Vegan Chili, For the Win

by amanda

Growing up, one of my very favorite meals of my mother’s was her chili. So hearty and rich and perfectly seasoned, I would always have seconds, topped with mountains of saltines (then, a childhood staple.) Over the years I’ve asked her to send me her recipe hundreds of times, until I finally got comfortable enough with my own version to make it as effortlessly as she always has.

Today I had a kind of nagging hunger all day without any sense of what I was actually hungry for. Nothing sounded good, I still could not stomach the idea of anything green after my misadventures with dirt. It’s a gross, rainy day in New York and I really just wanted something warm, comforting and delicious. Also, I’m a big fan of making a large pot of something on Mondays, because I take my lunch to work everyday, so this allows me to always have something on standby for when the week inevitably gets busier than planned.

Chili it was.

The best thing about chili is that you can literally throw anything into it. Any veggie, any bean, any random lentils or legumes you have laying around, they all work beautifully and it’s difficult to disappoint. Tonight, I opted for my typical vegetarian chili standby, filled with lots of comforting and colorful veggies, lots of beans and excess amounts of seasoning (I’ve been known to dump half a bottle of chili powder into one pot.) This is an adapted version of my mother’s, but in our house, no chili is left behind. 

Vegan Chili with Zuccinni, Carrot, Onion, Red Pepper, Black and Kidney Beans

Serves: 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes – an hour, depending on how patient and/or hungry you are

Ingredients – again, this is based on what I happened to have in my refrigerator. It could literally be adapted with any vegetable you choose.

1 zuccinni, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, diced

2 cans black beans, rinsed

1 can kidney beans, rinsed

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (or jarred, if you can find them. Canned tomatoes are actually the most toxic canned foods, because they are the most susceptible to the BPA in the can’s lining. Eden Organics is the only brand that has BPA-free linings, so if you can’t find jarred, which I could not tonight, they are your safest bet. You could also chop up two fresh tomatoes and forego the prepared version entirely.)

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste, I like everything spicy)

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 cup water, to thin it all out


Once you’ve chopped the onion and garlic, toss it into the pan with the coconut oil and let them cook first on medium-high heat. This is important, because this is how you really get the flavor going. One time I just put everything in together at the same time and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t as flavorful as it usually is. Upon finding out that I didn’t cook the garlic and onion first, my sister quite literally schooled me (while also saving my chili), and I have never done it since. There is definitely something to letting the flavors build.

Isn't that little tasting spoon the cutest? I usually find a way to taste a lot while I'm cooking.

Isn’t that little tasting spoon the cutest? Also, you are looking at the whole of my kitchen’s counter space.

Let those cook while you’re chopping up all the other vegetables. After 5-10 minutes, put the rest of the vegetables in with your tomatoes. Add your rinsed beans, top with all the seasoning and then mix together. When it comes to seasoning chili, I don’t think there’s just one way to go. Like with everything, I continue seasoning the entire time it’s cooking. And enjoy a bit of experimentation! Cumin, paprika, basil, garlic salt, chili garlic powder – the best thing about chili is that it embraces every herb, spice and flavor equally. It’s pretty hard to mess up chili – it’s a very forgiving dish. So go with your instinct and play around.


After about 15 minutes, turn the heat down to low and set simmer for 30, or until the vegetables are cooked through. I prefer a bit of crispness to my vegetables still, especially as I’ll continue heating it up throughout the week. Chili is one of those foods that is always better the next day.


Serve alone, or garnish with tofu sour cream, avocado, vegan or organic cheese. Randomly, I was craving it over pasta (that’s never happened to me before?), so I bought some quinoa pasta to toss it over later on in the week. Enjoy, and let me know your favorite chili variations in the comments!