This healthy vegetarian 3 bean chili makes the perfect quick and easy weeknight meal!

Bowl of vegan 3-bean chili served with green onion and sour cream.

Chili is the best for a hearty, comforting meal that’s still nutritious. It’s so easy to make, endlessly customizable with different additions and toppings, and always a great choice for meal prep.

This chili recipe is also vegetarian (and vegan!), gluten-free and oil-free so works well for those with dietary restrictions.

If you’re looking for a quick, weeknight meal, you’ll love this. All you have to do is chop a few veggies, open some cans of beans, simmer it all up and it’s ready to enjoy!

Whether you’re feeing a crowd with a fun chili bar or making a batch for healthy meals all week, this is a great base recipe to keep in your back pocket.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Quick & Easy: This recipe is ready in 30 minutes in one pot. Perfect for busy weeknights!
  • Budget-friendly and freezes well, so great for batch cooking and meal prep.
  • Made with simple, everyday pantry ingredients.
  • High in protein and fiber.
  • Perfect for a healthy lunch, dinner or meal prep idea.
  • Easy to customize with different vegetables, spices or protein of choice.
  • Vegan (dairy-free, vegetarian), gluten-free, oil-free recipe.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Bowl of 3-bean vegan chili.

Complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the printable recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.

  • Onion: White or yellow onion is suitable.
  • Garlic: The recipe calls for quite a lot of garlic – 5 cloves, so feel free to adjust up or down to preference.
  • Carrot: You’ll need about 3 carrots. Other veggies that would work here are zucchini, corn
  • Bell Pepper: Use any variety such as red, orange or green.
  • Jalapeno: Remove the seeds and chop very finely.
  • Spices: You’ll need chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika. Other spices you can experiment with are taco seasoning, oregano and for heat, red pepper flakes or cayenne.
  • Tomato Paste: Use a small 6-oz can of thick tomato paste. In a pinch, you can substitute any plain tomato sauce.
  • Beans: Use 3 different types of canned beans such as pinto beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, white kidney beans or black eye beans. Lentils would also work!
  • Broth: Any broth or stock you enjoy works. I like to use Better than Bouillon.

How to Make 3 Bean Chili

1. Chop all the veggies.

Chop up the an onion, carrots, bell peppers and jalapeno so you’re already to go once you start cooking.

Quick Tip: Wash and de-seed the jalapeno pepper before dicing then make sure you give your hands a good wash right away.

Diced jalapeno on a chopping board.

2. Saute the onion and garlic.

Once you’ve got everything ready to go, add the onion and garlic to a large soup pot with 2 tbsp of water (or olive oil) and a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to medium heat.

Cook these up for 6-7 minutes until soft and fragrant.

Note: If the onion starts to brown a bit on the bottom and the pan is drying out, no problem. Add a bit of water to “de-glaze” the pan, scraping the browned bits back into the mix to help add depth of flavour the dish.

Diced onion and garlic in a soup pot being stirred with a wooden spoon.

3. Add the spices, carrot and peppers.

Next, you can add the rest of the veggies and the spices, giving it a good stir. I used chili powder, cumin and parika.

Diced bell peppers, jalapeno and spices in a soup pot with a wooden spoon.

4. Add everything else and simmer.

The final step is to add the beans, tomato paste and vegetable broth and simmer until the carrots are tender. This should take about 15-20 minutes.

Serve your chili right away with your favorite toppings! If you’re making it in advance, transfer it to a storage container or individual containers and let cool then store in the fridge or freezer.

Serving

The best part of chili is the toppings don’t you think? Here are some of my favourite chili toppings:

For sides, try serving your chili with a cornbread, tortilla chips, biscuits or rolls for dipping. Any fresh or toasted bread on the side is delicious. Chili is also great with a green salad, sandwich or coleslaw.

As for the chili itself , try serving it over a veggie dog, chili cheese fries, rice or quinoa, baked potatoes, savory waffles or pancakes or pasta.

