make Vegetarian Chili

Roast walnuts on a baking sheet at 350 (175 c) for 5 – 10 minutes tossing occasionally.

Once cooled, process walnuts in a food processor or blender for 30 seconds or until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl.

To dry sauté the onions, heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat and when hot, add onions to the dry pan. As onions begin to brown, stir constantly and add a tablespoon of vegetable broth. Continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more broth 1 tablespoon at a time as the onions dry out. Once onions are soft and slightly caramelized, add diced mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft. Reduce heat to medium, stir in ancho chili powder, chili powder, chipotle chili powder (optional), cumin and coriander. Stir constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add beans, remaining vegetable broth, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, garlic, Braggs amino, oregano and marjoram and stir to blend. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in ground walnuts and bulgur. If the mixture is too thick, add extra water ¼ cup at a time to the desired consistancy. Simmer for 20 minutes or until bulger is cooked. Top with fresh cilantro and parsley. Eat plain or serve over brown rice or grain of choice. This can also be served over a bed of spinach or greens.

Healthy and Tasty

If you are a dietitian or nutritionist, providing healthy meal plans is essential.  And if you want access to more awesome recipes and to have the ability to provide nutritious meal plans for your clients, check out this free two week trial of our nutrition software.

Author: Tricia Carl is an RN, BSN with extensive knowledge of whole food plant based eating.

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