Home FOOD Homemade 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Homemade 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili Recipe

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Hearty and flavorful, this homemade three bean vegetarian chili is made with a combination of beans, vegetables and seasonings in rich tomato-based sauce. It’s a cozy meal that’s satisfying anytime of the year but especially during colder months!

 

While the Italian usually prefers this one pot chili made with ground beef, this easy three bean vegetarian chili has quickly become a meatless favorite that the whole family enjoys! 

Loaded with homemade beans made from scratch, flavorful vegetables that add both crunch and texture and simple Italian seasonings, it’s thick, chunky and loaded with fiber and plant-based protein. No one will even miss the meat, just like when I serve my two bean soup.

Chili is a classic filling meal that tastes great on a chilly night! Customize it how you like by adding more heat or serving as is and be sure to save some for leftovers, as this 3 bean chili recipe tastes even better for lunch the next day. 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Hearty plus nutritious: Full of flavor, protein and fiber this meatless chili is both vegetarian and a vegan three bean chili!
  • Rich and hearty: It’s the perfect balance of taste from the sweet tomatoes, savory vegetables, creamy beans and a touch of spice from red pepper flakes! 
  • Homemade from scratch: Put the canned beans down! This vegetarian 3 bean chili uses dried beans for the best taste. It’s easier than you think!
  • No special tools required: This 3 bean vegetarian chili is made on the stovetop with no need for a slow cooker or Instant Pot and still it is ready within an hour! 

Ingredients Needed

  • Dried beans: Any combination of borlotti beans, pinto, red kidney beans, black beans or white beans can be used. 
  • Olive oil: Adds rich taste when sauteeing the vegetables.
  • Vegetables: Carrot, celery and bell peppers add crunch and texture. 
  • Aromatic: Yellow onion and garlic add savory taste.
  • Pelati tomatoes: I used Pelati whole peeled tomatoes that were cut into pieces. Use whatever brand of whole tomatoes you prefer. 
  • Seasonings: Oregano, basil and fresh chopped parsley add Italian taste while salt balances and enhances all flavors. 
  • Spices: Hot pepper flakes add heat or use black pepper or less heat.
  • Vegetable broth: For a plant-based chili vegetarian chili recipe use vegetable broth. Chicken broth or beef broth can also be used. Water will add less taste but is lower in sodium. You can use a store bought broth or homemade.
Ingredients for the recipe.

How To Make Homemade Broth

In a large pot add a few pieces of meat or chicken (bone in is also a good idea) or as I did for this recipe I used only vegetables, a carrot and an onion peeled and cut in half, a celery stalk cut in two, a bay leaf, 2-3 pepper corns, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt and 12 cups of water. Bring it to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about three hours. Stir occasionally and remove any foam that appears on the top of the broth. Pour the broth through a sieve, and let the liquid cool before using.

Any unused broth can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days. It can also be frozen in freezer safe containers and will keep for up to 6 months.If you prefer you can always use store bought broth, just be careful about adding the salt, store bought can be very salty.

Vegetarian Chili Variations

Make this three bean vegetable chili your own by customizing it with any of these additions!

  • Cocoa powder: Add up to one teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to add a rich, deep flavor to the chili.
  • Dark beer: Substitute 12 oz of the vegetable broth for your favorite beer. It adds a unique taste!
  • Smoky: Add one teaspoon of chipotle powder, smoked paprika or some chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a smoky flavor profile. 
  • Additional spices: Spices such as chili powder and ground cumin could be added for that classic chili taste. 
  • Cooked quinoa: Stir in cooked quinoa to bulk up the vegetarian chili with additional texture and protein. 

How To Make Three Bean Chili 

Soak dried beans overnight or for 8 hours in cold water. Drain and then rinse.

Soaking the beans in a bowl.

In a large pot or Dutch oven add the oil, chopped onion, carrot and garlic and sautee. Add the chopped peppers and celery then cook again.

The veggies in a silver pot.

Add remaining vegetarian chili ingredients including beans and seasonings and simmer on medium heat, until the beans are cooked and tender.

Cooking the chili in the pot.

Serve three bean chili immediately with shredded cheese or desired toppings and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions

This vegetarian chili makes a hearty meal on its own although I usually pair it with crusty Italian bread and a side salad to round out dinner. Cornbread is a classic pairing with chili and topping a baked potato with chili is never a bad idea!

You can also top a hot dog or veggie dog with chili, use chili to make loaded nachos or even make a chili bar when serving a crowd. 

Favorite Chili Toppings

While shredded cheese is my go-to favorite for topping a bowl of chili, feel free to get creative and use any of these toppings to customize your bowl how you like it! 

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • Green onions
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Diced red onion
  • Crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips
  • Hot sauce
  • Fresh lime juice
Three bean chili in a white bowl.

Recipe FAQs

What types of beans are best to use in a Vegetarian Chili recipe?

Any combination of borlotti beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans or white beans can be used. For white beans, I used cannellini beans but great northern beans or navy beans are also great choices. 

What fresh vegetables are best in Chili?

I used carrots, celery, onion and bell peppers but you can use more of what you like and less of what you don’t care for. Any bell pepper can be used from red bell peppers to green bell peppers. Corn is a popular addition to 3-bean chili as well as jalapenos and sauteed mushrooms. 

How to thicken Vegetarian Chili?

The easiest way to thicken chili is to use a potato masher to mash some of the soft vegetables and beans. The beans will release their starches and help thicken the chili. You could also stir in some refried beans if you would like. 

Is 3 Bean Chili vegan?

Yes! As long as you are careful with your toppings and garnishes such as avoiding dairy based cheese and sour cream it is a vegan three bean chili.

Three bean chili in a white bowl.

Storing, Freezing And Reheating

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. You may find the chili develops even more flavor after it is stored, it really is great for meal prep if that is your thing! 

Freeze leftover chili in individual containers or in larger containers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, add additional broth or water to thin to desired consistency and then reheat until warmed and ready to serve. 

The depth of flavors in the chili become more pronounced after storing it a day or two making it even better! 

More Soup Recipes

When you are looking for a meatless comfort food recipe then I hope you try this 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili. Buon Appetito!

Three bean chili in a white bowl.
  • ½ cup dried borlotti beans (kidney or pinto beans can be substituted)
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried Italian white beans (cannellini beans)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 large carrot (chopped)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 medium bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 medium celery stalk (chopped)
  • 1 can Pelati Tomatoes (14½ ounces) cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • ¼-½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 dashes hot pepper flakes (optional) or black pepper
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth

Prevent your screen from going dark

  • In a large bowl of water add the beans and soak over night (8 hours). Then drain and rinse.

  • In a large pot on low/medium heat, add the oil, chopped onion, carrot and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the chopped peppers and celery, cook for 2 minutes.

  • Add the remaining ingredients including the beans and simmer on low / medium heat for approximately one hour or until beans are cooked and tender. Taste for salt.

  • Serve immediately with shredded cheese on top if desired.  Enjoy.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. You may find the chili develops even more flavor after it is stored, it really is great for meal prep if that is your thing! 

Freeze leftover chili in individual containers or in larger containers for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, add additional broth or water to thin to desired consistency and then reheat until warmed and ready to serve. 
The depth of flavors in the chili become more pronounced after storing it a day or two making it even better! 

Calories: 145kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Sodium: 17mg | Potassium: 417mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2405IU | Vitamin C: 27.9mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2.1mg

Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

Updated from February 23, 2018

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