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This Ultimate Vegan Chili is thick, hearty, and meaty! It's loaded with veggies, beans, warm spices, and savory meat crumbles. It'll keep you cozy and satisfied during those chilly days, too! This recipe is easy to make, freezer-friendly, and perfect for potlucks!
It's that time of year for everything warm, cozy, and comforting! This Vegan Chili Recipe fits that bill! It'll treat you right and you'll want to make it all season long! Plus, it'll satisfy the pickiest of eaters and make mealtime a breeze!
This recipe was published back in 2016 when I was a newbie blogger. It's one of my favorite comfort food recipes, along with my Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili, and Vegan Potato Leek Soup.
The original recipe calls for mushrooms, but I had so many requests for a replacement, that I decided to create a meaty texture with something else. However, if you love mushrooms, I posted instructions below on how to cook them for the chili.
How to make Vegan Chili
️🌟 This is a quick overview with step-by-step photos. For the complete ingredient amounts and instructions, scroll down to the recipe card below.
First, you'll need to press the tofu. This will yield a better texture and the tofu will absorb lots of flavors. To do this, wrap a block of extra-firm tofu in a dish towel and place it on a rimmed plate. Add a cast-iron skillet on top (or something similar) and let it drain. Pat dry to remove excess moisture on the surface.
Now make the crumbles. Using your hands, break up the pressed tofu into ½-inch pieces. In a large bowl, whisk the tamari, liquid smoke, and garlic together. Add the tofu to the bowl of marinade and gently toss to coat.
I made the pieces a little larger than crumble-size because I was going for chicken-style meat, but you can crumble them smaller if you want a ground "meat" texture.
Heat a Large Non-Stick Pan over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it's hot, add the crumbled tofu. Cook until browned and slightly crispy on all sides, stirring occasionally. It should take about 7-9 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Now add the oil and when it's hot, add the onions, peppers, and jalapeños. Sauté until tender and lightly browned.
- Add garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
- Now add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Sauté 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and give a good stir.
- Pour in the roasted tomatoes.
- Add the tamari, cornmeal, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10-12 minutes.
- Now stir in the beans and corn. Simmer for another 10-12 minutes until cooked down and thickened.
- Stir in the veggie meat crumbles and cook for another 8-10 minutes until heated throughout.
Tips for Making the Best Vegan Chili
- Cook the chili for a minimum of 30 minutes for the best flavor. You can cook it a bit longer for a deeper flavor, but just make sure it's simmering on low and stir often to prevent burning. Add a few splashes of broth if needed, to thin it out.
- Chili has the best flavor the next day after the flavors have fully married, so it's perfect to make ahead and pop in the fridge. Reheat on medium-low and add a few splashes of broth if needed.
- If the chili tastes too acidic, add a touch more brown sugar or a splash of molasses to balance out the acidity and cook a little longer.
- Use a flavorful broth as your base instead of water for maximum taste.
- Here's a great article with 5 Pro Tips for Even Better Chili.
How to Amp up the Flavor
This Vegan Chili recipe is super flavorful as written, but if you want to go all out, here are some ideas. Only try a few of these ideas or it will be overkill. Less is more!
- Balsamic Vinegar - it will brighten the flavors and add a subtle sweet-zingy flavor. Add a few splashes at the end of cooking.
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce - it adds rich, spicy, and smoky flavors. I would use 1-2 peppers (diced) and 1-3 tablespoons of sauce depending on how spicy you like your chili.
- Bourbon - This adds a smoky, full-bodied flavor to your chili. Add ⅓ cup right after you've cooked the vegetables and spices. Make sure to cook it down before adding additional ingredients.
- Molasses - it adds a rich, bold flavor with a touch of sweetness. 1-2 tablespoons will do the job nicely. Use this in place of any other sweetener that's in the recipe.
- Cinnamon - It boosts the warm spices and smoky flavors in the chili. Add ½-1 teaspoon with the other spices.
- Liquid Smoke - it adds a deep smoky flavor. Add 2-3 teaspoons in the last five minutes of cook time.
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce - creates a nice depth of flavor and subtle zing. Add 2-3 teaspoons with the other liquids.
Ways to Thicken Chili
- Use 2-3 tablespoons of cornmeal for extra thickness and a heartier texture.
- Simmer longer to cook down the liquid in the recipe. This will help meld the flavors together too.
- Add another can of beans or veggies.
- Using a potato masher, gently mash up a small portion of the chili and stir.
- Let the chili sit for five minutes after cooking. It will naturally start to thicken up.
What Can I Use Instead of Tofu?
- For the meaty crumble texture, you can also use 10-12 ounces of mushrooms instead of tofu. Chop them up and add the sauce after they have fully browned in the pan (about 8-10 minutes). Add them back into the chili for the last 10 minutes of cook time.
