When winter starts to roll in each year, nothing feels more cozy than veggie soup or vegan chili to warm you up. If you’re not vegan, you may be wondering why anyone would want to leave the meat out of chili. Well, when I quit eating meat years ago, I just assumed I couldn’t enjoy chili any longer. My mom would make it and just the smell would make me long for that hot, comforting bowl that I had enjoyed so long. Yet, I realized I didn't even miss the meat, nor did I need it There are tons of delicious chili recipes out there that don’t have any meat at all, and in my opinion, taste even better than the original versions that do include meat. All you need is a little of this, and a touch of that. Use these 13 special ingredients to create a delicious vegan chili that you’re sure to come back to every single year.
1. A Sweet Potato
Since you’re making vegan chili, you’ll need plenty of hearty ingredients to plump it up without meat. Sweet potatoes are such a lovely, nutritional, and completely tasty way to do that. Use about 1 medium sweet potato, and cut it into large cubes after you peel it.
2. Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans are the type of beans used in most all traditional chilis. They’re also fantastic for you! You’ll get that classic chili flavor, along with plenty of fiber, protein, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants. Kidney beans are also great to add even more of a hearty texture.
Lentils are packed with protein, and they’re also a little sweet, which make them perfect to use in vegan chili. In chili recipes, you’ll need lots of sweet and savory flavors to make a great flavor combination for the taste buds that is satisfying, yet still balanced. Lentils offer that, plus plenty of fiber, more protein than meat per serving, and no artery clogging fat whatsoever.
4. Fire Roasted Canned Tomatoes
Here’s one trick I always like to use in my vegan chili recipes. Be sure to use fire roasted canned tomatoes, preferably organic, which have so much flavor! They offer a smoked flavor that is best used in hearty recipes like chili or soup and offer much more kick to the overall dish than plain tomatoes will. Use about 1 standard size can per batch.
5. Tomato Paste
Along with canned tomatoes, I also suggest using about one 6 ounce can of tomato paste. It adds a sweet depth to the overall chili dish that sort of completes everything. It also adds a bit more intense flavor than tomatoes, but works best when combined with them, not left to replace them. Tomato paste also adds a bit more sweetness with a dense flavor, which you’ll need for optimal flavor.
Garlic just makes everything better, right? Use about 1 clove, finely diced for this recipe. Garlic adds that hearty, satisfying taste that completes almost any dish it is added to.
7. Chili Powder
A great vegan chili can’t be complete without chili powder, right? Use about 2-3 tbsp, or less if you don’t like your chili incredibly spicy. I like mine pretty spicy, so I use about 2 tbsp. I like Simply Organic chili powder, which has no added fillers, sugar or sulfites like commercial brands do. It also has the heartiest flavor, in my opinion.
8. Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is what you’ll need for your liquid base. I prefer vegetable broth with no salt added, and to just add my own salt later from a good source. I also like to buy organic vegetable broth, but do what works for you. Veggie broth adds more flavor than water will, and offers extra health benefits. Use about 3 cups for a normal batch recipe.
Along with garlic for a complete flavor profile, you just have to have onion, right? Onions will give your recipe depth, sweetness and add some texture to your chili. You can dice it finely, or slice it in slivers if you want a different texture option.
10. Your Choice of Pepper
Chili isn’t complete without some type of pepper included. Many people like to use a jalapeno pepper,or a green bell pepper. You can even use a little of both if you want. I recommend using a red bell pepper if you’re not into super spicy peppers, which I’m not. They tend to give me heartburn, and I prefer the rich, sweeter taste that red bell peppers offer instead. They still add lots of flavor, but aren’t so pungent that they override the other flavors in the chili. Use 1 cup of diced peppers, whichever variety you do choose.
11. S and P
You can’t have chili without some salt and pepper girls! I like to add about ½ tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt, which is wind-processed so it is higher in minerals and is also a lovely color. I also prefer coarse ground black pepper to finely ground pepper, but do what works for you. This will balance out the chili’s flavor base to complete the taste you’re going for.
12. A Bay Leaf
You’d be surprised to know just how much one little bay leaf can make a difference to how your chili tastes. Bay leaf offers tons of flavor in a very small amount, and it gives chili that comforting, deep texture and taste that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you’d be sure to miss it if you left it out. You’ll remove it after cooking since bay leaves are inedible, but you’ll still need to include one little bay leaf in your chili.
13. Your Choice of Fat
You need a bit of fat in this recipe to complete your flavor profile. Many people choose to use olive oil, but I actually prefer melted coconut oil, or to use an avocado diced once you finish cooking the recipe. If you don’t have avocado, simply use oil to add to your chili instead. You’ll need about 2 tbsp. and I highly recommend using a healthy oil if you can, such as olive or melted coconut oil.
There are many variations to vegan chili to try. I simply picked the ingredients that I like the best. Many people use black beans, additional spices, or might use white potatoes instead of sweet, etc. For recipe ideas, feel free to check out the sources below. Do you ever make vegan chili?