Ultimate Vegan Chili
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This Ultimate Vegan Chili is AWARD WINNING and sure to please even the most devout of meat-eaters! Meaty, flavorful and protein-rich, this chili is over-the-top delicious. Serve with vegan cornbread and vegan sour cream for the best results!
Ultimate vegan chili is loaded with beans, meaty marinated tofu, and classic seasonings. This new favorite family dinner or game day dish is ready in under an hour and uses super simple ingredients. Plus, it’s freezer-friendly so you can heat up a bowl whenever you want!
I bet you could serve this chili to the meat eaters in your life and they won’t even know it’s plant-based! Feel free to make it your own and add in additional ingredients or all of your favorite toppings. Don’t forget the vegan cornbread and vegan cheese on the side for a hearty and filling meal!
Ingredients needed (with substitutions)
- Meaty tofu crumbles – Replicates ground beef. You can make it yourself OR sub in vegan beef crumbles such as Gardein or Beyond Meat. Sometimes I even make this TVP ground beef.
- Sweet onion and garlic – Classic and necessary chili ingredients. You can use white, yellow or even a red onion.
- Crushed tomatoes – You can substitute this for diced tomatoes if you like a little more texture in each bite.
- Black beans and kidney beans – Use any variety of canned beans you like, but this is my favorite combination.
- Chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt – This combination of seasonings will make each bite taste smokey, savory, and delicious!
- Maple syrup – Just a little to balance out the acidity.
- Cocoa powder – Adds richness and depths of flavors to the chili. If you haven’t added cocoa powder to your chili before, I highly recommend you try it!
Start by making the tofu crumbles
These tofu crumbles are perfectly seasoned and give this vegan chili a meaty texture. They’re also super easy to make!
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix together the soy sauce, nutritional yeast, chili powder, and smoked paprika in a large bowl. Use your hands to crumble the tofu into the bowl and mix everything together.
- Spread the tofu mixture in an even layer on your prepared pan. Place it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once the tofu is in the oven, start the chili.
How to make vegan chili
Chili is a surprisingly easy main dish that can feed a large crowd. Whip it together in under 30 minutes.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the chopped onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Next, add in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the rest of the chili ingredients into the pot (except for the tofu) and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Once the tofu crumbles are done, stir them into the chili.
How to thicken the chili
If you like your chili to have a thick or smooth texture, you can use an immersion blender to lightly blend just a few times. Do this before adding the tofu crumbles.
Can I make this in an Instant Pot or slow cooker?
You can save time and serve a crowd by making this recipe in an Instant Pot or crockpot instead. For both methods, make your tofu meat as instructed and stir it into the chili once it’s done cooking.
Make the chili in an Instant Pot by first turning it to Sauté mode. Add the oil and cook the onions and garlic until soft, then add in the rest of your ingredients (except the tofu). Secure the lid and cook on manual or high pressure for 8 minutes. Immediately release the pressure, then open the Instant Pot and stir in the tofu crumbles to finish.
You can make the chili in a slow cooker as well. Add all of the ingredients (except the tofu) to a large crockpot and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in the tofu crumbles 30 minutes before it’s done cooking.
Tips for success
- Feel free to add in as many vegetables or beans that you want. Throw in some frozen corn, zucchini, red peppers, sweet potatoes, or carrots.
- You can easily make this chili gluten free by swapping soy sauce for gluten free tamari when making the tofu crumbles.
- Add 1 cup of uncooked quinoa (white, red, or tricolor) when you add the rest of the ingredients to the chili pot.
- Make the chili extra spicy by adding ½ to 1 teaspoon of cayenne instead.
How to serve vegan chili
You can’t have chili without cornbread! Serve a piece or two with each bowl of chili. Layer on all the toppings you want, such as:
- Vegan Sour Cream
- Vegan cheese shreds or cheese sauce
- Diced tomatoes
- A wedge of lime
- Tortilla chips
- Chopped cilantro
- Avocado slices
- Hot sauce
Storing and reheating
You can enjoy this chili fresh from the pot or as leftovers. Store any leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge. It should stay fresh for up to 4 days.
I like to pour the chili into individual containers and freeze it for grab-and-go lunches. Alternatively, add the whole batch of chili to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
More comforting soups/stews
Impress a crowd with any of these delicious comforting recipes:
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
- Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Vegan Minestrone Soup
- Easy Vegan Tomato Soup
- Vegan Corn Chowder
Ultimate Vegan Chili
Meaty Tofu Crumbles
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, *tamari for gluten free
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- (1) 14-ounce firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- (2) 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
- (2) 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- (1) 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the Tofu Crumbles:
- In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce, nutritional yeast, chili powder and smoked paprika. It will be pasty. Now crumble the tofu into the bowl with your hands, and mix together using a large spoon until well combined with the paste.
- Spread the tofu mixture evenly in the pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring the tofu halfway through. Once the tofu is in the oven, start the chili.
For the Chili:
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
- Now add all the rest of the chili ingredients, except the tofu, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the tofu crumbles are done baking.
- If a thicker consistency is desired, use an immersion blender and blend just a few times. Do this before you add the tofu.
- May omit the tofu crumbles if desired, or replace them with vegan beef crumbles (such as Gardein brand or Beyond Meat). Or simply add some vegetables instead, like frozen corn, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots or zucchini. Or add a cup of uncooked quinoa when you add the beans.
- May substitute diced tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes if desired for more texture.
- Leftovers: This chili will keep in the fridge for about 4 days, and also freezes well.
- Instant Pot version: Use the sauté feature and cook your onion and garlic, then add the rest of the ingredients (except the tofu, bake that in the oven like normal). Secure the lid and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. Stir in the tofu crumbles and serve.
- Slow cooker version: Add all of the ingredients (except the tofu) and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours. Stir in the tofu crumbles about 30 minutes before it's done cooking.
*This recipe was updated on August 7th, 2020 with improved writing and better instructions.
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