Vegan Chili Cookoff winner: The Perfect Fall Recipe

Full disclosure, this vegan chili didn’t actually win a formal chili cookoff, but it has made a name for itself at family gatherings and potlucks. There’s a reason why my chili pot always ends up empty before the rest, and its not because I make sure its first in line at the table.

For me, chili has always been a catch all kind of meal. I’ve been generous with the variety of ingredients that I’ve allowed into my vegan chili and its paid off, big time. I’m all about experimenting and adapting recipes to find my own favorite combination of ingredients. It’s a totally different trait than any of the genetic culinary material in me would suggest. Both my mom and my grandma are strict recipe followers. It’s not that they are completely against deviation, it’s that their brains literally cannot imagine making it any other way. One time I added mushrooms to my spaghetti sauce… you should have seen my mom’s brain explode with creativity overload. It takes all types to make the world go round, and I’m thankful for the differences 🙂

Life Lessons from my Vegan Chili

When it comes to chili, my mom and grandma have been making the same exact recipe ever since I was a little girl. So of course, I had to blaze my own path to new chili experiences. Here’s two things I’m sure of:

  • Beans, meat substitute, and spices are a safe way to make agreeable chili
  • I’m not super into playing it safe and being agreeable

If I look back over the last 15 years of my life I can clearly see a series of risks taken, and a few failures along the way that have led me to be the person I am today. I haven’t played it all safe. There have been hard things to endure, but the savory chili of life is so much more exciting for the experience. Taking risks gives us room to learn, to try, to fail, and ultimately we grow from it. Here’s a few of the risks I see when I look back:

Even if you don’t see yourself as a risk-taker, you can probably put your finger on a handful of things you’ve chosen to do that really stretched you beyond what you were familiar with. And if I don’t miss my guess, you’re wiser, stronger, better for the experiences.

Now, bringing this back to my vegan chili recipe… You might say things like molasses and spinach don’t belong in chili. I say, “Live a little!”


Vegan Chili

Course Soup


  • ½ large onion diced
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic crushed
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 c. crumbled beef substitute
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans (drained) or 1 c. dried beans
  • 2 15 oz cans pinto beans (drained) or 1 c. dried beans
  • 1 15oz can kidney beans (drained) or ½ c. dried beans
  • 1 qt. vegetable broth
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • c. sweet corn
  • 1 orange bell pepper chopped
  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 1 c. zucchini chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp molasses to taste
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • salt to taste


  • In large stockpot, sauté diced onion and crushed garlic in avocado oil over medium heat
  • Add beef substitute crumble to onion and garlic
  • Add tomato paste and mix well with sautéed onion and garlic and meat substitute
  • Add cooked or canned beans to the meat substitute. I like to cook my homemade beans in vegetable broth and use the liquid as a base for this chili. If using canned beans, add vegetable broth at this time.
  • Combine all remaining ingredients and simmer for 25 minutes
  • Boom. Chili. Done.
Keyword Chili, Soup, Vegan