Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian chili with sour cream and green onions

We fell off the Sunday Soup Night bandwagon for a bit what with being out of town and the holidays falling on Sundays, but we’re back on it and are settling in for a long winter.

For the January installment of the Sunday Soup Night series, I’m sharing a recipe for a vegetarian chili in the slow cooker. I love it because it’s easy, healthy, hearty, loaded with complex flavors, and one of my all-time favorite things is to come home on a cold day to a hot meal that’s all ready for me to eat (thanks, slow cooker!).

Slow cooker vegetarian chili being ladled out

This chili is chock-full of beans (3 different kinds) and vegetables, making it super hearty! You may not even notice there’s no meat in it. It gets its spice from all the regular chili seasonings, as well as poblano peppers. And, it has some of my favorite chili components – cocoa powder, and beer. If you’ve never tried these things in your chili, try them ASAP! They take the flavors to a whole new level. Your chili will turn out differently depending on the type of beer and vegetables you use. Thanks to these small variations, it’s easy to make this chili regularly and not get tired of it!

A bowl of vegetarian chili

A few words about the slow cooker. I used to be under the impression that making things in the slow cooker was the easiest, quickest way to make a meal. Either I’m doing it wrong, or that’s just not the case. Here’s something that’s probably obvious that took me years to realize: The same amount of prep work goes into making a slow cooker meal as it does a regular old stovetop meal, it’s just a question of whether you want to do that prep work say… 8 hours before you’d like to eat, or 1 hour before. The drawback of the slow cooker is that it requires a good amount of advanced planning and organization. The benefit is having a hot meal waiting for you at the end of a long day. Once I recognized this about slow cooker meals, I began to appreciate them much more. When I can get organized enough to start a meal in the morning, I do love it come dinner time!

Measuring dried beansPouring beer into onion/poblano/spice mixtureVegetarian chili before cooking in slow cookerCooked chili in the slow cooker


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Hearty, delicious chili that's easy, healthy, flavorful, and - best of all - waiting for you to come home to eat at the end of a long day.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, chopped small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer (See Note)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can fire roasted crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups diced vegetables (See Note)
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried kidney beans
  • ½ cup dried pinto beans
  • 4 cups water

For serving: Sour cream, sliced jalapenos, red onion, green onion, tortilla chips, lime wedges, cilantro, cheddar cheese, avocado


  1. Pick through and rinse beans.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the poblano peppers and cook 3 minutes more. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa powder, and salt to the skillet and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the beer and stir to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a simmer, increasing heat if needed, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer contents of skillet to slow cooker.
  3. Add the canned tomato, diced vegetables, dried beans, and water to the slow cooker. Secure lid and cook on HIGH for 7 hours. Serve with your favorite chili toppings.

  • Diced vegetables – I typically use carrots and celery in this, but sweet potato, bell pepper, zucchini, corn – or any combination of these – would also be delicious! If you want your vegetables to be a bit firmer, wait until the final 2 hours of cooking to add them to the slow cooker.
  • Beer – I typically use Mexican beer in this, which does alter the chili’s flavor but doesn’t quite have that distinctive cooked-in-beer taste. I’m planning to try a stout in this next, which I think will give the final product a more beer-y flavor. Lagers, ales, and stouts would all be worth experimenting with in this recipe. If you’re worried about alcohol content, feel free to cook the beer down almost all the way in the second step, or omit it altogether.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Vegetarian chili with sour cream and green onions


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