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Easy Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa


I know we’re starting to move out of soup season, but the forecast for my area calls for around 8 inches of snow (eight!) tomorrow, so I thought I’d be justified in making chili one more time. I love this chili – it’s hearty, easy, healthy, inexpensive, and flavorful. It’s vegetarian but could easily be vegan if you omit cheese and sour cream from the toppings.


Because we’re not using meat, we’re going to build a nice flavor base with carrots, sweet potato, corn, and green chile peppers, which are smokey and flavorful without being too spicy. Check out the ingredients in your chili pepper – there shouldn’t be anything but spices. I love my Penzeys medium hot chili powder, if you’re looking for a good one.

If you buy anything organic for this recipe, get…

  • Organic corn without added sugar to avoid genetically modified (GMO) corn
  • Organic tortilla chips to avoid genetically modified sweet corn.
  • Carrots are pretty high in pesticides, and since large bags of organic carrots are inexpensive, I always get them instead of conventional.
  • Want to read more about organic and conventional produce? or what GMO means?

quinoa chili

Yield: 6 large servings

Prep Time: about 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Easy Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa

hearty, easy, healthy, and inexpensive - a perfect winter meal


1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed**
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed**
1 15 oz can kidney beans any color, drained and rinsed**
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed**
1 15 oz can corn, drained OR 1 1/2 c. frozen corn
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 4 oz can diced green chiles*
1 T. chili powder (reduce if desired)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed well, and cooked according to the directions on the package (quinoa can have a soapy residue on it that can upset your stomach so make sure to rinse it).
2-3 cups water
salt to taste

Toppings: tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and/or sliced green onions


1. In a large pot, warm the olive oil and saute the onion, carrots, sweet potato, and garlic over medium.

2. When the veggies are fragrant, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and saute for 10 minutes. I like to get the onion nice and soft before adding the tomatoes because onions will not continue to soften much after tomatoes are added.

3. Add all of the canned ingredients to the soup base and stir well. Add water one cup at a time until you like the consistency. Let the soup simmer for about an hour to let the flavors marry.

4. Add the quinoa about 30 minutes before serving.* Taste test now - add salt if needed.

5. Top with green onions, your favorite cheese, sour cream, avocado, and tortilla chips. Like almost all soup, this stuff is even better the next day.


*I have made this by adding the uncooked quinoa straight to the chili, and it works; you'll just need to add more water. I prefer adding it later so the quinoa doesn't overcook.

**Updated Notes:

  • If you want to use prepared dried beans instead of canned, you'll need 1 1/2 c. per can, or 6 cups total.
  • I've gotten some particularly spicy cans of green chiles. Start with 2 tablespoons and increase as desired if you or your kids are sensitive to spicy food.


vegan chili


10 Responses to “Easy Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa”

  1. themuffinmyth.com March 7, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I love putting quinoa in chili! It’s such a great way to thicken it and boost the protein content a little bit more. This version looks great with all of the different beans. Canned chillies are a little hard to find where I live, but I think I could substitute fresh or canned jalapenos. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll definitely be trying it out!

    • Anne Myer March 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks for the comment! While working on this recipe, I tried it with both serano and jalapeno peppers. Serrano was just too hot for my toddler, but jalapenos worked nicely. They added more heat and none of the almost smokey that green chilies do, but it’s still delicious. Hope you like it! 🙂

  2. chriswalny March 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Sounds very yummy…but so many cans! Judging from your post, it seems like you are concerned with chemicals; don’t you worry about BPA at all? Just wondering…thanks for the recipe!

    • Anne Myer March 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Hi Chris!
      Thanks for the question! BPA is definitely on my radar, especially since I have a young child.

      To be honest, most of the time I use dry beans and freeze them in canned-size portions – except for garbanzo beans (they always get weird skins, for lack of a better word, that processing must remove from the canned ones). If I’m really planning ahead, I’ll make big batches of beans and then freeze black, pinto, and kidney together so they’re all ready for this soup.

      I was just aiming for a quick to make and reasonably healthy post, but you raise a good point – I’ll update with this info: if you want to use dried beans, sub 1 1/2 c. *prepared* dried beans for each can and season with salt, if desired. Thanks again!

  3. chriswalny March 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for your reply. That is such a good idea to freeze a mix together. I would never have thought of it! It would be perfect for 3-bean salad too. Thanks 🙂

    • Anne Myer March 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      Glad to help – great idea about the salad! 🙂

  4. blueberrykitchen March 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Oh yum, your chili looks absolutely delicious!

    • Anne Myer March 10, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      thanks so much! 🙂

  5. Anna Feller April 15, 2013 at 4:14 am

    Calorie Count?

    • Anne Myer April 15, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Hi Anna! I’m not sure what the calorie count is. I got tired of counting all the things we’re “supposed” to (calories, carbs, fat, etc) and decided to just eat healthy, whole foods and let the pieces fall where they may 🙂

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