The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

A 100% vegan chili recipe that has all of the deep chili flavor, textural contrast, and rib-sticking richness that the best chili should have.

The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili

About This Recipe

Yield:Makes about 3 quarts, serving 6
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:2 hours
This recipe appears in: Serious Entertaining: A Comforting Vegetarian Dinner The Food Lab: The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili


  • 3 whole sweet fresh chilies like Costeño, New Mexico, or Choricero, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 small hot chilies like Arbol or Cascabel, stems and seeds removed (optional)
  • 3 whole rich fruity chilies like Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, or Pasilla, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 whole chipotle chilies in adobo sauce with 2 tablespoons sauce from can
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes packed in juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon marmite or vegemite
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained, liquid reserved separately
  • 2 tablespoons vodka or bourbon
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons masa


  1. 1

    Combine all chilies in a medium saucepan and the water. Simmer over medium-high heat until chilies are completely tender, about 15 minutes. Drain chilies, reserving water separately. Transfer chilies to a blender or hand blender cup. Add chipotles and their sauce. Blend until completely smooth.

  2. 2

    Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid from can along with reserved chili water. Transfer chickpeas to a food processor and pulse until just roughly chopped, about three 1-second pulses. Set aside.

  3. 3

    Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid from can along with reserved chili/chickpea water mixture. Roughly chop tomatoes into approximate 1/4-inch pieces. Add to chili/chickpea/tomato water mixture.

  4. 4

    Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and dried oregano and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pureed chilies, soy sauce, and marmite and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved chili/chickpea/tomato water mixture and stir to combine. Add chopped chickpeas and kidney beans. Stir to combine.

  5. 5

    If beans are sticking out of the top, add reserved kidney bean liquid until just barely submerged. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more reserved kidney bean liquid as necessary if chili becomes too thick or sticks to the bottom of the pan.

  6. 6

    When cooked, add vodka or bourbon and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and whisk in masa in a slow steady stream until desired thickness is reached. For best results, allow chili to cool and refrigerate for at least one night and up to a week. Reheat to serve.

  7. 7

    Serve, garnished with cilantro, chopped onions, scallions, avocado, lime wedges, and warm tortillas as desired.


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