Set it and forget it, easy and hearty crock pot vegetarian chili recipe is nourishing and flavor packed! This vegan and vegetarian slow cooker chili recipe is make ahead ready and freezer friendly. This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.
Pure comfort food during the chilliest seasons of the year, what could be more satisfying than vegetarian chili in the crock pot? It’s super simple to pull together, is make ahead ready and will wow even your meat eating friends and family!
This was one of the many recipes I started working on after giving up meat long ago. Growing up in Texas, chili was a staple in every kitchen. In restaurants, it’s common on menus, served piled high with toppings or on burgers, fries, nachos, hot dogs and Texan’s beloved Frito pie (have you tried it?).
A plant based chili was unheard of back in the day. But it didn’t take long to realize a hearty vegan chili is suitable for even the most meat loving chili connoisseurs. This hearty vegan slow cooker chili has a rich spice base akin to its meat based siblings and a rich, full bodied texture.
Related: Love cozy chili? Give my Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili a go!
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili Recipe Ingredients
Heavy on the spices, the heat can be taken up or down. Here’s what you’ll need to make this healthy crockpot vegetarian chili recipe (see recipe card below for full details):
- Dry beans such as Black Beans, Pinto Beans or optionally Kidney Beans – **updated: see FDAs advisory on not cooking dry kidney beans in the slow cooker in recipe notes**
- Red Onion
- Bell Pepper – green or use poblano pepper
- Fresh Garlic
- Spices: Cumin, Oregano, Chili Powder, Ground Pepper, Salt, Bay Leaf
- Chipotle Chili (optional)
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Masa Harina
A variety of chilis enriches this vegan slow cooker chili’s flavor profile. Masa harina thickens the chili, lends body and offers a mild corn flavor. If masa harina is new territory, I encourage you to give it a go! I’ve linked to other recipes I use it in on the recipe card.
Quick Guide: How to Make Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili
For this vegan 3 bean chili, you can use soaked or unsoaked (updated: except kidney beans**) dry beans. I found the window of cooking time to be close either way. Slow cooked chili maximizes flavor because the spices and seasonings are concentrated. In summary, here’s how to make this easy crock pot vegetarian chili recipe (see recipe card below for full details):
- First, to soak or not to soak the beans. Soaking is optional (except for kidney beans – according to FDA, kidney beans must be soaked and boiled**). Sometimes I soak, sometimes I forget. Their’s not much difference in cook time.
- Second, to the crock pot, add chopped onion, bell pepper and dry beans (soaked or unsoaked).
- Third, add the garlic, spices, peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir.
- Next, lid the crock and set the cooker to low or high.
- Last, about 15 minutes before serving, make a slurry with the masa harina and pour it into the crock. Lid again and warm through.
Share this hearty vegetarian slow cooker chili piping hot with cornbread and all your favorite condiments.
Vegetarian Chili FAQs
Is Chili Better the Next Day?
When cooking chili in the slow cooker, I can’t tell that much of a difference the next day. However, when cooked quicker on stove top, an overnight rest in the fridge gives chili a noticeable flavor advantage.
How far Ahead Can I Make Slow Cooker Chili?
Chili’s flavor improves with a bit of time, so chili is perfect for meal prep. If refrigerating, the chili can be made up to days in advance. If needed after three days, freeze it.
Can I Freeze Vegetarian Chili?
This crock pot recipe freezes with ease. Simply cool the chili then store it in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight and gently reheat on stove top.
How Long Can you Freeze Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chili?
I’ve frozen chili for up to two months with good results, although you can probably freeze it for longer.
How Do I Thicken My Chili?
In this healthy crockpot chili recipe, I use masa harina to flavor, give body and thicken the base. Masa harina is a signature flavor in American Southwest cooking. You’ll find it on the International food isle in well stocked grocery stores or online. It’s made with ground corn soaked in a lime solution then dried. You’ll find this ingredient in tortilla chips, corn tortillas, and tamales as well as many Southwest inspired recipes.
What’s a Substitute for Masa Harina?
I have used ground tortilla chips in place of masa harina in a pinch. The flavor isn’t as apparent, but it works. Grind the chips fine in a food processor – grind as fine as possible – and use the the crumbs where you would masa harina in this recipe. A little more due to crumb size.
