The Vegetarian Chili Cliché

I’ve neglected my slow cooker for a long time now. At least a year I’d say. I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a great time-saver for busy days. Slow-cooked foods are usually extra-flavorful.

Well I’m digging out the slow cooker and dusting it off to make one of the old stand-bys of slow cookery – chili.

Every chili I used to make back in the day (read: when there was meat involved) would use canned kidney beans. I have no problem with using canned beans but I have a lot of dried beans in the cupboard and wanted to use those. Plus, the dried beans are cheaper and I think being frugal is still totally “in”. It is in my house.

beans beans beans

Do you know how hard it is to find a decent recipe online that indicates a technique for slow-cooking chili made with dried beans?! The silly thing is I know how to do it. It’s just been so long I thought I’d forgotten. Don’t worry it all came back to me and I’ve got the steps listed below.

Before I jump right into the recipe I have something I need to get off my chest regarding vegetarian chili. I think I’ve avoided making my own version of a vegetarian chili because I feel like it’s stereotypical vegan food. Okay, I know I’m being a weirdo about it. But stop for a minute and think. Almost every single time you hear of a slow-cooker vegetarian/vegan dish packed with beans what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Vegetarian chili. Easy peasy. Boring!

But, in my everlasting quest to get enough plant-based protein in my diet, you can imagine I consume a lot of beans and legumes. And because a vegetarian chili isn’t all that exciting doesn’t meant it doesn’t deserve it’s own place on my blog. I am guilty of thinking that if it’s simple and not exciting that it’s not blog-worthy. But that’s foolish. Every single person I know of has busy days with no time for inspiration and a simple (and perhaps ‘boring’) recipe might be just what is needed.

So allow me to do this one boring (typical) vegan chili recipe. Please and thanks!

I shared this rant with my friend Jacquelyn. She said something that made me smarten right up about my weird vegetarian chili aversion.

Just think of it as comfort food.
That’s what it is to most people.
Not “boring”, just “comfort food”.

She’s right, you know. Sometimes the best food that we consider comfort food is actually really just a boring recipe we’ve become comfortable with. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing after all. In fact, I think I’m pretty okay with that.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way I want to talk just a bit more about cooking beans. You can watch this video or if you like reading words skip down below for the ‘Coles Notes‘ (that’s ‘CliffsNotes‘ for my American readers) of my talking to a camera about beans.

In summary: Usually 1 cup of dried beans will end up measuring 2 1/2 to 3 cups when cooked. So, if you’re doing a multi-bean chili like I’ve done, don’t get all excited and over-measure your beans … because you’ll end up with a lot of leftovers and really start to hate me for sharing this recipe. (Check out this handy dandy bean measurement chart I found on the interwebs.)

Soaking the beans is important. Or at least I think it is. Cover the beans with about three times as much water. Let them soak for about six hours or overnight. If you want to get your beans into the slow cooker sooner than that, you could use what I call the parboiling method. Place beans and water in a large saucepan, bring to a gentle boil, remove from heat and let sit for 1 or 2 hours.

If you care about having purpley-blue white beans after soaking, then I suggest soaking the black beans separately from the white beans and chickpeas. I didn’t. I think they look purty. Besides, they all change color by the time the chili is cooked.

soaked beans

Oh yeah, and I know I say to use green and red peppers in the recipe, but I didn’t have green like I thought and really you could just use two peppers of any color. We’re not pepper racists here.

peppers onions and garlic

vegetarian chili

1.0 from 1 reviews
The Vegetarian Chili Cliché (Slow Cooker)
  • ½ cup dried black beans (also called 'turtle beans')
  • ½ cup dried small white beans (also called 'navy beans' or 'pea beans')
  • ½ cup dried chickpeas (also called 'garbanzo beans')
  • ½ cup green lentils
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice (or 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced)
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Water, for soaking and cooking
  1. Rinse all three types of beans under cold water with a sieve. Pick through the beans for any nasty looking ones or stones.
  2. Cover beans with about 5 cups water. Let beans soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. (Or use the quick-soak parboil method I mention in my video.)
  3. Drain beans and rinse once more.
  4. Place beans in a large 6-quart slow cooker.
  5. Add red and green pepper, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Stir to coat with seasonings.
  6. Add diced tomatoes and vegetable stock. (If using fresh tomatoes, you may need to increase water required.) Stir to mix.
  7. Top up with water to cover beans by about 1-2 inches.
  8. Cover. Turn slow cooker on to Low for 6-8 hours.
  9. At about 5 hours in, add washed lentils. Top up with water if necessary.


What the heck is up with beans having multiple names? I almost ran out of room trying to list off the a.k.a.’s for all the beans in this recipe. Oh and what if you don’t want to go the dried bean route for this recipe? Well I guess you could drain and rinse a can of black beans, a can of chickpeas, and a can of white or red kidney beans. I guess. Sigh.

Well apparently I’ve got an awful lot to say about beans don’t I? I must look like the bean authority. Today at Bulk Barn in the bean aisle a woman asked me my opinions on beans, how to cook beans, and about the tastes of the different beans. I hope I faked my way through it well enough – both at the store and right here.


  1. says

    Megan, I’m so excited to have found you though the KitchenAid giveaway gals! I’ve just added you to my reader, because I’m THIS close to being completely vegan. Love your site and look forward to learning from you!!

    I’m so glad someone else makes chili in the spring and not just the fall! Can’t wait to try your recipe!

    • Megan says

      Hi Heather! So glad you stopped by. I’m sure we’ll all learn so much from each other. I hope you like the chili! Stay in touch. :)

  2. says

    Your vegetarian chilli cliche looks very nice and colorful.especially your video cooking is so nice we can easily prepare the recipe seeing with your video.Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. Abbers says

    Hey megs! Why do my beans ALWAYS taste slightly hard, and starchy? I’ve worked with dried beans so many times, but they NEVER taste as tender as canned. I’ve soaked them over night, and tried the par-boiled method. What am I missing?

    • Tiffany says

      it could be your waterI heard an NPR excerpt years ago about the minerals in water and how sometimes it keeps beans hard. Wierd.
      I vaguely remember a mention about vinegar added helped, but look it up first.

  4. Jill says

    So, I too had a bad time with this recipe. I soaked the beans overnight and followed the recipe exactly. I have now been cooking it for 8 hours and my beans are extremely hard. After calling my husband at work to pick up a pizza on his way home it dawned on me that you’re not supposed to cook dry beans with acidic ingredients until they are tender. So I’m thinking the tomatoes in this recipe are the problem that and the salt because that too can lengthen cooking time. Such a bummer, I was really looking forward to eating it because it smells awesome. Maybe next time I will just go the extra mile and cook my beans ahead of time before adding them to the rest of the recipe.

      • Jill says

        It’s funny because I have read it before but never tried a recipe that cooked them together so I totally forgot. Oh well you live and you learn. I did transfer it all to a pot and cooked it more on the stove and got the beans to soften enough to make them edible but they are still quite firm. I’m thinking next time I will either cook the beans ahead of time or wait to add the tomatoes and salt until the beans are tender.

        • says

          I would definitely just hold off on adding the tomatoes until the beans have done the majority of their cooking in the slow cooker then. I don’t know why I never had a problem every single time I’ve made this recipe. It’s like I have some sort of super-special beans or something. Haha. Strange!

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