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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!
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
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The Ultimate Vegan Chili
Veggie Meat Crumbles
- 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.