8 Healthy High-Protein Vegetarian Chili Recipes To Make This Winter

While the chili I grew up with is loaded with ground beef (as most traditional chili recipes are), most vegetarian chili recipes as just as good (if not better) for you. Many recipes call for beans or lentils to increase the protein content, and the flavor just comes down to the right combination of spices.

With most of the vegetarian chili recipes below, you can mix and match with different grains or legumes for a different taste and texture. Quinoa, tofu, tempeh, walnuts, and even mushrooms make great substitutes for ground beef. And I've gotta say—once you take your first bite, you won't miss the meat at all. With a stomach full of this flavorful goodness, you'll be more than satisfied.

Experts In This Article
  • Amanda Sauceda, RD, registered dietitian and gut health expert
  • Joel Kahn, MD, Joel Kahn, MD, is a holistic cardiologist and plant-based eating advocate. He is also a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
  • Kelly LeVeque, CN, celebrity nutritionist and founder of Be Well by Kelly
  • Sonja Overhiser, Sonja Overhiser is a recipe developer and the co-founder of the popular food blog A Couple Cooks.
  • Tabitha Brown, vegan recipe creator and actress

The best vegetarian chili recipes to make this winter

1. Gut-friendly chili recipe

healthy chili recipe
Photo: Getty Images/Sveta Zarzamora

You can't beat a chili recipe that's both delicious and gut-friendly, like this one from Amanda Sauceda, RDN, a California-based registered dietitian.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 bell peppers, chopped mixed colors, seeded
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 28 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed
2 15 oz. cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups cooked and shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
fresh cilantro, chopped garnish

1. Do your prep work. Chop onion, mince garlic, drain and rinse kidney beans, and shred chicken.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over low-medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
3. Add peppers, salt, chili powder, cumin, and paprika.
4. Increase to high heat and stir in crushed tomatoes, beans, shredded chicken, and broth.
5. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover.
6. Cook for 10 minutes.
7. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

2. Sweet potato-lentil chili

Photo: Joel Kahn

This recipe comes from cardiologist Joel Kahn, so you know it's good for your heart. It's also loaded with protein thanks to lentils and beans.

Splash of water
1 3/4 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
2 1/2 cups diced sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 1/4 cups dry red lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) black beans or kidney beans, rinsed
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Lime wedges (for serving)

1. In a large pot on medium heat, add the water, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices, and stir through.
2. Cover and simmer over medium heat for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat if the onions are sticking to the bottom of the pot.
3. Rinse the lentils. Add them to the pot with the water, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf, and stir to combine. Increase the heat to bring to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf, and stir in the lime juice. Serve with lime wedges.

3. Darn good vegan chili

Photo: Sonja and Alex Overhiser

Sonja Overhiser of A Couple Cooks created this filling and delicious meat-free chili with a blend of beans and grains.

1 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 15 oz.can petite diced tomatoes
1 small carrot, broken into three pieces
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 28 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Hot sauce, for serving

1. In a blender, blend the 15 ounce can of tomatoes, carrot, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce until fully combined into a thick, reddish-brown paste.
2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery, and saute for five to six minutes until tender.
3. Carefully add the blended vegetables, two 28 ounce cans tomatoes, beans, bulgur wheat, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, kosher salt, and black pepper. Simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes until the chili thickens slightly and the bulgur is tender, stirring occasionally. Serve with garnishes as desired.

4. Quick and delicious vegan chili

Leave it to Tabitha Brown to create a quick and easy meatless chili. This one uses canned black beans, kidney beans, baked beans, diced tomatoes, walnuts, bell peppers, and other flavorful ingredients.

Get the recipe: Quick and delicious vegan chili

5. Tofu chili recipe

This chili gets a meaty texture from tofu. "Don't get me wrong—I do love beans, and there's definitely beans in my chili. But I still kind of wanted that chewy texture that's in traditional meat-based chili, so I decided to season some tofu," said Sam Turnbull of It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken. After seasoning it, pop it in the oven to get it crispy then stir it into your chili, where it soaks up the flavor.

Get the recipe: Tofu chili recipe

6. Instant Pot vegan white bean quinoa chili

Photo: Rainbow Plant Life

Not only can this chili be made in the Instant Pot (score!), but it's also a fun switch from the typical chili recipe. Instead of being packed with tomatoes and black beans, it's lightly-colored from white beans, quinoa, and corn.

Get the recipe: Instant Pot vegan white bean quinoa chili

7. Spicy vegan chili recipe

If you like your chili hot, this spicy version is for you. It contains poblano peppers, which add a nice mild heat you can enjoy without making you feel like you're burning your mouth off.

Get the recipe: Spicy vegan chili recipe

8. Easy vegan chili

This vegetarian chili is simple, healthy, and delicious as-is, but video commenters have a hot tip: Add some beef-less crumbles—like those from Gardein—for extra protein and a meat-like consistency.

Get the recipe: Easy vegan chili

9. Smoky vegetarian chili

vegetarian chili recipes
Photo: Bowl of Delicious

This vegetarian chili recipe gets a meaty texture from chopped mushrooms. It also has another secret ingredient: soy sauce, which adds complexity to the flavor.

Get the recipe: Smoky vegetarian chili

Are you more in the mood for soup? This vegetarian option is a must-try:

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