When my family visits from Michigan, our family gathers for a BBQ at my house. Although the whole gang is not vegan, my classic vegan chili recipe is always a hit with everyone. Despite loving my Crockpot Butternut Squash Pinto Bean Chili, Crockpot Three-Bean Mega Veggie Chili, and Vegan White Bean Chili, classic vegan chili is just damn good. And who doesn't appreciate a classic?
In order to fool the crew, for this classic vegan chili recipe, I use Bocca's original crumbles, as my meat. But, being sneaky, I add a bunch of veggies diced up small, so even the little ones don't know.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT BEANS TO USE FOR MY CLASSIC VEGAN CHILI RECIPE?
Traditionally, classic chili recipes are made with dark red kidney beans. However, there are so many beans to choose from, with a variety of textures and tastes, that choosing beans is just personal.
First, I prefer canned beans for chili. Obviously, dried beans are less expensive, but canned beans simple make better chili. Then, there is the question of which type of beans to choose when making chili.
My personal favorite chili beans, for instance, are pinto beans. Authentic to Mexican food, pinto beans are a hearty sturdy, dense bean. Pinto beans are creamy and soft with a nutty, earthy flavor. And, in my opinion, pinto beans absorb the flavors of the spices and seasonings of the classic vegan chili
Black beans, on the other hand, have a more robust, heartier texture and a dense, rich flavor. They could be described as almost lightly crunchy or grainy in texture.
Another popular bean used in classic chili recipes is red kidney beans. Kidney beans are a large, kidney-shaped bean with colored skin and a firm, white interior. Dark red kidney beans and light red kidney beans, while slightly different in color, are extremely similar in flavor, texture and nutritional value.
Yet Great Northern Beans and Cannellini beans are also popular in chili recipes. Great Northern beans, for example, are known for their mild, nutty flavor and firm flesh. Great in soups and stews.
Cannellini beans, on the other hand, shaped like a kidney, and are often referred to as White Kidney Beans. Meatier Great Northern beans, they have a nutty, earthy flavor and tender flesh. They retain their shape and texture well, so they’re perfect to use in chili such as my Vegan White Bean Chili recipe.
THE SECRET INGREDIENTS TO A PERFECT CLASSIC VEGAN CHILI RECIPE
Using your own concoction of spices, for instance, is always the game-changer with chili. Of course, if I am in a hurry, I opt for a pre-made chili seasoning packet, but if you have time, the combination of spices and flavors is what makes a great classic vegan chili recipe.
Also, stealing one of my husband's IPA beer bottles is also a chili MUST! Because we are from Michigan, and entertaining people from Michigan, his favorite Bell's Two Hearted Beer was loaded up in the refrigerator for our guests.
So, why not add a little IPA love to the chili? This addition to the chili pot, although odd, makes for ad added flavor that is indescribable. The hop bitterness actually enhances the flavors of the peppers in the chili, while giving the chili a deep flavor.
If you are worried about the alcohol, it cooks off, so the little ones won't get drunk on your chili.
Next, the peppers chosen for this classic vegan chili recipe are a little different. Red Jalapenos, for instance, have a slightly different taste than a green jalapeno pepper.
A green jalapeño has a fresh, crisp taste whereas a red jalapeño has a bit more sweetness to it. This can make a difference in recipes. In fact, Sriracha, one of my favorite hot sauces, uses red jalapeños as its base.
Anaheim Chili Peppers, for example, are crisp, green and very mild. Not only are they used to make canned green chilies, but added to chili, they radiate freshness.
ALL THE HIDDEN VEGETABLES IN THE CLASSIC VEGAN CHILI RECIPE
When I make class vegan chili, I still have to add all the veggies, even if you don't see them. I'm a vegan after all. For that reason, I diced every vegetable in the chili recipe small. As a result, everyone thinks they are eating a thick, meaty chili when in reality, they are eating a rainbow of veggies. For this class vegan chili recipe, I used zucchini, carrots, onions, sweet potato, celery, peppers, and tomatoes.
In order to reduce prep time, and get it all done quickly, I use my favorite vegetable chopper that makes every vegetable the same tiny size.
THE VEGAN MEAT OPTION...EITHER WAY, YOU WILL LOVE THIS CLASSIC VEGAN CHILI
Since I was entertaining both vegan and non-vegan family, I chose to add Bocca Original Crumbles to my chili. This, although an option, sometimes convinces those vegan haters to join us plant-eaters. At my house, for example, the carnivores had no idea my chili was vegan or that it was loaded with vegetables.
As someone who is not a big fan of alternative meat, I like Bocca Original Crumbles better than other alternative meat crumbles. Bocca, for example, is completely fat-free, and it contains no oils. But, Bocca is a soy product, so if you are sensitive to soy, avoid these crumbles and choose another option.
If you are interested in giving Bocca Crumbles a try, I buy them at Whole Foods or Sprouts market. From time to time, I also can find them at Kroger or Frys. Gardein, also a plant-based alternative meat company, carries a brand that is similar.
THE CLASSIC VEGAN CHILI RECIPE CROCKPOT VERSION VS. THE STOVETOP VERSION
Apparently, I am an old fashioned girl who loves my crockpot. In fact, I use it all the time! And the reason I love it is that I literally throw everything in the crockpot and 4-6 hours later, dinner is served. However easy that Instant Pot is, I have yet to embrace it. Don't lose faith in me though; I own an Instant Pot. Simply put, I can't get the timing right, and I am a control freak 🙂 I like everything to be done at the same time.
That being said, I was a former air-frier hater, and now I love it. So, don't count me out on the Instant Pot thing quite yet.
As far as the crockpot version of classic vegan chili vs. the stovetop version, it tastes the same either way you make it. Of course, the crockpot version is easier because you throw everything in and walk away. For the stovetop version, I saute the veggies, brown the Bocca Crumbles, and then add everything and let it simmer.
Because I was having a large group and I wanted to focus on the appetizers and another part of the main meal, I used the crockpot and walked away. You get to choose!
And if you make it in the Instant Pot, and it's fabulous, do share on our Facebook page Vegan & Plant-Based Recipe Sharing!
WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH YOUR VEGAN CLASSIC CHILI?
Since I hosted a large group of people, for example, I served my Baked Tater Tots and my Vegan Oil-Free Cornbread Recipe. I made two large batches of each, and I made a giant salad as well. Another idea for a great side dish with chili is Chili and Lime Roasted Red Potatoes!
If you love chili, or you just want a quick and easy crockpot recipe, try these chili recipes:
- Vegan White Bean Chili
- Crockpot Butternut Squash Pinto Bean Chili
- Crockpot Three-Bean Mega Veggie Chili
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Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