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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 15 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 50 minutes
4.9 from 139 votes

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. As with many bean recipes, 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.

Lightlife Foods sells a gluten-free version, 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 tasty 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!

Big Vegan Flavor

Techniques and 150 recipes to master vegan cooking.

One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

4.9 from 139 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 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Diet Vegan
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
  • 12 ounces (340g) elbow pasta or cavatappi pasta (gluten-free as needed)
  • 2-3 teaspoons agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, or brown sugar****

Toppings

  • 1 cup (16g) fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Several squeezes of lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional but recommended)
  • Vegan sour cream, for serving (optional but recommended)
  • Pickled red onions***** (optional)

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 12 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through but not soggy. If you want it to be a bit saucier, add a splash more of broth or water.
  • 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.
*****For my pickled onions recipe, check out the 7th recipe card in this post: https://rainbowplantlife.com/vegan-nachos/

Calories: 521kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 1979mg | Potassium: 854mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1588IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 175mg | Iron: 5mg

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4.93 from 139 votes (60 ratings without comment)

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201 comments on One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

  1. Mars

    5 stars
    Nisha, thanks for another fabulous recipe… I love your site.

    I found that I didn’t need to add any sweetener, nor did I need to salt it given the salt in the broth, tomato paste and canned fire-roasted tomatoes. :)

    I opted for whole-grain shells instead of elbows, which get filled with the beans and veggies and are so delicious! Adjusted the cooking time to about 9 minutes 😋

    For broth, I used Better Than Bouillon Sautéed Onion Base.

    Lastly, while I understand that this is intended to be a soy-free recipe, I used Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo in place of the tempeh and enjoyed tremendously!

    5 stars across the board and many thanks for a solid, hearty whole-food plant-based meal for my family and me.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely review, Mars! We’re happy the recipe was a hit!

  2. Emily T.

    5 stars
    This was incredible. Followed the recipe as written (aside from using extra firm tofu instead of tempeh as my Walmart has stopped carrying tempeh) and it pulled together beautifully – easy to put together and delicious. Cilantro and a dash of nutritional yeast on top and God, the flavors and textures are absolutely divine. Thank you for this excellent recipe! I will definitely be making it again.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Emily, Thank you for your thoughtful review! We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed the chili mac.

  3. Rebekah

    This is one of my favorite recipes!! And just a random substitute that I always do: sub “vegan cheese” for Rainbow Plant Life queso recipe. It.is.killer. !!!!

  4. Amy

    5 stars
    I love using this recipe to help clear out the fridge. I usually substitute the mushrooms with whatever veggies need to be used and substitute the beans with whatever tins I have in the pantry. Delicious every time!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Amy! It makes us happy to know that you enjoy the recipe.

  5. Ally

    Can you make this in a crockpot/slowcooker?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Ally! We haven’t tried this ourselves and Nisha doesn’t use a slow cooker so we aren’t 100% sure, but you could try this:

      1. In a skillet or on the stovetop, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and crumbled tempeh. Cook for 5 more minutes until the vegetables are softened.
      2. 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.
      3. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and pour in the vegetable broth and scrape up any browned bits from the skillet. Add in the beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, corn and sweetener. Stir well to combine.
      4. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours.
      5. About 30 minutes before serving, add the uncooked pasta to the slow cooker, Season to taste with salt and pepper, and if using vegan cheese, sprinkle it over the top. Stir to ensure the pasta is submerged in the liquid. Check the last 10-15 mins or so to make sure the pasta is not overcooking.
      6. Allow the chili mac to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
      7. Top with fresh chopped cilantro, and any other desired toppings.

  6. Cristen

    5 stars
    This was a hit in our house! I made some changes, used chickpea pasta and cooked it separately so it wouldn’t get mushy and clump up. That allowed me to use veggie broth to thin it out as needed rather than 4 cups. I also subbed Plant Boss “chili boss” instead of tempeh. My family loved this dinner! Thanks for a recipe that is a new dish for us and will make future appearances on the dinner table!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so happy that the chili mac turned out well for you, Cristen. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for trying out the recipe!

  7. Tia

    5 stars
    This was outstanding! I used gluten free macaroni as that is the closest shape I could find. I will say that the gf pastas are harder to work with (I am celiac otherwise I would totally use regular!) and it still turned out amazing! I topped mine with some nutritional yeast, avocado, pumpkin seeds and vegan plain yogurt and it was delicious. Highly recommend!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sounds like a lovely meal, Tia! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Charlie Hubbard

    I appreciate you taking the time to provide this recipe. I’m hoping to try it out this very evening. But I have a concern. I don’t think 12 oz of dry pasta can absorb the liquid from FOUR cups of broth and 28 oz. of crush tomatoes. How doesn’t this turn soupy? The photo sure doesn’t look soupy. It looks delicious!

    1. Maxx

      I’ve made this recipe multiple times using 12 oz of noodles and this week tried using the full box of 16 ounces. I gotta say using 12 oz is better. Yes, it is a little soupier, but it’s more balanced and I feel like it had more flavor. 16 oz of noodles absorbs all liquid and it becomes a bit dry. It’s still good though if you do want to try it.

  9. Darsh

    5 stars
    Wow this recipe looks amazing! I can’t wait to make it. I’m from the UK and can’t find a can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes, would it be okay to use a normal crushed tomatoes can? Thank you

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, yes you can use regular crushed tomatoes! You can add a little extra of the smoked paprika to add a bit of smokiness, if you’d like.

  10. Rachel j

    5 stars
    Holy moly!! The flavors in here were out of this world!!!! Do not skip adding in the sugar or lime at the end. Incredible.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Rachel! It makes us happy to know that you enjoyed the recipe.

  11. Molly W.

    5 stars
    I just gave this vegan chili mac a go and was pleasantly surprised by how easily it came together! It almost seemed too simple, but the result ended up really tasty and satisfying. I will definitely be making this again in the future.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Molly, thank you so much for such a sweet review!

  12. Allyson

    4 stars
    I think it’s funny how I can never find 12 oz pasta bags but recipes always call for it. I decided to not follow along and used my entire box of Barilla elbows, which is 16 oz. I added a bit more water go ensure the pasta had enough liquid to absorb, but didn’t consider the seasoning. It tastes like it needs more spice to accommodate the extra pasta. That is the only reason I knocked down one star otherwise it was a good dish to make.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Allyson. We’re happy you mostly enjoyed the recipe- your review is much appreciated.

    2. Dee

      It is not the recipe maker’s fault that you messed with the ratios. Adding 3/4 of the bag of pasta is an easy fix. Or adding 1/3 more of the other ingredients.

  13. Kia

    5 stars
    AMAZING! I couldn’t find tempeh at my local store, but was just as yummy without it. Super keen to make it again when I can find some tempeh.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Kia, Thank you so much for such a fantastic review! Appreciate you taking the time!

  14. AJ

    5 stars
    I cant find tempeh in any of my local grocery stores, can tofu be substituted and if so, which firmness?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi AJ, sorry to hear it! There generally are only one or two types of tempeh sold at the grocery store, so hopefully you didn’t miss it! If you want to use tofu, super firm tofu would be best if you can find it, as it has the meatiest, densest texture and least amount of water. Or, you double the amount of mushrooms and omit the tempeh. Or, omit the tempeh and use another can of beans (any variety you like).

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