This vegetable & quinoa chili is PACKED with veggies and my kids still LOVE it. And my meat eating friends love it! Meaning, this healthy chili might just be the ultimate unifier. Serve it to your vegan friends and your meat-eating dad, and everybody will be happy.

Vegetable & quinoa chili

January is officially chili month. Okay, I might be making that up (although, out of curiosity I just did a Google search, and apparently there’s a “national chili day” on the fourth Thursday in February every year; who invents this stuff?), but it wouldn’t seem like January to me without a big bowl of steaming chili. While we love this slow cooker beef chili, this vegetable and quinoa chili is our weeknight go-to. It’s lighter and healthier, but just as delicious.

Close-up side view of the vegetarian chili in a bowl.

Best vegan chili recipe

This chili is naturally vegan but surprisingly rich and luxurious. It’s loaded with veggies, including classics like onions and peppers, but it also features some new additions, such as carrots and parsnips, which provide natural sweetness. Pinto beans (or you can use any beans you like) lend substance while cooked quinoa thickens the chili. The result is a meal that’s just as satisfying as the meat chilis I grew up with, but is far more nutritious.

Overhead shot of the chili in a pot with a ladle.

How do you make vegetarian chili?

This is a quick cooking chili (once you get your veggies chopped you’re halfway there!). Sauté the vegetables until tender, then add the garlic and spices. Next add a 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes, followed by broth (vegetable or chicken) and cilantro sprigs for flavor. Let the chili simmer for a few minutes to allow the vegetables to soften. Then add the beans and simmer a few minutes longer. Just before serving, stir in cooked quinoa, which will thicken the chili.

Overhead shot of the vegetable quinoa chili in a bowl.

What spices go in the chili?

A generous smattering of spices, including chili powder, ground cumin, coriander and oregano, give the chili loads of flavor. A pinch of cinnamon lends subtle sweetness, rounding everything out.

Other recipes to try:

Tips for making this vegetable quinoa chili:

  • This recipe calls for cooked quinoa (it’s the perfect way to use up leftover quinoa!). If you’re cooking the quinoa from dry grains, start with 1/2 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil with a pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa has absorbed the water, about 15 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes off the heat, covered, to steam. You’ll have more quinoa than you’ll need – save any leftovers for salads or wraps.
  • Although the ingredient list looks long, once you get the vegetables diced, you’re halfway there (you can even do this the day before!).
  • Chop the vegetables the same size (aim for about 1/2 inch) so that they cook quickly and evenly.
  • I use one 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, which I cut up using kitchen shears, because I prefer their texture. However, you can use a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes instead (they will be a bit meatier).
  • A pinch of cinnamon in this chili lends a subtle sweetness that rounds everything out.
  • Feel free to swap out the pinto beans for black beans or kidney beans.
  • Check out my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker, for slow cooker chili recipes (and a ton more!).

Vegetable & Quinoa Chili

Quinoa adds a lovely body and thickness to this delicious and nutritious vegetable chili. It's packed with vegetables, with an incredible flavor from chili spices and a pinch of cinnamon (which adds sweet warmth). I know it looks like a ton of ingredients, but it’s not hard to make (once you get the vegetables chopped you’re halfway there)! For the diced vegetables, aim for ½ inch pieces, which will cook quickly and evenly.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: best vegan chili recipe, best vegetable chili recipe, vegetable chili with quinoa
Servings: 4 -6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (blend)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 28- ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 large cilantro sprigs
  • 1 15- ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1 ½ cups cooked quinoa* (see the notes below)
  • Toppings, such as: diced avocado, sliced scallions, sour cream, hot sauce, and tortilla chips

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Drop in the parsnips, bell peppers and jalapeños with another pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-5 minutes or until the peppers and parsnips start to soften. Add the garlic and spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Scrape the vegetables to one side of the pot. Pour the tomatoes with their juices into the other side of the pot. Using kitchen scissors, cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Give everything a stir, then add the broth and cilantro sprigs. Stir again and bring to a boil. Cook at a gentle boil until slightly thickened, 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the pinto beans and cook 5-10 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are all softened and the chili smells heavenly.
  • Before serving, stir in 1 – 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa (depending on how thick you like your chili) and heat through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove the cilantro sprigs, if you want. Serve with the toppings of your choice.

Notes

Do Ahead: If making this in advance, I prefer to add the quinoa right before serving so that the grains hold their texture, but it’s still awesome if you add the quinoa right away. You can refrigerate the chili for up to 4 days. It also freezes well.
Tips:
  • This recipe calls for cooked quinoa (it’s the perfect way to use up leftover quinoa!). If you’re cooking the quinoa from dry grains, start with 1/2 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil with a pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa has absorbed the water, about 15 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes off the heat, covered, to steam. You’ll have more quinoa than you’ll need – save any leftovers for salads or wraps.
  • Although the ingredient list looks long, once you get the vegetables diced, you’re halfway there (you can even do this the day before!).
  • Chop the vegetables the same size (aim for about 1/2 inch) so that they cook quickly and evenly.
  • I use one 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, which I cut up using kitchen shears, because I prefer their texture. However, you can use a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes instead (they will be a bit meatier).
  • A pinch of cinnamon in this chili lends a subtle sweetness that rounds everything out.
  • Feel free to swap out the pinto beans for black beans or kidney beans.
  • Check out my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker, for slow cooker chili recipes (and a ton more!).