Packed with protein and healthy veggies, this vegan Black Bean Quinoa Chili is a hearty and satisfying one pot meal! Serve it up with all your favorite chili toppings and a side of tortilla chips for a filling meatless meal the whole family will love!
There is nothing better at the end of cold day than a steaming bowl of thick chili! This yummy comfort food is made all in one-pot, using pantry staples, in under an hour! Your whole family will love this Black Bean Quinoa Chili!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Beans ~ I used canned beans for convenience. Although not absolutely necessary, I like to drain and rinse the beans well to get rid of excess sodium.
Black beans work well with the seasonings chosen, particularly the cocoa powder, but in a pinch pinto beans, kidney beans, or even navy beans will work.
If you love black beans, you will also love my super easy Black Bean Soup, Spicy Bean Burgers, and Vegan Enchiladas!
Quinoa ~ Quinoa is a complete protein that is naturally gluten-free and packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Be sure to rinse the quinoa well under cold water before adding to the pot to remove any bitterness.
Vegetables ~ I went with peppers, carrots and corn in this quinoa chili recipe. These particular vegetables have a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the other ingredients.
Diced sweet potato or butternut squash would be excellent in this dish as well.
Cocoa Powder ~ Be sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder. The bitterness of the cocoa is going to help balance the sweetness of the tomatoes and vegetables. It also gives a great depth of flavor that sometimes vegan chili lacks.
The finished dish does not taste like chocolate, but my kids sure think it’s fun to eat “chocolate chili.”
A shot of espresso, 1 cup of strong black coffee or 2 squares of dairy free dark chocolate can be used instead. The espresso and/or coffee can be added at the time you add the spices. If you are using squares of chocolate, add it when you add the tomatoes and broth and let it melt slowly. Do not use milk chocolate or any other sweet chocolate.
Spices ~ Don’t be frightened by the long list of spices. This recipe is very easy to make and most well-stocked pantries will have these ingredients.
How to make the recipe
(1) Dice the onion and green bell pepper and shred the carrot. You can use a small grate or a large grate, it doesn’t really matter. A hand grater is easy enough for this job, but you can use a shredding blade with your food processor, as well.
(2) Sauté the onion and pepper in a bit of water (or vegetable broth, if you prefer) until the onion is translucent and the veggies are soft.
(3) Add the shredded carrots and all the spices. (4) Stir to combine and sauté for a minute or two to allow the spices to release their oils and become fragrant.
(4, 5) Rinse the quinoa and black beans well under cold water. (7) Add them to the pot along with the tomatoes and vegetable broth. (8) Stir to combine.
Make sure the quinoa is completely covered by liquid so that it cooks properly. Add more liquid, if needed.
(9) Simmer the chili for 15 minutes until the quinoa is tender. (10) Add the corn and (11) stir to combine.
Storage and freezing
Fridge: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Be sure the chili has completely cooled before putting the lid on the container and transferring to the fridge.
Freezer: You can also freeze chili in freezer-safe bags or containers for 2 to 3 months.
Reheat: To reheat, transfer the chili back to a soup pot over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer until warmed though. You may need to add extra liquid if it thickened up in the fridge/freezer. And, as always, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Pro tips for success
~ Rinse the canned beans and dry quinoa well before adding them to the chili. This gets rid of excess sodium and any metallic taste or bitterness.
~ Sauté the spices with the tender veggies for a few minutes before adding the liquid. This will release the natural oils in the spices, enhancing their flavor and making them more aromatic.
~ Put a lid on it! When simmering the black bean quinoa chili, be sure to keep a lid on it. This will prevent too much liquid from evaporating and ensure the quinoa cooks properly.
~ This chili recipe will thicken up considerably as the quinoa cooks. If you find it a bit too thick in the end, add an extra cup or so of broth or water and stir well to incorporate.
~ Taste and adjust seasonings! While the spice amounts used are perfect for a delicious mild chili with a good balance of sweet and savory, you may prefer more heat, more salt, more tang, etc.
~ Don’t forget the toppings! Sometimes the garnishes can make or break a good chili. Grab your favorites and sprinkle them on!
There are a few ways to thicken a chili that’s too thin.
Try simmering for another 10 minutes or so with the lid off. This will allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
Try mashing some of the beans that are already in pot. I find a potato masher works best for this job.
