Homegrown Vegetarian Chili

5 from 4 votes

Chili wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when Andrew asked me to participate in October Unprocessed. But as I pondered my thrillingly large pile of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, jalapeños, poblanos, bell peppers, garlic and cilantro, all from my upstate New York garden, the idea of a homegrown chili was born.


When the mailman surprised me with my latest Rancho Gordo order the very same day, the chili decision was made for me (or at least it felt that way). The maroon and ivory speckled Good Mother Stallard beans were simply calling out.

I must confess, this is the first time I’ve made chili without opening a single can. I usually reach for canned tomatoes, tomato paste – and (gasp!) canned beans if I’m in a major hurry. I can’t tell you how good it feels, and tastes, to make an utterly unprocessed version. If I’d thought of it, I would have also added a foraged ingredient: epazote. The stuff grows all over the place on the sidewalks of Brooklyn – but then again, you never know if a dog has peed on it!

It was a bit hard to use my über-ripe heirloom tomatoes for chili instead of a salad, but I have to say, they gave this chili a lightness and sweetness that really set it apart from run-of-the-mill chili. And of course, using dried heirloom beans rather than canned also made for a more flavorful chili that canned beans could never begin to match. While I used Good Mother Stallard beans, Rio Zape beans would also be excellent choices, as would regular old pintos.

When using fresh tomatoes in a chili, it’s important to keep the spicing subtle. I usually go for deep, dark intense chilis that call for toasted ancho chiles, chocolate, beer, coffee, etc. But here, I held back, adding only some mild New Mexico chile powder, cumin and Mexican oregano. That allowed the tomato and bean flavors to really shine.

So if you live in a part of the country where you can still get good fresh tomatoes in early October, get some and make this chili while the gettin’s good.

5 from 4 votes

Homegrown Vegetarian Chili

By: Cathy Elton
If you use homegrown or fresh ingredients in this chili there is no way you could go wrong!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 1/2 cups dried Good Mother Stallard beans, or other good chili beans, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups roughly chopped super-ripe tomatoes, cores removed
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 2 medium poblano peppers, chopped
  • 1 large red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons New Mexico Red Chile Powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup, only if your tomatoes aren't super sweet
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


  • Drain the soaked beans, and place them in a large saucepan with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about an hour. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
  • Place the tomatoes in a food processor and process until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the garlic, onions and all peppers. Sauté for 7-8 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to brown nicely. Reduce the heat, add the chile powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for two minutes.
  • Add the pureed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add the cooked beans along with 1 cup of bean cooking liquid and simmer 20 minutes longer, partially covered. Add more bean cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too thick. Taste midway through the cooking time and add sweetener the flavor is too tart. When the chili is done, stir in cilantro and serve.


Calories: 248kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 664mg, Potassium: 1003mg, Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 12g, Vitamin A: 4105IU, Vitamin C: 133.7mg, Calcium: 95mg, Iron: 4.6mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About the Author

By day, Cathy Elton is a busy advertising copywriter. By night (and weekend), she is an even busier food blogger. What Would Cathy Eat? focuses exclusively on heart-healthy vegetarian recipes. Cathy found her way to heart-healthy eating the hard way, after having a severely blocked artery at the tender age of 44.  Her goal is to help people eat well while still enjoying adventurous and satisfying food.  She is proving that heart-healthy doesn’t have to mean boring.

You can also find Cathy on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 24, 2017 6:59 pm

Trying this tonight…not vegetarian by choice, but sometimes the budget means meatless meals…and I never have canned beans on hand, just dry ones…so finding this recipe is fantastic!!

February 17, 2014 3:35 pm

5 stars
This was really great!! I had bought some tomatoes with the idea that I’d make a really fresh chili. This was exactly perfect! I did not have any jalepeno peppers or the other kind, but otherwise I followed every ingredient, only change was using 1/4 of the amt of chili powder as we’re not huge fans of very spicy. I did choose to use 2tbsp of real maple syrup and it was the perfect addition. Best veggie chili I’ve ever made.

November 28, 2012 3:25 am

This sounds beautiful. I use to eat veggie chili as a child. I haven’t had it in years though since I think the canned chili isn’t as nice, so it will be exciting to bring back some good old tasty memories!