overhead view of vegan chili

Why I developed this Vegan Chili for you:

  1. Make your own Chili Powder
  2. Start the soup with a spicy tomato paste
  3. Char the tomatoes and fresh chiles
pile of homemade chili powder in a bowl, from above, with sun shining
homemade chili powder


If you do not make the homemade powder, you will need store-bought chili powder (consider chipotle powder if you like it hot), some ground cumin, and Mexican oregano (regular/Mediterranean oregano can be used as well).

overhead view of homemade chili paste
Homemade Tomato Chili Paste
  1. Make your own Chili Powder
  2. Start the soup with a spicy tomato paste
  3. Char the tomatoes and fresh chiles
three bowls of vegan chili  showing how you can add tofu or even turkey
left to right: just beans, smoked/braised tofu added, sauteed ground turkey added
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overhead view of vegan chili

Vegan Chili with Charred Veggies

AuthorKathy Marshall
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time20 minutes
Three pro tips and an unexpected ingredient give this chili-inspired vegetable-based soup next-level flavor. "Choose your own adventure" protein add-ins make it versatile.
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 grill, or sheet pan if broil/roast instead of grill
  • 1 3 quart soup pot, or dutch oven
  • 1 small pan, to fry chili paste
  • 1 blender, to blend soup ingredients


  • 1-3 tsp homemade chili powder (or store bought)
  • 1/4 cup homemade tomato chile paste
  • 2-4 tbsp tomato paste (store-bought)
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes unsalted
  • 4-6 ea fresh chili peppers (you choose the heat level)
  • 2-3 boxes cherry tomatoes (can include the small on-the-vine type)
  • 1 15 oz can chili beans
  • 1 ea medium yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 oz 70% dark chocolate (shhh, this is the secret ingredient!)


Prep the ingredients
  • First up, make that homemade chili powder, or if using storebought, see note below.
  • Make the tomato chili paste: To a small stainless or non-stick sauce or fry pan add a spoonful of tomato paste, 2-3 Tbsp of the crushed tomatoes, and about 1 tsp. of the spicy chili powder you made and stir on medium-low heat. Taste the chili blend before you add it to the pan, with the tip of your finger and if your mouth really heats up for a bit, then you have yourself some spicy chili powder, and 1 tsp to start is good.
  • Stir and cook this tomato chile paste over low heat for a few minutes, allowing the tomato paste to carmelize, the spices to bloom, and the crushed tomatoes to cook off some of their liquid. Taste it and adjust the flavor by adding bits of the 3 ingredients. I know this sounds vague, but that's the idea, that you get comfortable tasting and adjusting for the right flavor versus a one-size-fits-all approach to cooking.
  • Prep the tomatoes and fresh chiles. Cut off the stems and deseed the chile peppers.
  • Toss the prepped veggies with some olive oil and liberally sprinkle with cumin, and Mexican oregano. Char the veggies by grilling on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side. Once they are all bubbly and charred, remove them to cool, then casually chop them (see upper right photo of them, added to pot).
Finish the soup
  • To a pot (I used a 3.5 qt Dutch oven, but anything works) add a drizzle of olive oil, and saute the onion, chopped, with a tablespoon of cumin seeds over medium heat. Let the seeds get toasty and the onion develops some color for about 5-8 min.
  • To a blender or food processor add the sauteed onion/cumin, the chopped, charred veggies, and the rest of the can of tomatoes and blend until nice and smooth.
  • Return the pureed ingredients to the pan, and add the can of beans, including the liquid, which adds flavor and texture. Time to add the secret ingredient, chocolate, and stir it into the soup to melt, on medium-low heat.
  • Finally, add half of the homemade chili paste and taste the soup. Add however much creates the flavor and level of heat you like. I used a large fresh jalapeno and a serrano for the soup and dried arbol chiles in my chili powder, which are all quite hot, and added all of my chili paste, for a medium to medium-high heat level and I absolutely love it, but you'd want to pare back the amount of paste you use depending on the chiles you use, both dried and fresh. In any event, you now have a velvety, silk, smoky tomato chili soup.
Optional Protein Add-ins: either of the below choices will make the chili heartier, more filling
  • Smoked Tofu crumbled: this is sold in the same area as regular tofu. 2. Ground Turkey, crumbled and sauteed
  • Or add ground turkey, sauteed until you’ve crumbled the meat and it has browned.
  • Try pickled or candied jalapenos, scallions, lime zest, cumin seeds, toasted pepitas, and crushed blue corn chips (great color contrast for presentation- shown at the top of this post in the center).


Note on Sodium: nutrition info does not account for “no salt added” tomatoes that I use.
Chili Powder: replace 1-3 tsp of homemade chili powder with 1-2 tsp of chili powder and 1-2 tsp cumin powder, to taste.
Protein add-ins: Enjoy this vegan/vegetarian soup with or without the extra protein. I suggest adding any extra proteins in at the time of serving so you have options.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 206kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 0.2mg | Sodium: 1111mg | Potassium: 1117mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 98mg | Iron: 6mg | Magnesium: 101mg
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