One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

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A protein-packed chili meets pasta in this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac! Easy and quick and made with simple ingredients, this is a perfect hearty weeknight-friendly and budget-friendly dinner! Easy to make gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins

As much as I like fancy gourmet recipes and expanding my culinary skills, I also love simple meals that are fuss-free and easy to throw together on a weeknight (and I know how much you all love those kinds of recipes).

So today we have an easy recipe for One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac. It’s vegan (obvi), and easy to make gluten-free, oil-free, and soy-free!

close up of vegan chili mac in bowl

Here’s why you’ll love this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

Easy to make. This is one of the easiest recipes to make and it’s pretty foolproof. Nothing fancy or complicated.

Quick and Weeknight Friendly. You’ll need about 10 minutes of prep time, but you can shave time off by using a mini chopper or food processor to chop your veggies. Then you’ll need about 7 minutes to sauté the aromatics and spices, followed by 15-20 minutes of simmering the chili mac. All in all, you’re looking at just 30-40 minutes!

woman's hands holding bowl of chili mac

Staple Ingredients. I came up with this recipe because I was trying to use up ingredients that had been sitting unused in my pantry for months. Which means you might already have all of the ingredients for this recipe in your kitchen!

This recipe features simple, everyday ingredients like onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, beans, and corn, along with some spices and vegetable broth. And if there’s one ingredient you don’t have and you really want to make this recipe anyways…guess what? You probably can!

In the “how to modify” this section below, I share some ideas on how to modify this recipe to meet your nutritional needs.

Budget-Friendly. Given the simple ingredients used, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this meal is budget-friendly! No expensive or exotic ingredients required :)

Delicious Leftovers. This makes a big pot of chili mac. It serves 6 generously (8 servings if your appetite is smaller or you go heavy on the toppings), so you can definitely enjoy leftovers for a few days, depending on how many people you are feeding. Plus, the leftovers are even tastier!

close up shot of finished dish

Ingredient Rundown

Spices

To keep this meal easy and straightforward, I rely on ground spices—chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper,. However, if you have the time, here are some optional additions that will elevate your chili mac and give it even more flavor.

  • Dice a few jalapeño peppers and add them along with the garlic. Or a serrano pepper, which is spicier. These will add a brighter, fresher spiciness than just using cayenne pepper.

  • Or, add a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (chop it up). It’ll add a rich, smoky, spicy flavor.

Garlic

Please use fresh garlic! It is much more potent and flavorful than garlic powder, especially when it’s sautéed in a bit of oil before adding the liquids.

Mushrooms

Chili mac is traditionally made with meat, so I love the meatiness that mushrooms bring to this dish. Not to mention, mushrooms are packed with fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and one of the few non-animal sources of Vitamin D.

But if you’re not a mushroom fan, just omit them and add an extra can of beans.

woman's hands adding cilantro to pot of vegan chili mac and cheese

Beans

I used kidney beans in this recipe but you could easily use pinto beans or black beans instead. Canned beans (rinsed and drained) are perfect in this recipe, but if you have freshly cooked beans on hand, of course, use those instead.

Pasta

Traditionally, chili mac uses elbow pasta (the same pasta used in macaroni), but I prefer using cavatappi. It’s another short-ish pasta but it has a ridged texture and curly shape. The variety and brand of pasta you use will dictate the exact cook time.

Agave/Maple Syrup/Coconut Sugar

I know, this sounds like a strange ingredient, but adding a bit of sweetener at the end really helps balance the acidity from the tomatoes, the spiciness from the spices, and the bitterness from the tempeh. Especially if you plan to eat this chili mac the day you make it (i.e., you don’t let it rest overnight in the fridge before eating), the sweetener really helps balance everything out.

bowl of vegan mac and cheese on table

How to modify this recipe for your nutritional needs

Gluten-Free

To make this chili mac gluten-free, be sure to use a gluten-free tempeh. Many varieties of tempeh contain gluten from either soy sauce or actual grains, such as barley. If you have only a moderate intolerance to gluten and are not allergic to it, you may be able to digest tempeh varieties that have gluten since tempeh is a fermented food, making it easier to digest.

This variety of tempeh from Lightlife Foods is gluten-free, as it’s made with organic soybeans, not soy sauce.

Also, use gluten-free pasta. I’ve tried the gluten-free elbow pasta from Barilla. It took about 18 minutes to be cooked through.

Oil-Free

Cook the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spices in water instead of oil. Heat up about 1/3 cup of water, and once the water is sizzling, add the onions and follow the directions. Add a spoon or two more of water, as needed, to prevent things from burning. Keep in mind that the mushrooms will also emit a lot of water.

Soy-Free

I love using tempeh in this recipe because it adds this wonderfully nutty flavor, but if you are on a soy-free diet, you can easily replace it. One option is to double the amount of mushrooms (i.e., use 16 ounces or 454 grams of mushrooms) and omit the tempeh. Or, omit the tempeh and use another can of beans (any variety you like).

woman's hands holding bowl of vegan mac and cheese

Tips for making vegan chili mac

1. The exact cook time for this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac will depend on the shape and brand of pasta that you use. Elbow pasta will be done closer to 15 minutes. I used cavatappi pasta, which is a bigger pasta, so it took closer to 20 minutes.

