Easy Vegetarian Chili

When I was in college, I watched Food Network all. the. time. My roommates can vouch for this. If there was a long enough break between classes, you can bet I was on the couch, drooling over what Giada was whipping up. Back then, I adored Everyday Italian, Good Eats, and Barefoot Contessa. I was even known to indulge in a little Paula’s Home Cooking, but mostly because I was so fascinated by the obscene amounts of butter and mayonnaise in every recipe!

However, one show (okay, and maybe personality) I could never get behind was Rachael Ray. The rest of the Internet has done a pretty good job of explaining why she’s often not a fave. Her…um…perky…disposition aside, for me it was bothersome that she promoted the use of shortcuts that I thought were frankly ridiculous, in that they allowed people to save mere seconds in the kitchen while not encouraging any kind of culinary skill development on their part.

Example? The one that always comes to my mind is telling her viewers to buy pre-chopped onions. Listen, I’m busy too, and I’m tired when I get home from work. But there is no universe in which I will ever be lazy enough to buy pre-chopped onion (at double or triple the cost, I’m sure) versus spending one minute (or less) to chop one. I think the moment she pulled pre-diced onion out of the fridge, packaged in styrofoam and saran wrap no less, was when I was done with Rachael.

But. BUT. During Christmas 2009, I needed a recipe for vegetarian chili to use over the holidays, and in a pinch, found Rachael’s recipe for “Veg Head Chili.” It looked easy enough, with a good supply of different beans and veggies.

Lo and behold, it was a hit. And yes, it did take less than 30 minutes to make (and that’s without any pre-chopped veggies!).

Since that holiday, I’ve come back to this recipe so many times. One bowl is extraordinarily filling, and the chili will keep for a week in the fridge, making it perfect to take to work for lunch. The recipe itself is also versatile — you can sub in different types of beans, and garnish the chili with whatever you have on hand.

30 Minute Meals is definitely NOT my favorite show, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Rach, you did good with this one.

Do you guys have any tried and true recipes that you go to for a quick weeknight meal or for lunch leftovers? Share a link to them in the comments!

Vegetarian Chili

Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Veg Head Three-Bean Chili

  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (you can use only half if you’re sensitive to spice, or omit completely and add in a bit more green bell pepper)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 cup beer (Rachael recommends anything pale, but I’ve found I like to use an amber. If you don’t have or don’t want to use beer, you can also sub in any kind of stock — beef, chicken or veg. I’ve used all three with great results.)
  • 1 (28- ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can dark red kidney beans or pinto beans (whichever you prefer)
  • OPTIONAL (makes a chunkier chili): 1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco, several drops (omit if you’re sensitive to spice)
  • 1 cup canned spicy or mild vegetarian refried beans
  • –kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to season and taste

Garnish ideas: Diced avocado, shredded cheese, chopped red onion or scallions, chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, tortilla chips….whatever you like!

Over moderate heat, add oil to a deep pot and combine onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes to soften vegetables. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Deglaze pan with beer or stock, let simmer for one minute, then add tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, the garbanzo beans (if using) and stir to combine. NOTE:

Season chili with cumin, chili powder, hot sauce, and salt. Let the chili come to a simmer, then taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper, if desired. Thicken chili by stirring in refried beans. Simmer over low heat about 10 minutes longer, then serve up bowls of chili and top with the garnishes of your choice.

NOTE: When adding the beans to this chili, you DO use all the liquid in the cans. Because of this, I’d look for canned beans that aren’t stored in a high fructose corn syrup type solution. Beans with no added salt are also a good bet, too.

vegetarian chili


  1. 1.5.11
    susannah said:

    I don’t cook a lot, as you know, but I do go back to two of Giada’s pasta recipes from Everyday Italian constantly. One is with a lemon-parmigiano sauce, the other with an uncooked tomato sauce with feta. They are easy even for me, and really delicious!

  2. 1.5.11
    Ana said:

    Confession – I did not know how to chop an onion properly at all until you linked to a tutorial on some website with pictures, and the hand in a claw shape, etc. Now I can chop an onion just like my grandma and feel so proud every time ha.

    Thanks Victoria!

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