This easy vegetarian chilli recipe makes a chilli con carne sin carne (without meat) and it’s vegan if you eat it without dairy accompaniments such as sour cream and cheese. While this bean chilli is a cinch to make and comes together quickly, it’s full of so much flavour thanks to the spices that even meat-lovers won’t miss the beef mince.
Historically – Terence and I have been together so long, it feels like eons – if we’ve wanted a big ol’ bowl of chilli, then Terence has made his heavenly chilli con carne, which has a depth of flavour and complexity that my little ol’ vegetarian chilli, while still incredibly delicious, can’t match due to his use of a variety of chillies, bacon, beer, roasted dried spices, and multiple hours simmering on the stove. Until now… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the past, if we wanted to make my ultimate nachos and we didn’t have any leftover chilli con carne, I’d whip up this easy bean chilli in a matter of minutes to spread on top of the corn chips instead of plain refried beans. I didn’t give it a thought until Terence commented on how delicious it was last week.
It struck us that not only was my taken-for-granted bean chilli super-tasty, it was easy to make, quick to come together, and not only was it vegetarian, it was a vegan meal if you skip the sour cream and cotija (Mexican white cheese), and who doesn’t want more vegetarian dishes in their life, right?
“You really should publish this,” Terence said, as he scooped up my chilli con carne sin carne with tortilla chips dripping with gooey melted cheese, sour cream, and his spicy red salsa. So here it is, my easy vegetarian chilli recipe.
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Easy Vegetarian Chilli Recipe for Chilli Con Carne Sin Carne (Without Meat) and Vegan Too
I’ve been making this easy vegetarian chilli recipe for so long that it’s no wonder that I took it for granted. I developed the earliest incarnation of this bean chilli way back in the mid-late Eighties when I began cooking big pots of chilli soon after Terence and I moved in together.
We weren’t motivated to cook chilli by any culinary travels as we hadn’t yet taken our backpacking journey through Mexico and our Route 66 road trip across the USA. I was a full-time first-year uni student and Terence had just started a new job, so our travels abroad would come much later.
We were living in a petite basement flat of a grand old Balmain terrace house with a tiny kitchen, which for some strange reason compelled me to make big pots of things. Maybe my 19-year-old self was already thinking ahead and planning for leftovers. But, no, it was nothing nearly so practical.
Rather, she was inspired by a French art-house film called Betty Blue (1986) by director Jean-Jacques Beineix and a hot and steamy love scene between the lead characters Betty and Zorg and a pot of chilli bubbling away on the stove.
Back in the day, we happily tucked into my chilli as our main meal, but over the years, as Terence became a better cook and developed his now-famous chilli con carne, my bean chilli was relegated to a nachos topping. Not that I minded. I was the dumpling-maker after all.
I’m not sure if my easy vegetarian chilli recipe has improved with age. Or whether we’ve just come to appreciate how good this simple chilli is, made with little more than dried spices, onions, beans and tomatoes, and made in a matter of minutes. No hours on the stove needed for this humble bowl of chilli, but for the first time in years the other night we tucked into it on its own.
Tips to Making this Easy Vegetarian Chilli Recipe for a Meat-Free Chilli Con Carne
This easy vegetarian chilli recipe is so easy, I only have a couple of quick tips. The flavour of this chilli comes from the dried spices, so give them a quick roast in the pan to wake the spices up.
If you don’t use a lot of spice in your cooking, perhaps start with half of what the recipe calls for, let the flavours meld together, taste, then add the rest if you like. It’s better than adding everything and then there’s no going back. Ditto with the salt and sugar.
Like a bowl of ful or congee, for me a chilli is best enjoyed with a variety of garnishes so each person can customise their bowl to their liking. Sliced chillies or jalapenos, fresh coriander, pickled onions, pickled cabbage, spicy tomato salsa (link above), hot sauces, sliced spring onions, lime quarters, and sour cream or Mexican cotija (white cheese) are all musts.
Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips or make some Mexican red rice for a really filling meal. And if you have leftover chilli, top it on my nachos (link above) or spread it on these quesadillas, and for that you should also make some authentic guacamole. Wash it all down with classic margaritas or micheladas.
Easy Vegetarian Chilli Recipe
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cloves
- 1 400 g can tomatoes crushed
- 2 400 g cans kidney beans
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp sugar optional
- Red rice or tortilla chips
- Sliced chillies/jalapeños
- Fresh coriander
- Pickled onions
- Pickled cabbage
- Red salsa/hot sauces
- Spring onions finely slices
- Lime quarters
- sour cream optional
- Mexican cotija cheese optional
- Heat the cooking oil in a round flat-bottomed wok or your favourite non-stick frying pan or skillet, then add the onions and garlic and fry over low heat until soft and fragrant.
- While the onion and garlic are frying, in a small pan or skillet, roast the dried spices over medium heat for a minute, then add to the onions and garlic and combine well.
- Add the cans of crushed tomatoes and kidney beans, and use a fork to mash about half the beans.
- Add salt and sugar, stir to combine everything well, then turn up the heat to high and allow to bubble away for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick.
- Once your chilli has reduced substantially or if it starts to stick – whatever comes first – turn the head down to low, cover, and simmer until it has reduced to a nice thick consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning to your palate.
- Distribute between bowls and serve with Mexican red rice or tortilla chips and dishes of garnishes of your choice, such as sliced chillies/jalapeños, fresh coriander, pickled onions, pickled cabbage, red salsa or hot sauces, sliced spring onions, lime quarters, and sour cream or Mexican cotija cheese.
Please do let us know if you make our easy vegetarian chilli recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.