A bowl of the best vegetarian chili

The Best Vegetarian Chili: A Vanlife Recipe

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Easy and Delicious Vegetarian Chili from our Vanlife Cookbook

A one-pot wonder to warm a winter’s night in four super-simple steps. Our best vegetarian chili recipe is a van favorite because it is easy, delicious, and healthy. Better still, it’s made out of things we almost always have on hand, so we don’t have to go to the market!

This warming stew is best enjoyed on a cold night around a campfire or hunkered down in the van!

Campfire van life meals

Vegetarian chili is also a great way to get rid of those vegetables that are about to go bad. You can use pretty much anything you have on hand to go into this rich, spicy chili. We’ve listed vegetables that we commonly use, but really you can substitute in or out anything you like or have handy.

Vegetarian chili is the perfect vanlife recipe because it’s so easy. It uses one pot for simple clean up. None of the ingredients need to be refrigerated, and it’s simple to store and reheat later. Because of this, it has been a consistent staple on the road.

We have tried many different recipes, tips, and tricks. What we learned is that the simplest is best! This is our easiest and best vegetarian chili recipe ever.

How to Make the Best Vegetarian Chili


Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced 
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 chilies finely sliced
  • 1 cilantro bunch stalks diced
  • 1 cilantro bunch leaves ripped
  • 2 cans of beans (we usually use kidney bean, pinto beans or black beans but it really doesn’t matter!) OR a cup of dried beans rapidly boiled for 5 minutes and then soaked for one hour 
  • 2 400 g can of tomatoes OR 8 – 10 fresh tomatoes
  • 4 cups of vegetables (eg. sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, celery,  carrot, bell peppers etc.)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

To serve

  • 1 avocado mashed
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • Rice, corn chips, flatbread, or toast
Kelli cutting vegetables for the best vegetarian chili
Preppin’ those veggies


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the 1 onion for 2-3 minutes before adding the 2 cloves of garlic and 2 chilies for another 2 minutes.
  2. Next add diced coriander stalks, spices (1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and 1 tsp cinnamon), and the 4 cups of veggies, stirring to coat everything in the spices for 1- 2 minutes.
  3. Then, add the 2 cans (or 8 – 10 fresh) of tomatoes and the 2 cans of beans with water from the cans or a cup of the water that the dried beans were soaked in. Bring to a boil and then cook over low heat for 40 – 60 minutes.
  4. Finally, take off the heat and stir in 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar (lemon or lime work too) and half of the torn cilantro leaves.

Before serving, garnish with the remaining cilantro, avocado, and yogurt.

Sometimes we serve it over rice, especially if we are trying to stretch this meal over a couple of days. But it is perfectly filling and delicious just by itself or with some toast or corn chips on the side.

There you have it, warm spicy chili in four simple steps! Let us know if you enjoyed this recipe in the comments below or if there is something you would do differently!

Looking for more articles about vanlife cooking? Check out these other great van life recipes!

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