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 chili recipes (along with my Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili), but the photos needed a fresh new look. I also simplified the recipe to make life easier. It’s just as tasty though!
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.
For the alternative meaty texture, I saw this delicious chili recipe by Hummusapien and I was inspired to make the crumbles out of tofu. It worked perfectly! I made the crumbles a little differently by cooking them in a pan for quick, easy and even browning.
HOW TO MAKE VEGGIE MEAT CRUMBLES
(FULL PRINTABLE INSTRUCTIONS IN 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. 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 and let it drain. Pat dry to remove excess moisture on the surface.
Now you can make the crumbles. Using your hands, break up the pressed tofu into 1/2-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.
TIPS FOR MAKING TOFU CRUMBLES:
1 – I highly recommend a Non-Stick Skillet for the 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.
2 – You can also 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.
3 – To make it easier, you can use a Tofu Press, Pre-Pressed Tofu or High-Protein 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.
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN CHILI
- 1 – 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 7-9 minutes.
- 2 – Add garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Stir constantly to prevent burning.
- 3 – Now add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Stir constantly for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
- 4 – Pour in the vegetable broth and give a good stir. This will pick up the brown bits off the bottom.
- 5 – Pour in the roasted tomatoes.
- 6 – Add the 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.
- 7 – 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.
- 8 – Stir in the veggie meat crumbles and cook for another 8-10 minutes until heated throughout. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.
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.
HOW TO AMP UP THE FLAVOR:
Balsamic Vinegar – it will brighten the flavors and add a subtle sweet-zingy flavor. Add a few splashes at the end of cooking.
Lime Juice – this will also brighten the flavors. Squeeze it on right before serving or add a lime wedge on the side.
Dark Chocolate – this deepens the flavor and balances out the acidic flavors. Use about 2 ounces of high-quality unsweetened dark chocolate and add it with the liquid ingredients. I use unsweetened cocoa powder because it’s what I usually have on hand. It’s just as delicious!
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.
Espresso – It adds richness and depth. Add 1 shot with the liquid ingredients and simmer to greatness.
Beer or Red Wine – this will add another layer of flavor to your chili. Add 1/2 cup right after you’ve cooked the vegetables and spices. This will deglaze the pan and pick up all the brown bits at the bottom, too. Cook it down before adding the remaining ingredients.
Bourbon – This adds a smoky, full-bodied flavor to your chili. Add 1/3 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 1/2-1 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.
Note: only try a few of these flavor amp-up ideas or it will be overkill. Less is more!
WAYS TO THICKEN CHILI
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. This is an optional ingredient, but I highly recommend giving it a try if you have it on hand. Here are other ways to thicken:
- 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. This works nicely!
- Let the chili sit for five minutes after cooking. It will naturally start to thicken up.
WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD OF TOFU?
1 – 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.
2 – 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.
3 – 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.
4 – You can skip the veggie crumbles altogether and just add another can of beans of your choice.
CAN I FREEZE IT?
Yes, this 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 fo prevent burning and add more broth to thin it out if needed.
WHAT CAN I SERVE WITH IT?
- Sliced Jalapeños (fresh or jarred)
- Vegan Sour Cream
- Sliced Green Onions
- Fresh-Cut Cilantro
- Vegan Cheese Shreds
- Tortilla Strips
MORE VEGAN COMFORT FOOD RECIPES TO TRY:
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
If you make this Chili Recipe, I’d love to hear what you think in the comment section below. It would really make my day. You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @veganhuggs and hashtag #veganhuggs so I don’t miss it.
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 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin , more to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 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 1/2-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!