Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
I got a text a few weeks ago from Whitney asking me what my best vegan chili recipe was. Oh– tough one. A quick glance showed me that I have 10 different chili recipes on my site. All of them good, all packed with various plant-based proteins but to call one of them out over the others? I didn’t know where to start.
Well, this best vegan chili recipe is when you’re in the mood for the best. A chili that rivals any classic meat one. The kind of chili that you’d expect if you ordered chili at a restaurant, no tempeh, tofu, butternut squash, sweet potatoes or lentils in sight. A classic vegan chili for when you’re in the mood for the best. Whitney, this recipe is for you!
Rarely do I make my own chili base, but for the best vegan chili recipe I pulled out all of the stops. You’re welcome to use chili powder instead (roughly 3-4 tablespoons worth) but I love the smoky, silky taste of creating your own chili pepper base.
You’ll need dried chilis for this, which you can purchase at most grocery stores or online. It’s one of those ingredients that you don’t think your regular grocery store carries, but once you find it then you remember that you’ve walked past them a thousand times over the years. They are likely in the produce section near the dried mushrooms or in the ethnic/Mexican/Hispanic section of the grocery store. If you can’t find dried new Anaheim or Ancho chili peppers, you can sub in most any other variety. The only caution I’ll give is with chipotle peppers as they add a very distinct smoky taste to chili.
You don’t have to use dried beans in this recipe, but cooking the beans in the chili sauce adds a lot of additional spice and flavor. If you substitute in canned beans, I’d recommend a low-salt option to take advantage of the umami-rich soy sauce . You can stick with all pinto beans, or a mix of creamy white beans with heartier pinto beans.
The dried chili base is really what sets this recipe apart, so it’s hard to omit it completely. However, if you do then I’d recommend swapping in 1/4 cup chili powder instead. It seems like a lot, but you need a good base of flavor for 1 pound of dried beans.
It’s hard to make small batches of chili from scratch. The process is fairly labor intensive and it’s just as easy to cook 1/2 pound of beans as it is a full one. If you have leftovers, you can freeze them or repurpose them into vegan chili mac or chili-stuffed potatoes.
The reason this is the best vegan chili is because of the layers upon layers of umami savoriness. From the dried shiitake mushrooms, the tomato paste, the soy sauce– oy! This one is so incredibly meaty and savory, it’s not like other vegan chilis. It’s why I have no problem throwing around words like best; this chili is good and it knows it.Print
The BEST vegan chili! A hearty, meaty vegan chili without the meat. Rich in umami flavor, you won’t miss the meat in this delicious recipe.
The Ultimate Plant-Based Protein Cookbook + Course
(Includes 40+ recipes!)
FREE 7-DAY COURSE + COOKBOOK