Food + Drink

It’s chili weather!

vegan chili

OK, so this is totally cheap, RECYCLED content, but I can’t help myself. Whenever the temperatures drop and autumn shivers start to creep down my arms, I crave one food more than any other: CHILI. I’ve been making this recipe for about 6 years now, and I have yet to taste a better chili. Seriously. It’s ridiculously good.

As always, I’d love to hear what kinds of modifications and variations you’ve made to this recipe, since it is really flexible. I’ve subbed chickpeas and edamame in place of kidney beans plenty of times, and I often use farro instead of bulgur wheat depending on what I have in the house. I’m really partial to Muir Glen’s fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and using ancho chili powder in place of regular changes the flavor of the whole thing completely. Sometimes I sprinkle a little Daiya on top if I have it, but it’s definitely not essential.

This chili freezes really nicely, by the way. One pot will yield six very generous portions, so after you’ve gobbled down dinner, you can divvy up the rest into containers to heat up for lunches during the week.

UPDATE, JANUARY 2021: In the 13+ years since I first published this recipe, it’s come to be known as “Door Sixteen Chili.” Countless readers have sent me their own variations, tales of winning chili cook-offs, and alerts when they make the first pot of the season on a chilly day. To make things easier for those who may be stumbling across this recipe for the first time, I’ve finally decided to take advantage of technology and convert the recipe into a “card” format that can easily be pinned or printed. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 large bowls

The Best Vegan Chili Ever

vegan chili

Over the years, this tried-and-true recipe has come to be known as "Door Sixteen Chili." It's vegetarian, it's vegan, it's hearty, it's "meaty," it's super-satisfying, and it's unbelievably delicious!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chili powder*
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 14 oz can black beans (with liquid)**
  • 14 oz can kidney beans (with liquid)**
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar


  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add yellow pepper, jalapeños, celery and chili powder; cook another 10 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans (with liquid), corn, salt and spices. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in bulgur wheat. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes (I usually let everything simmer for a couple of hours to let the flavors really develop, but it's okay to take it off when the veggies and bulgur are soft), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Just as you're taking the chili off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar. I know it might seem weird to put it in, but trust me—it really does make the chili taste extra amazing.


*What we call “chili powder” in the US is actually a blend of several spices. Please don’t use 2tbsp of straight cayenne pepper! If blended chili powder is not available in your part of the world, you can add an extra tbsp of cumin, and then just add your cayenne a pinch at a time to taste.

**I take the easy route and use canned beans and tomatoes. You can soak dried beans and use fresh tomatoes if you prefer, of course, but you will want to add water to make up for the liquid in the cans.

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  • Reply paige October 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I think I printed this off your blog about four years ago…and it’s been getting me through the winters ever since. ITS. SO. GOOD. With some nice fresh bread…totally divine.

  • Reply Monica October 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Is it ok to rinse the canned beans? I’ve never used canned beans without first draining and rinsing them under running water. Recipe looks delish, can’t wait to give it a go!

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 12:23 am

      Sure, you can rinse them, but then you’d need to add water and salt to make up for what you got rid of…in which case why would you bother rinsing the beans in the first place?

  • Reply AnEmilyB October 23, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Ah, this recipe is so good, I love it. It was still good even when, the second time I made it, I accidentally used catnip instead of oregano.

    • gracie October 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

      haha haa

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 9:57 am

      HAHA!! How does that even happen?!

  • Reply Stine October 23, 2012 at 3:15 am

    I like to spice up “my” chilli with walnuts, a little coffee and dark choclate or raw cacao powder.
    It is delicious with a very rich flavour and some crunch!

  • Reply Monica October 23, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Yay for your chili! We have cold weather heading our way in the next couple of days, so… I have said it before (like in my head every time I make it) and I will again, Thanks Anna!

  • Reply Trondheim October 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

    This really is the best chili I’ve ever tasted. Last week I made a batch for a few friends and friends-of-friends and they all loved it (even though some people found it a bit spicy – though I did find out that pickled jalapenos work just as well as non-pickled ones). Thanks for sharing the recipe Anna!

  • Reply Gracie October 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I have made it a good few times and everyone who have given it to loves it , and I have some in my freezer right now 😀 Cookie & Kate has a lovely looking butternut squash chili on her blog that I’m going to try this weekend.

