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The Best Vegan Chili

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 50 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Servings: 6
Calories: 352kcal
Author: Nisha Vora

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 jalapenos, diced (remove membranes for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons homemade chili powder (recipe below), or store-bought ancho chili powder*
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (or 2 teaspoons regular oregano or marjoram)**
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) dry red wine, such as Malbec, Syrah or Pinot Noir
  • 2 cups (480 mL) vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce/425g) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce/425g) can of navy beans (or other small white beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch process cocoa powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tamari or soy sauce if you have vegan Worcestershire sauce, you can use that
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chop the peppers + measure out 1 tablespoon adobo sauce**
  • 1 (28-ounce/800g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand (include juices)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt plus more as needed
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, plus more to finish as needed***
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons masa harina (Mexican corn flour) (optional)
  • 1 cup (12g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped

Toppings of choice

  • Vegan sour cream or diced avocado
  • Sliced scallions or chopped cilantro
  • Shredded vegan cheese or Vegan Queso
  • Quick Pickled Red Onions****

Instructions

  • Read all the instructions and notes before getting started, especially about moderating the spiciness level.
  • Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and once it’s shimmering, add the onions and season with a few pinches of salt. Stir frequently and cook the onions until nicely golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If they start to burn around the edges, stir more frequently and/or add a splash of water.
  • Add the garlic, jalapeños, and tomato paste, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring very frequently, until tomato paste is darker in color. If it starts to dry out, add a splash of water and scrape up any browned bits.
  • Stir in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer rapidly for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the smell of alcohol has cooked off and it's jammy.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth, pinto beans, navy beans, cocoa powder, bay leaves, soy sauce, chopped chipotle peppers + adobo sauce, hand-crushed tomatoes + their juices, salt, black pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Stir well.
  • Bring the chili to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer (this is lowest heat on my small burner). Take care to not boil or too rapidly simmer the chili, as it will break down the beans too much.
    Cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until thick and velvety and the flavors have melded together, about 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2 hours). Discard the bay leaf.
  • Stir in the masa harina, if using. Simmer for 3 minutes, until the texture has further thickened.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice, the vinegar, and cilantro. Taste and add more lime juice as needed for tanginess and add up to 1 more tablespoon maple syrup for sweetness to balance any bitterness. Season with salt and pepper, as needed.
  • Serve with toppings of choice, such as pickled onions, chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, vegan sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips, etc.

Video

Notes

This chili recipe is spicy, so here are ways to moderate the heat.
Jalapeños: remove the the seeds and membranes and/or use 1 pepper instead of 2. Chipotle peppers in adobo: use 1 chipotle pepper + 1 tsp adobo sauce. Homemade chili powder: omit the spicy chile de arbol peppers (or use just 1).
*My homemade chili powder recipe is below. If using store-bought, I recommend an ancho chili powder (simply ground ancho peppers, in contrast to a standard chili powder which has other seasonings and is usually less flavorful). 
*Store-bought chili powder is not spicy, so you might want to make some adjustments: (1) you may not need as much maple syrup or lime juice to balance the flavors in step 8. (2) if you like your chili spicy(!), consider adding 3 jalapeño peppers. 
**Mexican oregano (citrus, bright, floral) is most traditionally used in chili and better suited to Mexican dishes than standard/Mediterranean oregano (bitter, mint, peppery). If you don't have Mexican oregano, sub with 2 teaspoons marjoram or standard oregano. 
***Need to clarify that this is just 2 peppers from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, not 2 whole cans (one reader has done that before in another recipe!!). If you're looking for milder heat, use 1 pepper only and 1 teaspoon of adobo sauce. 
****For quick pickled onions
  • Very thinly slice 1 medium red onion. Add to a large mason jar. 
  • Mix together freshly boiled water (3/4 cup or 180 mL) with 1/2 cup (120 mL) apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar. Add in 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar or maple syrup, stir until dissolved. 
  • Pour the hot liquid over the onions. Cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. 
  • You can serve now, but I prefer to refrigerate them for a more developed flavor