2. You might be tempted to just toss the onions, garlic, and mushrooms into the pot with all the ingredients and not sauté them first. But since there aren’t a whole lot of fresh flavors in this chili, sautéing the aromatics beforehand is critical. It releases their volatile oils, which in turn releases flavors that would otherwise lie dormant. And then those flavors get infused into the chili.

3. For the tempeh, you’ll want to crumble it or grate it. I like to use a box grater to finely grate it, but crumbling by hand works well too.

If you’ve had tempeh before, you might have noticed that it can be quite bitter tasting, which is why many recipes recommend steaming the tempeh before further cooking it. However, I notice that when I crumble tempeh finely, especially into a stew or chili, the bitterness doesn’t come through (which is why you don’t need to steam the tempeh beforehand).

4. Let the chili mac rest before serving. As with any chili recipe, this chili mac is better the next day. Even allowing the recipe to rest for just 15-20 minutes will make it taste better. Resting helps the spices mellow out in their heat but also deepen in flavor. The result is a deep, rich, spicy yet balanced flavor, and a thicker texture.

5. Go topping happy! Toppings are my favorite part of chili, and this chili mac is no different. This is totally optional, but if you sprinkle on a generous amount of vegan cheddar cheese after cooking, and then close the lid, it melts into the chili and it is very delicious.

I also always top my chili with cilantro and either chopped raw red onion or sliced scallions!

More hearty vegan pastas

Hungry for even more hearty vegan fare? We’ve got you covered. Have a gander at these fine recipes:

Okay, that’s it from me. If you try out this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac, be sure to tag me on Instagram and leave a comment below with your feedback!

One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

5 from 18 votes
A protein-packed chili meets pasta in this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac! Easy and quick and made with simple ingredients, this is a perfect hearty weeknight-friendly and budget-friendly dinner! Easy to make gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Diet Vegan
Keyword: chili, nut-free, one-pot, pasta
Serving size: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil*
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces (227g) mushrooms, chopped (I use cremini mushrooms)
  • 1 (8-ounce / 227g) block of tempeh, grated or crumbled**
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is also fine)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for a slightly spicy version)***
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 cups (946 mL) vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce / 440g) can pinto, kidney, or black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce / 790g) can crushed tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce / 430g) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
  • 10 ounces (280g) elbow pasta or cavatappi pasta (gluten-free as needed)
  • 2-3 teaspoons agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, or brown sugar****

Toppings (optional but recommended)

  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sliced scallions or diced red onions

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven (or a large nonstick soup pot), heat the 1 tablespoon oil (or 1/3 cup water) over medium heat. Once the oil is hot (or once the water is simmering), add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and crumbled tempeh, and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add in the beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and pasta. Stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the agave or other sweetener. Taste for seasonings again and adjust accordingly.
  • If using vegan cheese, sprinkle it all over the top of the chili mac. Cover the lid and let warm through for a few minutes. Allow chili mac to rest at least 15 minutes before serving and top with fresh chopped cilantro and any other desired toppings.

Notes

* See notes on “oil-free” in the blog post for an oil-free substitution.
** See notes on “Tips for this recipe” on how to crumble tempeh.
*** To add more heat, I recommend sautéing some jalapeño peppers or a serrano pepper along with the garlic. I find that this method, instead of just adding more cayenne pepper, yields a more balanced spiciness.
*** The sweetness helps balance the spices and take some of the edges off from the heat.

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29 comments on One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

  1. Marshy

    Hi there

    Can I leave out or substitute the tempeh with something else?

    Thanks
    Marshy

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Marshy, yes! I mention this in the options for making this soy-free. You can omit the tempeh and either double the amount of mushrooms or add another can of beans (I think more beans would be my preference in this recipe).

  2. Diane

    Hi Nisha, I just made this for the Super Bowl. So simple to put together and the flavors are delish. I made just as your recipes reads and it’s perfect as is.Love your recipes!!Thank you,Diane

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Diana, that’s so nice to hear you already made this recipe :) I am so glad you enjoyed it and hope your Super Bowl guests do too. Thank you!

  3. Jana

    Thank you so much for your recipes! I’m a medical student and your easy recipes have really been a great help when I’m super busy!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Jana, you’re most welcome! I am so glad you enjoy my recipes and they help you get delicious food on the table :)

  4. Charlene

    Can the crumbled Tempeh be replaced with Gardien Beefless Ground ? I’m not sure blocks of tempeh is available in my area is why I ask .

    1. Nisha Vora

      Yes, that should definitely work!

  5. This looks delicious, will try it soon!

  6. Pb2000

    Hi Nisha,Can I replace tempeh with tofu?

