This easy vegan chilli recipe makes for a quick and hearty dish, with key ingredients coming from the store cupboard in the form of tinned tomatoes and beans. I'll regularly cook up a big batch and store portions in the fridge or freezer for future meals.
Recipe originally written in 2019 (my first ever one!) and updated with minor tweaks in 2023.
For a hit of rich umami flavour, stir in a dollop of Marmite or other yeast extract. It's also good to add a splash of vegan Worcestershire sauce or red wine vinegar. If you like coriander, add the chopped stems with a couple of minutes to go.
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Why you'll love this recipe
- It can be ready in as little as 40 minutes
- It's low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals
- You can thicken the stew more quickly by mashing while it cooks
- You can batch-cook it and refrigerate or freeze portions for future meals
- It's very versatile and easy to customise based on what you have available
What is chilli?
Originating in Texas, chilli is short for chilli con carne – literally meaning “chilli with meat” in Spanish. In its most basic form, you might describe it as a spicy, tomato-based stew traditionally featuring beans and beef.
Since it's full of protein-packed legumes, chilli makes for an ideal plant-based meal. And while we tend to associate chilli with red kidney beans, it’s great with other beans as well (pinto, borlotti, black, cannellini, adzuki etc.).
Want to learn more about beans and legumes? Check out my Beginner's Guide to Pulses.
Making chilli plant-based
This easy veggie chilli recipe is a perfect example of how a batch-cooked vegan meal might look in my own home. Instead of using meat such as beef mince, you simply increase the amounts of beans and veg while combining spices and other ingredients to give the dish its depth of flavour.
For me, it's whole-food plant-based cooking in its simplest form – vegetables, pulses, tomatoes, and seasonings that come together as a stew to be served along with the likes of rice, potatoes, or bread (see serving suggestions for this chilli below).
Adding Marmite (yeast extract) to chilli
Yeast extract products such as Marmite are a fantastic way to add a boost of umami flavour to your cooking – particularly useful when it comes to plant-based meals.
A by-product of the beer brewing industry, yeast extract has a rich, salty taste that some find overpowering by itself. However, when stirred into dishes such as stews or chillies, it can really help to take things to another level.
I personally like to make sure I never have fewer than two or three jars backed up in my store cupboard. For me, it goes into everything from vegan haggis, vegan stovies, and vegan Scotch broth to vegan cottage pie and jackfruit 'beef' stew.
If this all sounds a bit weird and interesting to you, check out this list of unusual vegan ingredients.
Recipe testing notes
- Chilli: This recipe uses chilli powder for convenience, but you coulso also add fresh chilli during cooking and when serving.
- Coriander: The stems lend themselves well to flavouring the stew during cooking, then the leaves can be added at the end.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: If you don't have this, use half the amount of vegan balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar in its place.
- Customise: I'd suggest including the onions, peppers, tomatoes, and beans, but beyond that you can feel free to throw in anything else that takes your fancy.
- Increase quantities: I'll regularly bulk this sort of thing out with an extra tin of tomatoes and/or beans to make it stretch further.
What you'll need
To make this vegetarian chilli sin carne, you'll need:
- Aromatic veg in the form of onion, garlic, and peppers
- Herbs and spices including chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and bay leaves
- Tinned tomatoes to create the bulk of the stew
- Tinned beans that are easy to drain and rinse before adding
- Big-flavour ingredients including tomato puree, yeast extract, and vegan Worcestershire sauce (or red wine vinegar)
- Fresh coriander for both its stems and leaves
How to make easy vegan chilli sin carne
Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Next, add the chopped garlic and peppers and cook for another few minutes until starting to soften.
Stir in the chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano (or mixed herbs), bay leaves, and tomato puree.
Mix everything well and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the tinned tomatoes and cook down for a couple of minutes, turning up the heat if necessary to get things going.
Add all the other ingredients to the pan (including the coriander stems but not the leaves). Once simmering, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
At this stage, you can continue to simmer for a while or mash the chilli to thicken it more quickly.
To do so, take a potato masher and gently mash the stew towards the bottom of the pan. Do this as much or as little as you want – I usually crush some of the beans and leave most of them whole.
Cook for another couple of minutes and serve.
More often than not, I'll keep things simple with boiled brown rice and an extra sprinkling of chopped coriander leaves. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato wedges, cumin roasted cauliflower, and sweet potato mash also make for nice sides.
If you need to ensure that this recipe is 100% gluten-free, use a vegan stock and yeast extract that are certified or labelled as such.
To make this a one-pot meal, try bulking it out with ingredients such as quinoa or bulgur wheat (not gluten-free). Add this when adding the chopped tomatoes, and cook the chilli for around 10-15 minutes longer or until the grains are tender (you'll likely need a little extra liquid).
Store this chilli in the fridge for up to four days. Simply reheat in the microwave or in a pan with a splash of water to loosen it up.
Freeze the chilli sin carne in sealed containers or resealable bags for up to six months. Defrost before reheating thoroughly in the microwave or in a pan with a splash of water.
Variations and tips for vegan chilli
There are a million different takes on chilli, and everyone seems to have their own tips and tricks. This recipe is a stripped-back version that you can build on, with lots of additional ingredients to choose from:
- Veg: Include chopped celery and carrot at the start for a more flavourful base. Add mushrooms, courgette, kale, aubergine, sweet potato, or anything else you fancy (or want to use up).
- Make it meatier: If you want a meatier texture, add some plant-based mince. You can buy this frozen, fresh, or in a dried form that's easy to re-hydrate. Another ‘mince’ option is to use finely chopped mushrooms.
- Use dried beans: To make this dish (and others) even cheaper, you can use dried beans. These will need to be soaked and cooked in advance, with times varying depending on the type. Check out my Beginner's Guide to Pulses for more info.
- More umami flavour: Similar to using yeast extract, you can also stir in a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast for even more depth.
- Try something new: Other 'secret' chilli ingredients include soy sauce, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and molasses.
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Easy Vegan Chilli Sin Carne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (plus more to taste)
- 2 teaspoons oregano or mixed herbs
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 3x 14 oz (400 g) tins tomatoes
- 1x 14 oz (400 g) tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1x 14 oz (400 g) tin pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon Marmite (or other yeast extract if GF)
- 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (or half the amount of red wine vinegar, see notes)
- 1 cup (240 ml) vegan stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Small bunch fresh coriander (stems and leaves)
- Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
- Next, add the chopped garlic and peppers and cook for another few minutes until starting to soften.
- Stir in the chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano (or mixed herbs), bay leaves, and tomato puree. Mix everything well and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tinned tomatoes and cook down for a couple of minutes, turning up the heat if necessary to get things going.
- Add all the other ingredients to the pan (including the coriander stems but not the leaves). Once simmering, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
- At this stage, you can continue to simmer for a while or mash the chilli to thicken it more quickly. To do so, take a potato masher and gently mash the stew towards the bottom of the pan. Do this as much or as little as you want – I usually crush some of the beans and leave most of them whole.
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