Try adding more beans or vegetables.
If you’re finished dish falls a bit flat in the flavor department, try one of these tips:
Add garnishes like diced green or red onion, avocado, cilantro, hot sauce or vegan sour cream.
Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice or vinegar (red wine or balsamic are great choices).
Add a dash of tamari or soy sauce. Don’t worry, it won’t make your dish taste Asian-inspired, but it will add a nice salty, savory depth of flavor.
Add a square of dark chocolate and let it melt slowly as you stir.
And, of course, salt and pepper always help, as well.
If you end up with a chili recipe that’s too spicy for your palate, try adding a squeeze of lime juice or dash of vinegar. Adding more tomatoes should help as well.
Or try this trick from The Kitchn: “Add a few whole, peeled Russet potatoes to the pot. As they cook, they will sponge up some of the cooking liquid and the spices along with it. You’ll probably need to add some more liquid once the potatoes are cooked through since they will also release a considerable amount of starch as they cook, thickening the existing chili. Remember to remove the potatoes from the pot once they’ve done their job.”
In traditional meat based chili, bitter cocoa balances the richness of the fat. Since this vegan quinoa chili is low-fat, we don’t need to do that. Here, it balances the sweetness of the tomatoes, carrots and corn and offers a wonderful depth of flavor.
More vegan chili recipes
- Crock Pot Vegan Chili
- Pumpkin Lentil Chili
- Chickpea White Chili
- Garden Vegetable Beanless Chili
- Vegan Cincinnati Chili
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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For even more easy family recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, The Meatless Monday Family Cookbook!
Black Bean Quinoa Chili
- 1 onion diced
- 1 green pepper seeded and diced
- 2 carrots peeled and shredded
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 3 cans black beans rinsed and drained (or 4 cups of cooked black beans)
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 cup dry white quinoa
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen
- squeeze of fresh lime juice
- avocado or guacamole
- vegan sour cream
- hot sauce
- chopped cilantro
- sliced green onions
- tortilla chips
- In a soup pot on the stove over medium heat, sauté the onion and green pepper in 3 tablespoons of water for about 5 to 6 minutes until the onions are translucent and the veggies are softened. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to prevent sticking.
- Add the shredded carrots, cocoa powder, and all spices (chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, allspice, salt, and liquid smoke) and mix well. Sauté another 1 to 2 minutes until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the black beans, diced tomatoes, quinoa, and vegetable broth. Stir. Be sure the liquid is completely covering the quinoa. Add a bit more broth or water if needed. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and tender.
- Add corn and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Serve with garnishes of your choice.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.
My son is allergic to tomatoes (and peanuts and dairy), do you think I can substitute with anything else or maybe use tomatillo since he’s not allergic to that? It’s a real struggle to make many dishes since tomatoes is main ingredient many times. Thank you!
Jenn Sebestyen says
Hi, Imelda. While I have never done it without the tomatoes, I definitely think it could work. You can just leave them out and add extra broth or water if needed to thin it out a bit. It will be like a chili flavored black bean soup…yum! I’m not sure how tomatillos would be in this dish, but I think it sounds yummy! If you give it a try, let me know!
This chili was GREAT! I was wondering how the cocoa would effect the taste and you couldn’t really taste it at all… it just made the whole dish fantastically complex. This recipe is a KEEPER!
Jenn Sebestyen says
I’m so happy to hear that, Anna! Thank you so much for your feedback. Have a great week!
Linda Siegert says
This is the best plant based chili I have ever made!! The flavors are amazing. Thank you!!
Jenn Sebestyen says
Thank you for this rave review, Linda! I am so happy you love it!
Ooh, I love chocolate with chili like this. So good!
Jenn S. says
Thanks, Sarah! I might be putting chocolate in all of my chili from now on!
Mel | avirtualvegan.com says
I am totally convinced that chili should be hearty, savory and delicious. otherwise what’s the point? ;O)
Chili is one of my favourite meals ever and there are so many ways you can make it so it never gets old. I always add cocoa or chocolate to mine too. It makes such a difference!
Jenn S. says
It does make a big difference! I love my chili hearty – like you could stand a spoon up in it kind of thick. 🙂 Thanks, Mel!