  7. Kate

    Thank you for this recipe! I made it yesterday at it was delicious! I skipped the corn and tempeh but added bok choy and vegan ground beef imitation that i needed to use up. Now I have a full pot for the whole week :)

  8. Sam

    I’d had some tempeh bacon in my freezer for ever and I was almost not sure it was even good to eat anymore, but was glad to have this as an opportunity to use them up. I also added soy chunks (you know the dried kinds with a chewy meaty texture?) and some dried mushrooms for extra flavour. Essentially I was clearing out my fridge. Worked great. I’d never considered mixing chili and pasta together, and honestly, it works so well! Probably gonna make this recipe over regular chili for a while now.

    1. Nisha Vora

      Love that you used this meal as an opportunity to clean out your fridge. So wise and resourceful :) And I think pasta makes everything a little better, so I can see why you’d think that haha.

  9. Monica

    Made this tonight and it was a big hit. My hubby and 2 boys loved it as much as I did! Thank you for this great recipe!

  10. Erin

    I made this the other night and added in Beyond Meat instead of the tempeh and a second can of beans (kidney and black) – this was bomb and will definitely be adding to my list of regular recipes! It tastes even better the second and third day too! :P

  11. K

    This looks delicious! I plan to make it tonight. But question — I see a lot of recipes call for just one or two Tbs of tomato paste, which kinda confuses me since I never see tomato paste come in such low quantities… Do you just use some from a can/tube, and save the rest? How long does the tomato paste last once the container has been opened? Would like to hear any tips/advice you have regarding this!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi there, I usually buy it in a tube, use what I need, and stick the tube in the fridge. It stays good for 6-8 weeks (but the canned version stays good for about a week once opened).

  12. Sherry

    My new favorite chili recipe. I love tempeh so much and love when I can incorporate into fun recipes! I avoid the spicy ingredients and make IP black beans prior. So very good!!!!

  13. Lizzie

    Delicious :3 I didn’t have mushrooms or tempeh so I used soy mince and added a red pepper instead, added some dark chocolate to it to add the sweetness and only one tbsp of maple syrup. And used used whatever pastas I had left over in a mix ahahha. Turned out amazing and I got to use up a load of food I had lying around, great cupboard cleaner.

    1. Stefanie

      Hey Nisha! Love your recipes and all the ones I’ve made so far have been a hit. For the tempeh, would you recommend steaming/boiling it before using it in this recipe? I usually do this prior to using it in other recipes to take away the bitter quality. Thanks for everything!

  14. Joan Hartzell

    5 stars
    This was so delicious! It’s a cold winter Christmas Eve and this was perfect! Nice and easy and not a lot of clean up. So dang good. I used veggie meat crumble instead of tempeh. Came out great.

  15. Bob Carter

    Nisha i love your recipes and I love the tips and I love the emails and I love your website, but I HATE the ads that keep popping up. I’m guessing that it lowers your cost of doing this but they are extremely annoying. Sorry to vent

  16. Tia Mukherjee

    5 stars
    This is the best chili recipe I have made! I did add a big diced jalapeño and some chipotle in adobo while cooking the veg. So flavorful. The addition of the melted daiya cheddar shreds was so good. Daiya has gotten better. Topped with cilantro and red onion as suggested. Too bad I can’t post a pic. It was so beautiful! Adding to the regular rotation! The whole family loved it!

  17. Courtney

    5 stars
    So delicious!!!!! Will make over and over again. My modifications: diced fire roasted tomatoes (couldn’t find crushed), impossible meat instead of tempeh, and I added 1/3-1/2 cup of nutritional yeast for some ‘cheesy’ flavor! Sooooo good. Not too spicy at all (I’d give this 1.5/5 on a spice scale-ideal for me!) but definitely modifiable to your needs. Thanks again!

  18. Janet

    Delicious! I never had tempeh, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I diced the tempeh small, but large enough to pick out if I didn’t like it. I liked it. This will go into my regular rotation. Thanks for another great recipe.

  19. Nancy

    5 stars
    I have loved all of your recipes that I’ve made from your blog and your instant pot cookbook and this one did not disappoint. Grating tempeh…genius! Next time I’ll add some heat by sautéing jalapeño or Serrano pepper. Might increase the other spices depending on how it tastes tomorrow. Lots of ways to modify this recipe. Thanks!

  20. Avery

    5 stars
    Hi Nisha! This looks amazing! I love all your recipes and just bought your cookbook! Could I make this Chili Mac in the InstantPot? How would that change the cooking instructions?

  21. Danielle Gray

    5 stars
    This was literally SO good! I’m new to cooking and was able to make this entirely on my own (with the use of a food chopper to do the dicing for me), and it turned out absolutely delicious. It made enough that I was able to eat over the next few days, and it held up really well. Can’t wait to try the red lentil curry recipe next. 5/5. Will be coming back to this recipe again and again!

  22. Stefanie

    Hey Nisha! Love your recipes and all the ones I’ve made so far have been a hit. For the tempeh, would you recommend steaming/boiling it before using it in this recipe? I usually do this prior to using it in other recipes to take away the bitter quality. Thanks for everything!

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