- You can also use store-bought veggie crumbles and brown them in the pan with oil. Most likely, you won't need to add any sauce to the crumbles because they are usually seasoned well.
- If you like tempeh, you can cook it in the same way as the tofu crumbles. Just steam the entire block in broth for 10-15 minutes before crumbling. This will eliminate any bitter taste.
- You can skip the veggie crumbles altogether and just add another can of beans of your choice.
Can I Freeze It?
Yes, this vegan chili freezes nicely for 4-6 months. Make sure it's cooled before sealing it in an airtight container. You can freeze it in batches for smaller servings too.
To thaw, place chili in the fridge overnight. Heat over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes until heated throughout. Stir often to prevent burning and add more broth to thin it out if needed.
Chili Topping Ideas
- Sliced Jalapeños (fresh or jarred)
- Vegan Sour Cream
- Sliced Green Onions
- Fresh-Cut Cilantro
- Vegan Cheese Shreds
- Tortilla Strips
More vegan comfort recipes to try
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The Ultimate Vegan Chili
Veggie Meat Crumbles
- 14 ounces tofu , extra firm. Drained and pressed (*see note)
- 1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil (or preferred cooking oil)
- 2 tablespoons tamari , low sodium (sub soy sauce)
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (sub with 1 teaspoon smoked paprika)
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or preferred cooking oil)
- 1 large onion , diced
- 1 large green bell pepper , diced
- 1-2 jalapeños , deseeded and diced (*optional)
- 4 cloves garlic , minced or crushed
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin , more to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth , low sodium
- 28 ounces fire roasted tomatoes , canned (crushed or finely chopped)
- 2-3 tablespoons cornmeal (*optional - see note)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (sub molasses) , more to taste
- 2 tablespoons tamari , low sodium (sub soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- 15 ounces black beans , canned. Drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces kidney beans , canned. Drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn , fresh or frozen
- Salt and pepper , to taste
Veggie Meat Crumbles
- In a large bowl, whisk the tamari, liquid smoke, and garlic together. Set aside.
- Using your hands, gently break up the pressed tofu into ½-inch pieces. Add the tofu to the bowl of marinade and gently toss to coat well.
- Heat a Large Non-Stick Pan over medium heat. Now add the oil and when it's hot, add the crumbled tofu. Cook until browned and slightly crispy on all sides, stirring occasionally. It should take about 7-9 minutes. Lower the heat if needed to prevent burning. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Now add the oil and when it's hot, add the onions, peppers, and jalapeños. Sauté until tender and lightly browned. About 6-8 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Stir constantly to prevent burning.
- Now add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Stir constantly for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the vegetable broth and give a good stir. This will pick up the brown bits off the bottom.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, tamari, cornmeal, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and pepper. Raise heat to bring to a high simmer. Then reduce heat to maintain a light simmer for 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Now stir in the beans and corn. Lightly simmer for another 10-12 minutes until cooked down and thickened. If you want a thinner consistency, add a few splashes of broth.
- Stir in the veggie meat crumbles and cook for another 6-8 minutes until heated throughout. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- Pressing Tofu: wrap a block of tofu in a dish towel and place it on a rimmed plate. Add a cast iron skillet on top (or something equally heavy)and let it drain for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry to remove excess moisture on the surface.
- You can also use a Tofu Press to make it even easier or you can use Pre-Pressed Tofu. You will have a thicker block if you use the high-protein tofu, so you'll have extra crumbles. You can save them in the fridge for a different recipe or add more to the chili.
- Prep time doesn't include pressing the tofu.
- This recipe is fairly thick with all of the ingredients, but I like to use 2-3 tablespoons of cornmeal for extra thickness and a heartier texture. I love it! You can omit it if preferred though. If needed, just cook the chili down a little longer to thicken.
- I highly recommend a Non-Stick Skillet for the veggie crumbles or a well-seasoned Cast Iron Pan. The crumbles stick easily to the pan and can burn. If you use a stainless-steel pan, just make sure the pan is well heated and oiled before beginning. Watch carefully and stir often.
- Alternatively, you can bake the crumbles at 375 F (190 C) for 20-30 minutes until browned and slightly crispy. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper and spray with oil. Move the crumbles around every 7-10 minutes for even browning.
- If you can't have soy, you can omit the tamari and replace the tofu crumbles with mushrooms or store-bought crumbles. For the mushrooms, sauté them in oil until fully browned. Then add the sauce the last minute of cooking. Add them into the chili the last 5 minutes of cook time. The store-bought crumbles won't need seasoning. Just brown them in a pan with a small amount of oil.
