The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili Recipe

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.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 6 servings

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  • 3 whole sweet dried chiles like Costeño, New Mexico, or Choricero, stems and seeds removed

  • 2 small hot dried chiles like Arbol or Cascabel, stems and seeds removed (optional)

  • 3 whole rich fruity dried chiles like Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, or Pasilla, stems and seeds removed

  • 1 quart water

  • 2 whole chipotle chiles 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. Add dried chiles to large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes. Do not allow to smoke. Remove chiles to small bowl and set aside. Alternatively, place dried chiles on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power in 15-second increments until pliable and toasted-smelling, about 30 seconds total. Transfer to a 2-quart microwave-safe liquid measuring cup or bowl. Add water and chipotle chiles, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until gently simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and set aside. Transfer chiles and liquid to blender and blend, starting on the lowest possible setting and gradually increasing speed to high (make sure to hold the lid down with a clean kitchen towel or a potholder to prevent it from blowing out). Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

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

  3. Roughly squeeze tomatoes trough your fingers into approximate 1/4-inch pieces. Add to chickpea water along with any juices.

  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 chiles, soy sauce, and marmite and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved chickpea/tomato water mixture and stir to combine. Add chopped chickpeas and kidney beans. Stir to combine.

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

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
510 Calories
11g Fat
81g Carbs
26g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 510
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1040mg 45%
Total Carbohydrate 81g 29%
Dietary Fiber 21g 77%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 26g
Vitamin C 52mg 258%
Calcium 212mg 16%
Iron 9mg 47%
Potassium 1384mg 29%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)