My favourite vegetarian chilli recipe

This recipe is one of the very few I cook on a regular basis. I’m one of those cooks who 70 per cent of the time is cooking a new recipe. I am never satisfied that I’ve found the best butter cake recipe, or the best bolognese. I mean, my butter cake and bolognese are pretty good, but the best? I can’t commit to that!

However, I’m pretty confident this is the best vegetarian chilli bean recipe I’ll ever come across. I love it for its simplicity, pantry-dominated ingredient list, and, most importantly, its ability to gain compliments from vegos and meat eaters alike.


I estimate I’ve made this recipe no fewer than 100 times, and most of the time I will vary the ingredients slightly. I might add some extra veggies if I have some in the fridge, or swap mexi-beans for kidney beans or cannellini beans or chickpeas. I think the essential parts of the recipe are the combination of spices and the rich tomato base. Everything else is a matter of personal preference, or ingredient availability.

I will post my original recipe here, but you will note in the pictures I added mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and celery to this particular cook-up, and served my chilli with toasted wholemeal pita crisps and natural yoghurt. I usually serve my vego chilli with rice and sour cream (or natural yoghurt when I’m being a good girl), but LL loves it most with grated cheese, sour cream and avocado in tortillas. It also goes without saying it is perfect for tacos, nachos, burritos, even as a pizza topping. It is freezer friendly, keeps for the better part of a week in the fridge, and tastes frickin’ amazing. Had I not mentioned that?


Serves 4


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (or to suit your tastes – I find a 1/4 tsp results in a mild to medium spice that is softened with sour cream if you find it too much)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 420g can mixed beans, red kidney beans or mexi-beans, drained and rinsed
  • 420g can brown lentils, drained, rinsed
  • 425g diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs if you are raiding the pantry)



  • Place oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, fresh chilli and capsicum. Cook until softened.
  • Add the chilli flakes, cinnamon, cumin, thyme and cook for a further minute.

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  • Reduce heat to low and add the garlic, beans, lentils, tomatoes and tomato paste.
  • Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and cook for another 10 minutes or until thickened.
  • Stir in parsley and serve with your choice of: rice, tortillas, tacos, corn chips, toasted pita bread or whatever takes your fancy. Indulgent additions: grated and cheese and sour cream. Healthier choices: avocado and natural yoghurt.

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