- To add more depth of flavor, you can add a splash of Liquid Smoke, Lime Juice, Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, or Balsamic Vinegar after removing from heat (don't add all of them).
- Top with sliced jalapeños, fresh-cut cilantro, green onions, vegan sour cream, and shredded vegan cheese.
When I first told my husband that I was going to make a new chili recipe with tofu, he said TOFU NO WAY NOT IN CHILI. Well, he had to eat his words after dinner. He said that he thought it was the best chili I have ever made and we can now stop buying canned. Finding a really good chili recipe is difficult for us; NOT ANY MORE!! I did increase some of the spices a little as we like very spicy foods. Next time I make it I think for I will cut the brown sugar or at least wait until the end to decide on it. I am going to also change out the corn for hominy, maybe use Anaheim Chile peppers instead of bell pepper and replace some of the ground chili powder with some ground ancho peppers. We are all looking forward to our next chili dinner. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
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Hi Donna! Wow, what an amazing compliment! We are so happy to hear that you both loved the recipe and found a chili recipe that you enjoy. Thanks so much for giving the recipe a try! 🙂
We just finished dinner and this recipe is a keeper! Kid friendly too. Great with cornbread. Thanks!
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Hi Denise! We are so happy to hear how much you all loved the chili! Thanks for trying it out 🙂
This was great. My husband loved it and said it was the best chili ever. I made it exactly as the recipe was written except Substituted veggie stock for the oil. It was complex and delicious
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Hi Nancy! We are so happy to hear that you both loved the chili! Thanks so much for giving it a try 🙂
This chili is AMAZING! It’s SO flavorful and filling and was easy to make! I’ll definitely be making it again and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow!!
Hi Samantha, This is such a nice compliment! Thank you for giving it a try and sharing your feedback. 🙂
This really hit the mark, so good. Couldn't get the roast diced tomatoes but it so full on in flavour still worked. Thanks👍👍
Thank you, Rory! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Have a great weekend 🙂
Made it again and in these dire times it really literally gave us a lift. Used the balsamic vinegar suggestion, really worked!!👍👍😁
Hi Rory, I'm so happy it was able to lift you up during these times. Food has a way of doing that for me too. I'm glad you enjoyed the balsamic too. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
I really enjoyed your original recipe with mushrooms. Is there any way I can get a copy of it? I was actually hoping to make a batch for the long holiday weekend!
Hi Chris, I just emailed it to you. Let me know if you don't receive it. 🙂
I stumbled across this recipe looking for veggie chili and I have to tell you this was incredible! The hard fried tofu provided just the right "chew" for my meat-loving fiance. This recipe required a little more time that some other recipes I've found but it is totally worth it. So happy to discover this recipe and your site.
Hi Jennifer, this is such a nice compliment! I'm glad you both liked it. Thank you so much 🙂
Hi! Do you have the original recipe somewhere? I linked this post over a year ago and made the recipe before and it was a favorite!
Hi Summer, yes, I can email it to you. Just email me at email@example.com and I'll reply with the recipe. Just so you don't have to share your email address here. 🙂
Over here in the UK where the weather is equally grim! This looks just the thing for my partner and me after a long walk or active day out. We both like big flavours!
I detest chocolate tho', both the taste and especially the smell. Can I omit or substitute the cocoa powder, I know it's common in lots of chilli recipes?
Hi Bruno, You can omit the cocoa powder and the chili will still have lots of deep flavors. Just taste it 15 minutes before it's finished and add more seasoning if needed. A dash of liquid smoke it great! I hope this helps. Have a nice weekend! 🙂
I made this recipe last week and it was delicious! I was going to make the sweet potato chili, but because I had mushrooms, I chose this one. The cocoa powder added a wonderful depth of flavor, and the addition of lime juice sent it over the top. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!
Hi Denise, I'm so happy to hear this, thank you so much! You've just inspired me to make this again. It's been too long! 🙂
I am roasting some tomatoes tonight so I can make this dish during the week.
I have based my entire weeks dinner menu from recipes from your site this week - thanks! 🙂
Tonight we had the Pad-Thai
Tomorrow is the Pineapple Fried Rice (my rice just finished cooking!) I'll keep you posted
Hi Krystle, Yay! This is so nice to hear! Thank you for giving my recipes a chance!
The fresh-roasted tomatoes will be wonderful in this! Enjoy! 🙂
Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day
This chili recipe looks delicious! I'm going to try it very soon.
Thank you, Amy! It's so easy to make, too 🙂
I love chili so much! So cozy and warm. This one looks great!
Thank you, Jenn! My favorite, too 🙂
Oh, I love a good bowl of chili, especially in the fall. It's just so cozy and filling. Your recipe looks wonderful!
Thank you, Cadry! So perfect for fall and so easy to make 🙂