The easiest vegetarian pantry chili, made with pantry staples. This basic recipe is packed with flavor and high in plant-based protein and fiber.
A quick and easy vegetarian chili made with basic pantry ingredients. This recipe was originally posted in 2020 and has been updated to add new photos and an improved flavor. If you’re looking for a nourishing meal that’s made with pantry ingredients, this recipe is for you. It’s also perfect for meal prep and it’s freezer-friendly! I love to make this recipe between grocery store trips, when my fridge is close to empty. Other than the garlic and onion (which I consider pantry ingredients), you don’t need any fresh produce or ingredients!
Not only is this an easy recipe, but it’s also very nutritious and comforting. It’s made with both beans and lentils, which makes this chili hearty and filling (and a good source of fiber and plant-based protein!). Serve this chili with avocados, cilantro and vegan cheese if you have those ingredients on hand. It’s also delicious with crusty bread for dipping.
Note that this is not meant to be a traditional chili recipe. It’s simply my take on a quick and easy vegetarian chili, made with simple ingredients.
Vegetarian Pantry Chili Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Olive oil: Or a light-tasting oil, such as avocado oil.
- Onion and garlic
- Peppers: I love to add a jalapeno pepper, but you can add a bell pepper if you have one on hand. Of course the results won’t be the same, but it will add a bit of flavor.
- Herbs and spices: Chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano.
- Canned tomatoes: You’ll need diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you can crush) and tomato paste
- Vegetable broth: You can use water if you don’t have any broth. Make sure to adjust the salt to taste.
- Lentils: You can use dried brown or green lentils. Red lentils would work, but cook much faster (15 minutes instead of 30 minutes). I prefer to let the chili cook for a good 30 minutes to bring out the flavors.
- Beans: Kidney beans or black beans work well. You could use other canned beans if preferred.
- Cocoa Powder: Yes, you read that right. This will add a rich flavor to the chili. Don’t worry, it won’t taste like chocolate.
- Soy sauce
- Lime juice and/or red wine vinegar: To add acidity to the chili, which brightens the recipe.
- Salt and pepper
How to Make a Simple Vegetarian Chili:
Here are the steps to make a simple vegetarian pantry chili.
- Cook the onions and garlic
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Add the peppers and spices
Add the jalapeño and/or bell pepper (if using) and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add in the chili powder, cumin, paprika and oregano. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cocoa powder and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the liquids and legumes
Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, beans and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked and tender.
- Add acidity
Stir in the red wine vinegar. Taste and add more if needed. You can also add lime juice for more acidity and more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with toppings
Serve with cilantro, avocado, cheese and sour cream (vegan for a vegan chili).
Vegetarian Chili FAQ:
Yes! This is a freezer-friendly recipe and it’s perfect for meal prep. Just make sure to let it cool completely before storing it in the freezer.
Yes, this recipe is naturally vegan and it’s how I always make it. To make sure that it’s vegan, simply use vegan toppings.
Yes, use any canned beans or dried lentils that you have on hand. I did add a note on red lentils in the ingredient notes above. Just keep in mind that the cook time might vary depending on the type of dried lentils you use. Make sure to cook the chili until the lentils are tender.
More Recipes You Might Like:
- Simple Lentil Soup
- Easy Black Bean Quinoa Chili
- Lentil Lasagna Soup (Vegan)
- Simple Vegan Butter Chickpea
- Vegan Black Bean Enchilada Soup
Basic Vegetarian Pantry Chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced (seeds removed for less heat)
- 1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 1 can (796ml/28oz) diced or whole tomatoes, with juices
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup dry green or brown lentils
- 1 can (450ml/19oz) red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Avocado, sliced or diced
- Cilantro, chopped
- Cheese (vegan to make the recipe vegan)
- Sour cream (vegan to make the recipe vegan)
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Add the jalapeño and/or bell pepper (if using) and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add in the chili powder, cumin, paprika and oregano. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste and cocoa powder and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, beans and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked and tender.
- Stir in the red wine vinegar. Taste and add more if needed. You can also add lime juice for more acidity and more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with cilantro, avocado, cheese and sour cream (vegan for a vegan chili).
If you make this pantry vegetarian chili, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I love to hear from you guys. And of course, if you try this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram!