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3 bean-vegetarian-chili Elizabeth Rider

Everyone’s Favorite Vegetarian Chili Recipe

  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Chop, Simmer
  • Cuisine: American


This classic vegetarian chili is a cool-weather staple in our house. It’s also super flexible! Add extra chopped carrots or peppers (or veggies), or an extra can of beans if you’d like. Top with your favorite chili toppings and you have a perfect meal (with leftovers for days). If you love it, please leave a star rating in the comments below to help other readers in our community.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons mild or medium chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional, and recommended-see note)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes with their juices, preferably San Marzano variety
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (or, omit this and use 2 cans of crushed tomatoes instead of 1)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups filtered water, veggie broth, or bone broth
  • (optional) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • (optional) 1 chopped jalapeño, for heat only
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more or less to taste

Healthy Garnish Ideas: Lime wedges, cilantro, avocado, tortilla chips, sliced or pickled jalapeño, chopped green onion, chopped chives, Icelandic-style or Greek-style plain unsweetened yogurt


  1. Step 1: In a 6-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrot and bell pepper and sauté over medium until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Step 2: Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaf and cinnamon. Add a large pinch of sea salt and stir until the spices coat the veggies. Cook on medium-low for 2-3 minutes until very fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. Step 3: Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce then stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add all of the beans, 2 cups filtered water or broth, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (if using), 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt and a few spins of freshly ground black pepper. If desired, add the chopped jalapeño for heat.
  4. Step 4: Bring to a simmer. Simmer on low, covered, for 30-60 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 30-60 minutes if possible to thicken. The chili will thicken considerably as it sits. Optional: To speed up the thickening process or for an extra-thick chili, use an immersion blender to blend a small amount of the beans (2-3 pulses should do it), or, blend 1-2 cups of the chili (including liquid and beans) in a blender then add back to the pot. Turn the pot back on to warm if needed to serve. Or, let the pot cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator overnight, and warm up the next day. This chili will keep in the refrigerator up the three days in a covered pot. Freeze up to three months in airtight containers.
  5. Step 5: Serve with your choice of garnishes per serving. I like a big squeeze of lime, about 1/4 of an avocado, a small handful of crushed organic tortilla chips, fresh cilantro. I also like to use Siggi’s plain Icelandic-style yogurt as a sour cream substitute.


– This chili is flexible. Use 3-4 cans of beans of your choice, I gave you the ratios I prefer here.

– Chop the onion, carrots and bell pepper to about the same size as the beans for a really nice texture in this chili. You can also add a chopped medium zucchini, extra carrots or bell pepper, or any veggies you like during the veggie sauteing process. This recipe is super flexible and can accommodate up to two extra cups of chopped veggies. Add an extra 1/2 cup of filtered water or stock (more or less as needed) if you add more veggies.

– I used a yellow bell pepper here because I like the color, but red, yellow or orange would all work great. I avoid green pepper in this recipe as it seems too bitter to me, but if you prefer that flavor go ahead and add one in.

– If your tomato sauce tastes too acidic, add 2-3 teaspoons of honey (or sugar) to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes—it adds a negligible amount of sugar to the dish. Omit it if desired.

Keywords: Vegetarian Chili Recipe, 3 Bean Chili Recipe, Healthy Vegetarian Chili