  • Reply Polly October 23, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Oh this is the best! We love it in our house, it’ll be keeping us going thorough the cold and the grey again this year.

  • Reply Amy October 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Recycled contact whatever! I made this last fall and have been dreaming (really!) about it for the last few weeks! Making it this weekend for sure.

  • Reply Kelly October 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Hey Anna – Where’d you pick up those great glass containers?

    This fall I am FINALLY going to make this recipe. We are trying to eat less meat over here and I think this would be great to add in to the rotation.

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      I think I bought them at Bed Bath and Beyond? They’re made by Snapware, though…I think the line is called Glasslock. You should be able to find them anywhere that sells the plastic Snapware. The lids are hard plastic with a rubber gasket, and they’re totally leak-proof. I love them.

    • molly h October 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      i use those same containers, same size even – the seem small at first, but hold a much larger portion than i’d expect. i walk 2.5 miles to work and find that they never leak in my bag. and i love that the glass can go in the microwave – i never put the plastic top in tho, just cover it over with a loose paper towel.
      (i also purchased mine at b b & b – great when you get all those coupons in the mail… but i think they sell them at the container store as well.)

  • Reply Andi October 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Oh Anna! You have truly blessed us with this recipe! Unknowingly, I made it on the same day you posted this. It is my almost four-year-old’s favorite.
    Thank you again!

  • Reply Kelsey October 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Anna! I’m always looking for good vegan meals I can make ahead of time and eat throughout the week. I can’t wait to try this one!

  • Reply Krysta October 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I make a vegan chili that is very very similar but add crumbled tofu in at the end.

  • Reply maddy October 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    The liquid in most canned beans has some kind of preservative and also often extra salt. I don’t think it’s harmful or anything, but I would rather rinse it off my beans first. It kind of bubbles up when you rinse with water, so I keep rinsing the beans in a colander until all the bubbles are gone. Yes, that was a technical term …”bubbles up.” 😉

    Your recipe looks great! I remember seeing it before, and will have to try it soon.

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Huh. Maybe it’s because I usually only buy organic canned beans, but mine just list water and kombu seaweed as the only other ingredients aside from beans.

      In any case, if you do want to rinse your beans, just make sure you add more water and salt to the chili.

  • Reply Amy October 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    It sounds weird – but I usually add an entire head of cauliflower – that and a ton of cumin, because it’s my favorite. Yum. Plus I rinse the beans and add some veggie broth or water.

  • Reply Kristy October 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve been meaning to make this for ages and finally have printed it out to make this week! I was wondering about the bulgar wheat, what is it exactly? How crucial is it to the recipe, like could I leave it out? Thanks and can’t wait to try this!

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      Bulgur is a whole grain (groat) wheat, and it’s very healthy. You should be able to find bulgur wheat at most grocery stores, and certainly at all health food stores, Whole Foods, or at Middle Eastern groceries. It really does make up the “meat” of the chili, and I consider it crucial to the recipe—unless, of course, you want to try substituting it with something like farro or quinoa (or even brown rice).

    • Kristy October 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      perfect thanks anna! just went and got some, chill is simmering away!

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm


    • Kristy October 24, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Anna the chili was delicious!!! I had the WORST day yesterday, sliced my finger open, my kid projectile barfed everywhere, home from work at 10pm. Finally sat down at 10:15 to eat my dinner, it was the best part of my day. This post was serendipitous…thanks so much. Oh and the bulgar totally did make it! I’ve never had it before, so good.

    • Anna @ D16 October 24, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Oh no, Kristy! I’m glad the chili was good, but geez…that sounds like a pretty crappy day. I hope you, your kid, AND your finger have a better day today. (Leftovers, maybe??)

  • Reply alis October 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I make mine a bit differently but I’m curious about adding bulgur, I’ll try that next time. Vegan chili tastes 987977879 times better than chili con carne!

  • Reply Jen b October 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    It’s my go to recipe for cool weather. Also frequently requested by my vegan cousins! More recipes please, Anna!!

  • Reply Brenda October 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Sometimes I use barley if I don’t have bulgur, it gives the chili a similar consistency. Also, a splash of dry red wine.

