Making Chili is Insanely Simple: How to Make a Spicy Vegetarian Version

I gave a sneak peak of some chili ingredients in my Instagram stories last week and took an impromptu poll about opinions on adding meat to chili versus keeping it vegetarian. I have to say that the carnivores started strong and I thought it was going to be a total runaway, but the vegetable-lovers made a comeback and it ended up being a nearly 50/50 split with 52% saying "yes" to meat and 48% saying "no".  

All of that aside, the final product that I threw together in a hurry actually turned out really well so I thought I would share what I did as a testament to the fact that chili is s-i-m-p-l-e to make and nearly impossible to mess up. The dietitian in me loves that chili is packed with fiber because of the beans - which are a total nutrition rockstar. In addition to the fiber they also provide plant-based protein, folate, potassium, magnesium, and iron. All of this to say, if you like beans, you should probably be eating more of them.

Chili is also one of those dishes that basically acts as a vehicle for vegetables because it's total comfort food, but you can really pack in the fresh produce (great for all of you self-proclaimed veggie haters out there). It comes together fast, reheats well for leftovers and most importantly, is just plain delicious.

Unfortunately I didn't get a great photo of the finished product so I can't "wow" you with my food styling skills on this one. Here's the basic gist of what I did:

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

In usual fashion, this is more of an approach than a recipe which means more room for you to customize it to your liking.  


  • olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 1-14.5 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-14.5 oz can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-14.5 oz can corn (drained)
  • 1 pint sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 jalapeno, diced 
  • 1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce + 1 can full of water
  • Shredded cheese, diced avocado and hot sauce for topping
  • Tortilla chips or bread for dipping


1. Heat oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat, then add onions and sauté for a few minutes until slightly glossy. Add garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for just 1-2 minutes longer until the flavors "meld" (<-- is this a word?). 

2. Add beans, corn, mushrooms, and jalapeno, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for a few more minutes until the mushrooms start to release some liquid. 

3. Add tomato sauce, then fill the empty can with water and dump that in too. Stir everything together, bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for at least 20-30 minutes (could simmer longer if you want). 

4. Taste the chili and season one more time if necessary (note: tasting and seasoning throughout each step is key for depth of flavor here). Then portion the chili into bowls and top with your favorite toppings like shredded cheese, diced red onion, avocado and hot sauce. Serve with tortilla chips or corn bread for dipping. 

Note: "Spicy" was included in the title because as written this has serious kick. Remember that you can always take down the heat in a recipe by removing the seeds from jalapeños (or any pepper) and cutting back on the amount of hot spices like smoked paprika or cayenne. 

If you have a favorite type of chili I would love to hear about it in the comments!