Bowl of vegetarian chili with beans and bell peppers.

Recipe Tips

  • Mix-and-match bell peppers. I used a green, red and yellow bell pepper but any combination of colors works. Only have green peppers? Totally fine!
  • Love spicy chili? This recipe isn’t spicy as is but you can easily turn up the heat by adding 1 tsp cayenne pepper, red chili flakes or 1 chopped chipotle pepper in adobo to spice this recipe up!
  • Use any beans. Mix-and-match the beans to whatever you have available. I used chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans but pinto beans, white kidney beans, fava beans and just about anything else works. You could even stir in some cooked lentils.
  • Add more protein. If you want to add ground meat or sausage, cook it separately and stir it in at the end.

How to Thicken Chili

This recipe is thick on its own but here are a few tips for thickening chili:

  • Add refried beans. You can stir up to 1/2 cup refried beans of choice into chili to give it a thick texture.
  • Mash chili. You can use a wooden spoon or potato masher to make up some of the chili for a thicker texture. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender in the pot or transfer a few scoops to a blender and then pouring it back into the pot.
  • Add tortilla or tortilla chips. Try adding a handful of crushed tortilla chips or even a whole corn or wheat tortilla to your chili.
  • Add cauliflower rice or a grain. You can add up to 1 cup cooked grains such as rice or quinoa, or cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.
Overhead view of a a bowl of lentil chili with sour cream and jalapeños on top.
Chili with lentils added!

FAQs

Can I make this oil-free?

Yes. To make this recipe oil-free, use water or broth instead of oil to saute the onion and garlic.

What kind of beans are best for chili?

You can use just about any variety of bean to make a vegetarian chili. Try kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, black eyed peas or great northern beans.

Can I used dried beans to make 3 bean chili?

You can but you’d need to soak and cook them separately before using in the chili.

Should I rinse the beans?

Yes. If you’re using canned beans in this recipe, drain and rinse them well before adding to the recipe.

Is vegetarian chili healthy?

Definitely! 3-bean chili is high in fiber and plant-based protein and contains plenty of essential micronutrients.

Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Use the Saute function to cook for onions and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tomato paste, peppers, carrot and spices and cook for a few more minutes then press Cancel.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, seal the lid and make sure the valve is set to “Sealing”.
  4. Press “Pressure Cook” and set the timer for 2 minutes.
  5. Let the pressure release naturally for 10-15 minutes then release any remaining pressure before carefully opening the lid.

Storing

  • Let chili cool completely before storing.
  • Fridge: Store 3 bean chili in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer: Store in an air-tight container or a heavy duty freezer bag for up to 6 months. This can be done in individual servings or one large batch. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
  • Reheating: You can reheat chili on the stovetop in a saucepan or microwave, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a review.

Print
Bowl of 3-bean vegan chili.

Vegan 3 Bean Chili

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

This hearty vegan chili is perfect for weeknights when you don’t feel like doing much more than opening a can of beans. 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 medium white onion, diced (approx. 2 cups)
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, any colour (approx. 3 cups)
  • 1 jalapeno, de-seed and finely diced
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (approx. 3 large or 5 small)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 x 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 3 types of 14 oz cans of beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Add the onion, garlic, 2-3 tbsp of olive oil or water and a pinch of salt and pepper to a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, for 6-7 minutes.
  2. Add the bell peppers, jalapeno, carrot, chili powder, cumin and paprika. Stir to combine and cook for another few minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, beans and vegetable broth and stir to combine.
  4. Simmer lightly until the carrots are tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve right away with optional toppings like green onion, vegan sour cream, avocado, cilantro or crushed tortilla chips.

Notes

Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for up to 6 months.

For beans, choose from chickpeas, fava beans, white kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black-eye peas or kidney beans.

For spicy chili, add up to 1 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.

Keywords: vegan chili, three bean chili, 3-bean chili

This recipe was originally published December 3, 2013. It was updated July 2019 with new photos, improved instructions and a revised recipe (see notes in recipe card).