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Contest-Winning Vegetarian Chili

My husband and I try to have at least one meatless meal each week and this vegetarian chili recipe is one of our favorites. This recipe makes a huge pot that's chock-full of color and flavor. And once the chopping is done, it's quick to cook. —Marilyn Barilleaux, Bothell, Washington
  • Total Time
    Prep: 20 min. Cook: 40 min.
  • Makes
    16 servings


  • 4 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) Italian stewed tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin


  • In a Dutch oven, cook zucchini, onions and peppers in oil over medium-high heat until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Vegetarian Chili Tips

Can I use fresh and frozen vegetables in this recipe?

You can certainly start with a bag of frozen mixed pepper and onion, however, you'll want to saute the frozen vegetables for about 5 minutes longer than you would fresh. This extra cook time allows the vegetables to thaw and the flavor to develop. Learn more about the food you should always buy frozen.

What add-ons can you put in vegetarian chili?

There are many ways you can make this recipe your own. Try incorporating spices like smoked paprika into the mix or add grains like quinoa and rice. Extra vegetables like squash or kale would work well, too. If you're looking for a thicker chili, you can add in one of our favorite chili thickening ingredients like a cup of beans, masa harina, or tortilla chips. Too thick? You can thin your chili by adding water or tomato sauce. The more liquid you add, the thinner the chili will become.

How do I serve vegetarian chili?

While this chili recipe is fine on its own, consider ladling it over a bed of quinoa, noodles, zoodles or couscous. We also recommend adding a few toppings like a dollop of sour cream, avocado slices, shredded cheddar cheese and extra cilantro.

How long does vegetarian chili last in the fridge?

Vegetarian chili lasts up to 4 days in the fridge. If you want to enjoy it for longer, you can freeze vegetarian chili, too. It can last in the freezer between 4-6 months in a freezer container.
Editor's Note
Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.
Nutrition Facts
1 cup: 131 calories, 4g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 622mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 6g fiber), 5g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fat.

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  • Jay
    Nov 5, 2020

    I've made a lot of chili: beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, tofu, bean, (some beef based some tomato based) to name a few. I always follow the recipe the 1st time I make it, no alterations whatsoever to make sure to get the originators 'vision'. This was just average at best. It was bland needing a ton of salt and hot sauce afterwards. It had too much liquid to be considered a chili but not enough to be considered a soup. I actually liked the ingredients, but they just didn't meld together as expected, but it was better the day after cooking, just not enough to go through the effort again as is. I did speed up the prep by utilizing the food processor for the chopping, but still a lot of prep for a very small payback. I may try this again as a base with some mods of my own.

  • Karel
    Oct 5, 2020

    I've been hooked on this recipe for a few years now. I initially made it for a chilli cook off at a USA style bar in my home town of Auckland, New Zealand and it won. It was the only vegetarian chilli in among meat based ones.

  • sweetjandrews
    Sep 10, 2020

    This has been a family favorite for years. when I wrote out a cookbook for both of my daughters I made sure this recipe was in there. I have also tried it with hamburger in it which was also good.

  • beaconeditor
    Jan 26, 2018

    We loved it. So versatile; use alone or with crackers OR add macaroni for a complete dinner. You can even add rice. It made a lot for 2 but we keep eating and enjoying. Nice to have something so good in the fridge to eat.

  • Tera
    Oct 10, 2017

    Good, but not really very exciting or chili-like. Tastes like veggie stew with chili powder and cumin. My non vegetarian friends all said it was "interesting" which is code for "not good." Also I wasn't sure if I was supposed to drain the stewed tomatoes before adding them? It didn't say to do it, but I'm kind of wishing I did to thicken it a bit. This makes a TON, so I would also halve the recipe next time. Still on the hunt for a good vegan chili recipe that can appease non-vegetarians.

  • cathy.dean
    Mar 31, 2016

    First time I have made a vegetarian chili and it was AMAZING! I loved it and so did my husband and our new vegetarian foreign exchange student. I made a few adjustments. For the tomatoes I used one diced and one crushed since that is what I had and then added 1 1/2 t. Italian seasoning to it to make up the seasoning. I don't like too hot so I skipped the jalapeno pepper. Other than that I follow the recipe as is. It does make a lot of chili but we look forward to eating it!! :)

  • HomeChefColleen
    Feb 14, 2016

    Really enjoyed this full-flavoured chili! Nice and thick and great with sour cream, cilantro, and cheese on top!

  • Pianoplayer500
    Nov 5, 2015

    My family and I thought this vegetarian chili was out of this world!!! Plan to make it on a regular basis. I may try a version with more jalapenos down the road.

  • amz183
    Nov 1, 2015

    No comment left

  • pamfrutiger
    Sep 26, 2015

    No comment left