~ This quick, incredibly delicious vegetarian chili recipe is ready in about 30 minutes, and is made almost entirely with pantry staples! It’s loaded with so much depth of flavor, and also with nutritional powerhouse ingredients! So fantastic, yet so easy! We don’t miss the meat one bit! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Freezable • Make Ahead • Vegan (and Vegetarian) • Gluten Free •
It’s no mystery that one of my very best secrets to healthy home-cooked meals is a well-stocked pantry. (Keeps me ready for whatever life throws my way!)
This amazingly delicious chili recipe proves it.
I mean, no matter how I plan my week and coordinate menus, something always changes. Practice times are moved, traffic jams snarl my husband’s already-lengthy commute, carpool plans get shifted … basically, life happens! And, there go my best-laid dinner plans!
You’ve been there, too – I just know it, and I feel your pain!
Weekends are no different around my house. Sometimes I just have no idea if we’ll snag a last-minute invite to my mother-in-law’s for supper, or maybe rally a group of hungry soccer families for a fun dinner out after the game. Who can tell what might come up?!?
And so it was that, one Sunday not long ago, my family snuggled in to watch the Browns game. And on that cold, cold Sunday, I suddenly know just what we needed … chili!
I usually crave my slam-dunk Crock-Pot Crazy Pineapple Chili. But I didn’t have all the ingredients for that recipe.
I started rooting through my pantry …
Black beans. Score! A fantastic vegetarian black bean chili would be perfect!
I’ve always got bags of frozen veggies in the freezer … and yep! … there was some sweet baby corn, just waiting to jump in my chili pot!
Mmmmmmm! I just had to grab some canned pumpkin, too! I always have some of that around, in case I need to whip up a batch of “Kids’ Favorite Muffins“! And, I promise – pumpkin is seriously awesome in vegetarian chili! Without tasting obviously pumpkin-y, it just provides a rich, creamy backdrop for all the other spunky chili flavors. Plus, it’s loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and other healthy goodies – you know I love that!
So what else …
… of course, some dried herbs and spices. Oh! And a bit of cocoa powder, for sure! Trust me on this one. If you haven’t had chili with a little hit of cocoa powder in it, you’re missing a great treat. This is another you-won’t-really-notice-it’s-in-there ingredient that hangs out graciously in the background, adding rich depth of flavor. Trust me! And, although I added it for the flavor, cocoa powder packs a huge antioxidant wallop. Can’t beat that, especially when it makes chili taste so gosh-darn-great!
More pawing through my cupboards …
Some onions and garlic, of course – I always have those on hand.
And … score! There was a red pepper in my fridge, just waiting to find its purpose! Those types of veggies are great to stock each week because they keep for several days, and if you don’t end up needing them for a recipe, you can just slice them to top a quick salad or for a nutritious snack alongside healthy dips or hummus. So into my pot went the red pepper, too!
In no time at all, I had a gorgeous, quick-and-easy pot of vegetarian chili bubbling merrily away.
The great thing about creating a recipe like this is that you can taste it as you go along, recalculating and figuring out what flavors the recipe needs to reach utter perfection. A little taste here … another there … a pinch of this and a dash of that … and …
My family chowed the entire batch in record time! My son, his eyes glued to the football drama on TV, ladled up three giant bowls.
No one missed the meat, either. It was a runaway hit! (Score one for a well-stocked pantry and healthy spur-of-the-moment meals!)
I’ve made this several times since, testing and retesting the spice levels for you (see the notes on the recipe card for more details), just to be sure I can give you a good idea of how to amp up or tone down the heat based on all the preferences of your family’s varied tastes. No matter how I spiced it up or down, though, this was a hit, time after time. I happily heard, “Yay, that chili again!”
And while we’re on the subject of planning ahead for when all your plans totally change … this chili refrigerates well and (like most stew and chili recipes), it tastes just as good (if not even better!) after a day or two in the fridge. It freezes beautifully, too. Stash some in the deep freeze, and you’ll have a piping hot bowl of chili, ready to go at a moment’s notice!
Stay warm, keep that pantry stocked … and go make some awesome chili!
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped red pepper (from about 1 large red pepper)
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion (from about 1/2 a medium onion)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans (preferably organic or reduced-sodium), rinsed and drained
- 1 14.5-ounce can vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
- 1 10-ounce can mild Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
- 1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper (powdered, from the spice aisle) (see note)
- For serving: reduced-fat sour cream; reduced-fat, shredded sharp cheddar cheese; chopped cilantro; hot sauce such as Tapatío or Frank's Red Hot, if desired for additional heat (see note)
- Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat.
- Add red pepper, onion and garlic to pot. Cook until onion and pepper are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure garlic doesn't burn.
- Add all other ingredients. Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow flavors to meld.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more chipotle chile pepper a pinch at a time, if desired. (See note about adjusting spiciness.)
Adjusting spiciness: We intentionally kept the heat level of this chili a bit milder, so it's more appealing to everyone in a family. It's really easy to make this recipe spicier, though, if that's what you and your family prefer, and there are several different ways you can do that. First, you can select original Ro-Tel rather than mild. You can also add additional chipotle chile pepper powder. We found that ⅛ teaspoon gave a very moderate heat, which is a great starting point if you're cautious about spicy flavors. Our testers did, however, love the added chipotle flavor and the kick of using ¼ teaspoon, or even ½ teaspoon, of chipotle powder (so that's what we specify in the ingredient list above). Remember that it's better to start cautiously, as you can always add a little more chipotle powder if you wish. Lastly, we usually pass hot sauce such as Tapatío or Frank's Red Hot at the table, so that heat-lovers can further spice up their individual servings.
Make-ahead options: This reheats beautifully. If you’re crunched for time in the evening, you can easily make this the night before or earlier in the day, and then simply reheat just prior to serving. It also freezes well if you want to make batches further in advance.