A Few Recipe Notes
- Although this recipe is vegan and vegetarian, it can be shared with a variety of condiments like avocado, cilantro, jalapeños, scallions, chopped onion, sour cream or shredded cheddar. Keep it dairy free by omitting cheese and sour cream.
- My favorite side to share with this slow cooker vegetarian chili recipe is cornbread and sliced avocado. Corn tortillas make a nice addition sans cornbread if time is short. Try my Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread or Gluten Free Cornbread recipe.
- Time to cook this crock pot vegetarian chili varies depending on bean age, the older the bean the longer the cook. It’s possible that a bean can be so old and dry it won’t cook through, although I’ve not experienced this. I do not recommend eating under-cooked beans. Temperature variations range among slow cookers. Be sure to check the manufactures owners manual regarding cook time for beans. Use the cook times in this recipe as a guide.
- I’ve made this crock pot vegetarian chili recipe with soaked and unsoaked beans. If using soaked beans, reduce the amount of water by about 1/2 C. Adjust as needed.
- Freezer Friendly? Yes please! This recipe freezes with ease. Simply cool the chili then store it in the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight and gently reheat on stove top.
**UPDATE: I’ve been cooking dry beans (including kidney) in a slow cooker for 20+ years without any ill effects but after a reader alerted me to a raw and undercooked kidney bean toxin, I updated this recipe with notes. Feel free to use a mix of black and pinto beans and omit the kidney beans. Just because I’ve not experienced adverse issues, doesn’t mean there’s not the potential for others to experience it. See page 254 on FDA’s Bad Bug Book for more info.
More Vegetarian and Vegan Chili Recipes to Love
- Vegetarian Tater Tot Hot Dish
- Pumpkin Two Bean Chili
- Vegan Chili by Foolproof Living
- Vegetarian Chili by Green Valley Kitchen
Hearty Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili
- 1 1/2 C (320g) Dry Beans use your favorites: I use 1/2 C each: pinto, black and kidney beans** (see notes on soaking and FDA's cooking advisory on cooking dry kidney beans in the slow cooker).
- 2 C (230g) Red or Yellow Onion about one large onion
- 1 C (140g) Green Bell Pepper about one medium pepper
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 Tbs Dried Oregano
- 4 Tbs Chili Powder ***see note
- 1 Tbs Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Tbs Fine Sea Salt
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 3 Plump Cloves of Garlic smashed and minced
- 2 Tbs Jalapeno Pepper fresh or pickled, chopped fine. Remove seeds and ribs for less heat
- 1 Chipotle Chili Pepper (optional) from a can of chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
- 14 1/2 oz (411g) Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes from one small can, undrained
- 4 Tbs Tomato Paste
- 4 C (980g) Water see note if using soaked beans
- 3 Tbs Masa Harina mixed with + 1/4 C (56g) hot water or use finely crushed corn tortilla chips as a sub.
- Pick through the beans picking out any shriveled beans or small stones. Rinse the dry beans and place them in the cook-pot of a slow cooker. If using dry kidney beans, soak/boil them according to FDA's guidelines below in the notes (and make sure they're fully cooked) before adding them to the soup or use one can (drained) of already cooked kidney beans. Add them to the crock during the last 30 minutes of cooking. To the beans add the onion, bell pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper, salt, bayleaf, garlic, jalapeno, chipotle pepper (if using), tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir thoroughly and lid.
- Cook Beans (soaked or unsoaked):Be sure to check your crock pot manufactures owners manual regarding cook time for beans. Use these times as a guide.On High: 6 – 7 hoursOn Low: 7 – 8 hours
- About 15 minutes before serving, mix the masa harina with hot water until smooth and pour it into the chili. Stir. The chili will begin to thicken during the last minutes of cooking. The chili is done when the beans are tender, flavors are concentrated and the chili has thickened. Time to cook this crock pot vegetarian chili varies depending on bean age, the older the bean the longer the cook. It’s possible that a bean can be so old and dry it won’t cook through. I do not recommend eating under-cooked beans. Temperature variations range among slow cookers – check your manufactures owners manual. Use the cook times as a guide.Give it a good squeeze of lime juice, about 1/2 a lime, and taste for salt adjustment. If a thinner chili is desired, simply thin with water.
- Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with any toppings you like: avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, sour cream, scallions, diced onions, lime wedges, sour cream or shredded cheddar.
- Store in the refrigerator in a lidded container for up to three days or freeze for up to two weeks. Thaw overnight in the fridge and gently rewarm on low heat on the stovetop.