3 Bean Vegetarian Chili


This is another recipe I wanted to try as vegetarian. I have had lots of vegetarian “chili”, but they never hit the spot for me. The meat versions were always better in terms of consistency and the spices that were used. I knew it wasn’t the meat that was making the chili that much better, and I just needed to try a vegetarian chili myself. I made this chili exactly like I make my meat chili but without the meat. And it turned out amazing. The flavor and consistency was perfect. I honestly would not guess that this didn’t have meat in it if someone served it to me. 


I don’t particularly like kidney beans, but a while ago I found azuki beans which go so well in chili. I used a mix of mostly azuki beans, some kidney beans, and some masoor lentil. For me, chili is all about the toppings, so we topped with sour cream, chopped green onions, grated cheddar cheese, and served along side a cheese quesadilla. We are definitely going to be making this again.

All of the measurements here are best guesses. This is sort of a kitchen sink type recipe for me. If I don’t have a spice, I don’t use it or try a different one. I add in various proportions depending on my mood. So, go with your gut and what’s in your cupboard.

3 Bean Vegetarian Chili


  • 3/4 cup dried azuki beans
  • 1/3 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup dried masoor lentil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 chili, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 28 oz can of good quality diced tomatoes (I prefer Cento or Pomi)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil…or any oil really, we’ve just been using this more lately
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8-10 pepper corns
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 whole mace
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 whole dried red peppers broke in half
  • 1 tbsp toasted ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tbsp ground oregano
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp chili powder (like the kind for American chili)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Northwoods fire (if you have it…it’s a weird spice we get from Penzey’s sometimes)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Aleppo Pepper (another Penzey’s one, but more common I think)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro, green onion, chopped onion etc for topping


  1. Soak the azuki and kidney beans together in water for 12 hours or overnight.
  2. In a pressure cooker, cook the soaked azuki and kidney beans along with the masoor lentils in about 4 1/2 – 5 cups water with a pinch of salt. Cook on high heat for 3 whistles and then turn the heat off and leave the cooker on the hot stove and allow the cooker to completely come to temperature before opening. If you open it and the beans are still not done, close it and do another whistle…at least that’s what I do.
  3. In a large heavy bottom pot, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add all of the whole spices- pepper corns, mace, bay leaves, cloves, black cardamom, cinnamon stick, dried peppers. Stir these around for 30 secs in the hot oil.
  4. Add the onion. Saute until soft/translucent. Add the garlic and chili. Saute until the raw garlic smell is gone, about 1-2 mins.
  5. Add the tomatoes. Cook for 5 mins to let the mixture begin to tighten up some. Add all of the other spices- salt, cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, Northwoods fire, Aleppo pepper, cayenne, turmeric. Mix and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the beans and their cooking water to the pot. Mix together.
  7. Add the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Taste seasoning and adjust as needed.
  8. Simmer the mixture on low heat, covered for 1 or 2 hours. The longer the better with chili so that all of the spices have time to get cozy together. You can of course serve it sooner if you need to, but if you have the time, just let it hang out on low on the stove for a while. You could even make it a day ahead to give it more time to get tasty.
  9. If the mixture is too thick, add a 1/2 cup of water or veg broth or some more canned tomatoes. It shouldn’t be too thin after all of the cooking time. If it is, then cook it longer and at a higher heat to get more evaporation of the liquid.
  10. Serve with grated cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped green onions, and chopped onion. You could also serve this over macaroni noodles (that’s how my family serves chili).

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