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Yes, barley is perfect!

  • Reply laura @ the shorehouse October 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I’ve been making this chili since Anna first posted and it is reallllll good. It’s also a pretty forgiving recipe — I’ve subbed in chickpeas, I’ve used grains other than bulgur I especially like brown rice), and I’ve tossed in cashews. Oh cashews, I love you.

    Anna asked about slow cooker advice, and while I admit I’m not a master of crockpottery I found it was pretty easy if you want to give it a try. I sauté the onions and garlic, then when they are translucent I add and lightly sauté the carrots and peppers along with some of the chili powder. For some reason I don’t sauté the celery but I’m sure you can.

    Then I just toss everything except the bulgur together into the slow cooker. Slow and low is the key — I keep it on low for about six hours (other recipes have told me to go eight, but six seems good for this one), stirring when I remember to. I add the bulgur about 5 hours into it so it doesn’t get too soft — when I use brown rice I add it parboiled. Last time I held the carrots off to the side until hour five and I think I liked it better (I don’t love cooked carrots). Again, it’s pretty forgiving and you’re mostly using the slow cooker to let the flavors develop and meld.

    • Anna @ D16 October 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you so much, Laura!!


    • laura @ the shorehouse October 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      NO problem!

      And the cashews are something. 🙂

  • Reply Michelle October 24, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Hi Anna!

    Can you substitute bulgur wheat for TVP?

    • Anna @ D16 October 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

      Michelle, yes, TVP would be fine…but bulgur is much tastier (and healthier!) if you can get it.

  • Reply Fritz October 24, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Ahhhhh this looks good , thanks for posting , will attempt it this weekend

  • Reply amy h October 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I’ve made this several times since you posted it the first time. It’s good! (I guess that would be obvious or I wouldn’t have made it again.) I do rinse the canned beans though, because you are less likely to have a problem with gas if you get rid of the liquid in the can.

  • Reply Michelle October 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Oh my God! I just made your chili, no substitutions. I went out and bought bulgur wheat today. It’s lovely. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Reply Maggie October 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    It IS ridiculously good – I’m making it tomorrow. Best vegetarian chili recipe I’ve tried.

  • Reply bfish November 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Once we started putting hominy in our chili we’ve never gone back. Try it in place of the corn; it absorbs a lot of flavor from the seasonings.

  • Reply Hannita November 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

    love this recipe and plan to make it this evening for guests. Thanks for sharing again as I believe I lost my printed copy.

  • Reply Debbi November 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    The chilli is on the hob now and smells really good. I’m in the UK and found that Bart’s Spices do a fahita blend which is chilli, cumin, black pepper and oregano – perfect! I guessed at what a ‘cup’ of bulghar wheat looked like, and think I’ve added too much, but nothing that some extra tomato and water won’t cure. Thanks Anna!

  • Reply Rachel November 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve bookmarked this to give it a go – looks delicious!

  • Reply Bonnie November 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I made this once last year and loved it, though the balsamic didn’t do it for me. Maybe I didn’t use the best quality vinegar. This time, I left out the balsamic, used only one jalapeno, upped the corn by 1/2 cup, omitted the celery (had none at home), added 1 T of cocoa powder and several generous dashes of liquid smoke. It was phenomenal. I usually make chili in my slow cooker and don’t follow a recipe – just throw in a little of this, a little of that – but your recipe is one I’ll go back to over and over.

  • Reply Christine December 18, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Just served this as a delicious dinner for myself and two guests, and I was pleasantly surprised by the great flavor from the balsamic vinegar. I subbed zucchini for some veggies I didn’t have on hand (no peppers, celery, or corn) and barley for bulgur (TJ’s had a new 10-minute barley product in my store this week). We all enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to hoarding the leftovers for myself. Thank you!

  • Reply carrieolshan January 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    just made my first batch, added a bay leaf and a bunch of kale – looks amazing, can’t wait to add hot sauce dig in! thanks for sharing

  • Reply Jaime Weisberg February 11, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Great recipe! And it is forgiving. I omitted the corn, peppers, kidney beans, celery, jalapenos and added roasted butternut squash. Will probably use the peppers next time. I did rinse the beans, so I added a little extra water. Didn’t need extra salt, though. Thanks!

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