Best Vegan Chili

Best Damn Vegan Chili

This best vegan chili recipe has a balanced blend of spices, a just-right beans-to-chili ratio, and a rich, hearty texture--just like the traditional 'meaty' chili many of us grew up eating.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8
Calories 161kcal
Author Elizabeth Shah


  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms cleaned and finely diced (see notes)
  • 1/2 pound shitake mushrooms cleaned and finely diced (see notes)
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (for heat)
  • 1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, chopped, with liquid reserved (see notes)
  • 1 15 ounce can pinto beans drained and rinsed (or 2 cups of cooked beans)
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed (or 2 cups of cooked beans)
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee or espresso (brewed coffee, NOT coffee grounds. The secret ingredient!)
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • Sea salt to taste


  • Brush the mushrooms clean with a dry towel. Place mushrooms in a food processor in batches, about 1/4 at a time, and pulse several times to grind. You want them finely diced, but not mushy. (See notes.)
  • Heat a tablespoon of water in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add water a little at a time if things begin to stick.
  • Add the mushrooms and saute until well browned and the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium, add the cumin, chili powder, fennel, cayenne pepper and cocoa powder. Stir, and cook 3 minutes, adding water 1-2 tablespoons at a time if things begin to stick.
  • Deglaze (loosen and scrape up any brown bits) with the coffee. Add the smashed tomatoes and their liquid, beans, and water and simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour.


  • Shitake mushrooms can be expensive, but add a rich, earthy flavor. It's fine to use a smaller amount shitakes or substitute them completely with cremini or white button mushrooms. Just make sure you have about 1 1/2 pounds total.
  • Shitake mushrooms have a tough section on the end of their stem. I snip those off with kitchen shears.
  • If some large pieces of mushrooms remain, don't keep pulsing. You want them finely ground but not mushy. Remove any large pieces and set them aside. Transfer the ground mushrooms from the food processor to a bowl. Then, add any large pieces back to the processor with the next batch and repeat until all of the mushrooms are finely ground.
  • Chopping whole tomatoes can make a mess! To avoid this, ¬†empty the whole can into a large bowl and break them up them with a potato masher, or place them in the food processor and process on low for about 15 seconds. I prefer to use whole tomatoes, as canned diced tomatoes contain a chemical (to keep them from dissolving), which alters the flavor. Also, I find there's no match for the flavor of San Marzanos.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 544mg | Potassium: 948mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 480IU | Vitamin C: 13.4mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 4.2mg