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Tempeh Vegetarian Chili

This vegetarian chili will warm your bones with delicious plant-based protein this winter (and in under 30 minutes!) With tempeh, veggies, beans, and a blend of spices, this is a simple chili that you would never believe is meatless.

Vegan tempeh chili in white bowls on a red background

Have you ever had one of those foods that was never in your “culinary vocabulary”, so to speak, and then one day you discover it and your whole world changes? Like I remember back when I only knew ginger in the context of gingerbread. Then one day I learned about the so-good, hands-down magical ability of ginger to transform stir fries, and proceeded to cook ginger into every thing I ate until a golden ginger aura formed around me.

Well that same thing just happened with tempeh. Like just happened, guys. On our practice round of the 21 Day Vegetarian Reset, the tulip-man got pretty sick of tofu. Granted, he went from 0 to 100 t.m.p.h (tofu miles per hour) faster than you can say “Day 1 of the 21 Day Reset”, but I must admit, the original plan had a lot of tofu. So I changed it up a bit. I set out on a great exploration in search of plant-based proteins, and I found the answer in tempeh!

Grated tempeh in a bowl on a red background

Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. But these soybeans are whole (meaning tempeh is higher in protein, fiber, and nutrients) and fermented (giving it a really earthy, wholesome flavor). And if you grate it up and cook it up with beans, fresh veggies, and spices, you get a damn good, can’t-believe-it’s-vegan tempeh chili!

How do you make vegetarian chili?

Here’s how you make this ridiculously easy plant-based chili recipe:

  1. Cook tempeh in a pot until browned
  2. Add onion, garlic, and veggies
  3. Add spices, beans, and tomato
  4. Cook until warm
  5. Devour

Are you ready to meet the vegetarian chili that’s about to warm up your whole winter?

Vegan tempeh chili in a pot on a red background

Variations on this vegetarian chili

  • Tofu: You can use a package of crumbled tofu in place of the tempeh.
  • Tex-Mex: You can make this a Tex-Mex inspired chili by replacing the seasonings with a packet of taco seasoning (similar to what Taco Soup).
  • Add Veggies: You can spruce this vegetarian chili up by adding vegetables (we sometimes add chunks of butternut, pumpkin, or sweet potato!)
  • Meal Prep It: Cook up a bunch of broccoli and grains and portion this tempeh chili out for the week into tasty chili meal prep.
Vegan tempeh chili in a pot on a red background

P.S. If you love this tempeh chili you’re going to want to try this Taco Soup or this Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili!

Vegan tempeh chili in white bowls on a red background

Tempeh Vegetarian Chili

This vegetarian chili will warm your bones with delicious plant-based protein this winter (and in under 30 minutes!)
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Soups
Cuisine: American
Keyword: tempeh chili, vegan chili, vegetarian chili
Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Occasion: Game Day
Time: 30 minutes or less, 45 minutes or less
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 522kcal
Author: Sarah Bond
4.58 from 7 votes


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 30 mL
  • 1 8-oz package tempeh 226 g, roughly grated
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce 177 mL
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans 425 g, drained
  • 1 15-oz can black beans 425 g, drained
  • 1 cup water 240 mL
  • 1 tsp each cumin and salt
  • 1/4 tsp each chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes
  • To serve: chopped green onions, plain Greek yogurt


  • Brown Tempeh: Heat oil over medium/high heat in a large pot. Add tempeh and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. It’s okay if some of it sticks to the bottom of the pan. It will come off when you add the liquids.
  • Add Flavor Makers: Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic, continuing to cook until veggies are a bit soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Cook Everything: Add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium, and cook until warm and the flavors have blended, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Top with green onions and serve.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 22g | Sodium: 1900mg | Fiber: 17g
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Vegetarian Chili FAQs

Can you make vegetarian chili in a slow cooker? Yes! To make this tempeh chili in a slow cooker, you’ll still need to brown the tempeh and saute the onion, celery, pepper, and garlic until soft. Then simply transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (high for 3 to 4).

How long does vegetarian chili last? Store this chili in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.

Can you freeze vegetarian chili? This tempeh chili can be frozen! Freeze in portion-sized freezer-safe baggies or containers. When ready to eat, let thaw in the fridge overnight, then heat in the microwave or on the stove.

Hi, I’m Sarah!

Showing you how to make easy vegetarian recipes, one ingredient at a time.  Read more

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Comments (14)

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Recipe Rating

  1. Libby says:

    I made this tonight for me and my boyfriend tonight and it was yummmmmmy!
    I think my bell pepper was too big and/or that I added jalapeΓ±o but I needed a little more than 3/4 cup of tomAto sauce. I also added more amounts of the spices πŸ™‚ so good. Thanks !!!

    1. Sarah says:

      So happy you liked it, Libby! It’s a pretty flexible recipe so you can adjust and add ingredients however you like πŸ™‚ I went a bit mellow with the spices because the first few trials were way way spicy, and I didn’t want flames coming out of your mouth. Glad you could adjust it to your liking!

  2. Mike S says:

    Tasty use of tempeh, but I feel the liquid needed is way off. I think most people who try this would agree that another 3/4-1 cup liquid is needed for chili consistency. I suggest veggie broth and omitting the salt unless your booth is sodium-free.

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Mike! πŸ™‚

  3. Lieke says:

    I really liked this! I doubled the spices as well and it was really tasty πŸ™‚ Thanks for the recipe

    1. Sarah says:

      So happy to hear, Lieke! πŸ˜€

  4. Justin says:

    I used this as a base recipe then added mushrooms , diced tomatoes, green chiles, and black beans. I didn’t drain my beans or tomatoes so more water wasn’t needed. With recipes like this I am able to eat a lot cleaner bc my old recipe had bacon and ground meat…. I’m on to your tacos next that kiwi salsa looks amazing!5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      Oh those additions sound awesome, Justin! I think you’ll love the tacos, they’re my new favorite way to do tacos. Tempeh is just SO tasty as a ground “meat”.

  5. Amy says:

    Quick and hearty meal! Can be adjusted to individual tastes easily. My first use of tempeh was a success:) thank you Sarah!5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      Happy you liked it, Amy! πŸ˜€

  6. Wayne Wilson says:

    To be fair I won’t leave a review yet. I had to improvise by using avacado oil to start and the tempeh I used was 3 grain tempeh. When I was using the grater (largest round holes) it just crumbled and it browned too quickly (had the burner between medium and high) and charred the bottom of my pot. After I added the veggies I quickly realized I had to abort mission to avoid wasting everything else. I want to get some more tempeh and try again. Any easy suggestions? I’m pretty inexperienced in the kitchen…..

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Wayne! Everyone’s stove can run a little differently, so I’d suggest lowering your heat to medium to prevent it all from burning. As far as the tempeh charring the bottom of the pot, when you add in the wet canned ingredients it should come up! This happens with me too and is just a result of not using a nonstick pan πŸ˜€ Definitely let me know if you have any questions on the second time around!

  7. Jim says:

    awesome Chile! GTed Tempah … a new spin on my favorite protein!5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      So happy to hear it, Jim! πŸ˜€