Vegetarian Bean Chili From Scratch

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

Have you ever looked up close at a bean, in its uncooked form?

Beans are pure beauty. They’re definitely one of my favorite single ingredient items to photograph, and while their cooked appearance isn’t quite as pretty, it’s hard to deny that a big bowl of chili in the wintertime is a beautiful thing, too.

Dried Beans

This particular chili recipe is destined for a hungry crowd. I whipped this up last weekend before a cookie-making session with some friends. The intention was to void off an overloaded sugar consumption in exchange for sustenance instead. (It worked. Sort of.)

If you’re not trying to feed a large crowd, simply share some of the extra with your freezer. The chili will hold up well, and will be the perfect pal to call upon the next time you’ve got corn bread coming to visit.

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

When it comes to this recipe, and why it’s worth making in a jumbo-sized cauldron so you can feed your whole village (or freezer, or entourage of friends), the secret’s in the dried beans.  Yep – those beautiful guys I mentioned earlier.

Starting from scratch creates a flavor level you just can’t replicate with canned beans. If you have a pressure cooker, it won’t take much time at all, either. This isn’t some chili-on-the-stove-all-day kind of recipe. My stomach rarely has time for that.

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

This has plenty of spice, too. In fact, feel free to slightly cut back on the cayenne, if spicy isn’t your thing. It’s not overbearing here, but you will notice a slight kick. Most notable, though, is the chili powder. Yet, even with all that chili powder, the taste of those dried-turned-extra-soft beans shines through. It’s a beautiful thing. Kind of like that beam of sun catching my colander down below.

Dried Beans


Top with all of your favorites – avocado, cilantro, maybe even a dollop of salsa and yogurt or cheese. And serve alongside either that corn bread I mentioned before, or a bowl of brown rice with some tortilla chips on the side. That’s a kind of hearty meal that’ll make winter feel alright. And your friends warm and content.

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

Yield: About 10 servings


  • Beans: 3/4 cup dried pinto beans
  • 3/4 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup dried northern beans
  • 1/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • Other ingredients: 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 lg. garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 med. onions, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cups winter squash, chopped
  • 8 oz pkg. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
  • 21/2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 scant tsp. cayenne
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1-2 cups reserved bean liquid from cooking beans
  • -1 bunch of cilantro, to top
  • -1 avocado, diced and seasoned with salt
  • -Yogurt / sour cream / salsa, optional


  1. For the beans: Place beans in a large pot with water to cover at least one inch above beans. Soak overnight. The next morning drain and rinse beans in a colander.
  2. Put beans in pressure cooker and use at least 2 cups of water for each cup of beans (about 5 cups for this recipe). Secure lid on pressure cooker according to manufacturer's instructions. Turn stove onto high heat and allow the pressure gauge on top of the lid of the pressure cooker to rise up until you see the second ring. Then turn heat to low and cook beans 25 minutes.
  3. The pressure gauge on top of the lid may move a little from side to side for steam to escape or it may be relatively still. If it moves faster, it will take less time to cook the beans since the pressure in the cooker will be higher, so cooking time may depend on your pressure cooker. However, don't stress! It needn't be exact.
  4. Once beans are cooked: In a large pot, heat oil over medium high. Add garlic, onion, and celery and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in winter squash and mushrooms, and season pan with salt. Cook for 5 minutes, and then add spices and tomatoes. Continue to cook until squash is near tender, about 10-15 min., adding reserved bean liquid, as needed. Adjust salt, to taste.
  5. Add cooked beans to the pot, and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes, until squash is completely tender, and flavors have melded. Remove from heat, and serve with avocado, cilantro, and any additional toppings of your desire.


You'll need to plan ahead to soak the beans overnight. However, from there, this recipe comes together rather quickly. Feel free to play with different varieties of beans. Serving suggestion: place over brown rice or alongside cornbread.

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