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The Heartiest Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

18 months and 17 days. That’s how long it took before we got a proper chili recipe on this blog. This is such a simple, classic, delicious, hearty dish that it really is a disservice to you all that I haven’t posted one until now. Nevertheless, the recipe we have here was worth the wait. I promise.

There are a few things that make this chili really different and amazing. First, it calls for chopped walnuts. That might sound strange at first, but these little squiggly bits soften in the stew and create an amazing ‘ground meat’ like texture. We’re also adding a ton of fresh veggies and the perfect spice mix. And as the title says, this version is gently cooked to perfection in your trusty slow cooker.

In fact, this was the first recipe that really made me a believer in the power of the slow cooker. They have always seemed kind of antiquated and unnecessary when you could just crank up the heat on a burner for an hour or two and be done with it (especially considering that I’m not exactly breaking down tough animal proteins or anything like that). But this recipe changed my perspective. After about 4 hours, I gave it a taste and it was “meh” – cooked thoroughly but not super flavorful or interesting. Then everything changed in those last 2 hours. It became much thicker like a stew, the flavors changed, and it started screaming CHILI all over my tastebuds. Slow cookers, people… they’re not so bad.



Makes 4-6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 cup diced walnuts
  • 28 oz can pinto beans
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1+ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • Avocado for garnish


Okay, this seems like an overwhelming number of ingredients – especially for the *One* Ingredient Chef 🙂 – but it’s actually really simple. All we have to do is sauté the veggies quickly, then dump everything in a slow cooker for about 6-7 hours and it’s done.

Step One

Step one of any delicious chili is to spice the vegetables first. Just like with a curry, it’s essential that you sauté the veggies and thoroughly spice them first in order to develop maximum flavor. So first, prep all the vegetables – dice the onion (but save a small piece for garnish), mince the garlic, chop the bell pepper, slice the carrots, slice the zucchini, and chop the walnuts into fairly small pieces.

Step Two

Then, heat a large skillet with a drizzle of vegetable oil and add everything from step one into the pan and allow it to cook 4-5 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add half of the chili powder (1 tablespoon), a teaspoon each of cinnamon and cumin, and a few pinches of salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until you have something that looks and smells delicious (and would make great veggie taco filling on its own):


Step Three

Finally, add this into your slow cooker along with all the other ingredients – diced tomatoes, pinto beans, the remainder of the chili powder, dried basil and oregano, cocoa powder, and a bit more salt. Note: Don’t drain the tomatoes or pinto beans – they will add just the right amount of liquid to this chili.

Step Four

Set your slow cooker to low/medium, walk away, and let this cook for at least 6 hours. Before serving, give the soup a taste and feel free to adjust the seasoning: you can add a little more salt or spices to boost the flavor if needed.

Serving with a slice or two of avocado and just a taste of finely-diced raw onions is absolutely not optional. Trust me 😉



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    • Thanks for pointing that out , Cinde – I’ve made a note in step 3 to not drain the tomatoes or pinto beans, as they create just the right amount of broth in this soup.

  1. Welcome to team slow cooker Andrew! I use my often – it’s handy for making non-fat refried beans.

    This chili shall be made later this week at my house. I love the use of walnuts in the recipe! I’ve been pumping up my consumption of walnuts lately as they’re a great source of omega-3’s.

  2. You had me at slow cooker!

    I used to think it was just for mothbally grandmas, borscht, and yucky meat roasts. But there’s SO many possibilities for us plant-based people.

    Nothing is better than setting it (and forgetting it) before work and then coming home to a delicious aroma of ready-to-eat dinner. I’m TOTALLY trying this recipe this week!!

    Love the crock. Embrace the crock. 😉

  3. This one looks like a winner for sure and is now on my short list to try.

    Suggestion from the ever questing for ” lowest fat/calories alternatives for some of my friends (and me!)”–substitute mushrooms for the walnuts, esp slices of Porta Bella or shitake… very “meaty” as well as adding an extra dose of umami flavor.

    • Thanks, Geoffrey! I had thought about putting mushrooms in here, but I felt like I had enough veggies as it was, so I skipped them. But as a replacement for the walnuts? Absolutely!

  4. I love how you are now posting slow cooker recipes. I love to use mine. I will substitute the mushrooms for the walnuts since my hubby doesn’t like them. we love chili! thanks!

    • Yes, I really need to think up a few more slow cooker recipes, don’t I?! 🙂 I actually saw a recipe for a molten chocolate lava cake in a slow cooker and I’ve been dying to try that!

  5. I’m a slow cooker fan and cannot wait to try this recipe – looks so good! I need a little help as I am allergic to walnuts (gasp!). Do you have any recommendations for a substitute?

  6. Made this tonight. Uber uber uber delicious! A worthy replacement for the meat version. I liked how it had this “one ingredient chef” orange/green look in the beginning. The cinnamon + cocoa addition was super. I’ll make this again for sure. Thanks.

    • Yay!!! I’m thrilled that you liked it, Hens! 🙂 Thanks so much for reporting back.

      Hahaha, yes, I color-coordinate my recipes to match my website logo :p

  7. Love your step-by-step recipes and photos! You are gifted and a blessing. I don’t have a croc, but I do have a pressure cooker with a “keep warm” setting. Will this work for this recipe?

    • Aw, you’re too nice, Joy! Thank you!! Hmm, I guess that depends on how hot the keep warm setting is. So if it reaches a high enough temperature, go for it! Otherwise (I hate to say it after all this) but you could make this in a stockpot, just keep the heat over low for several hours and let it simmer.

  8. Please explain the purpose of the cocoa powder. …I can imagine a smokey type of spice added to chili…but not…chocolate. otherwise it sounds delish….and can’t wait to try it ! Love your website! Thank you!

    • I don’t think I can “explain” how the spices work together. Adding cocoa to chili is nothing I invented. The rich flavors of cocoa add tons of depth to the chili spices. Obviously, it doesn’t make the chili taste like chocolate 🙂

  9. HA! Obviously! It just sounded so odd to me ! Would have never have thought to add it….will be making it Monday….can’t wait….

  10. Very tasty and easy. I could smell the cinnamon as it cooked and worried the taste would come through, but it didn’t. My non-veg husband liked it even after I told him about the walnuts, cinnamon and cocoa powder. The only thing I didn’t care for was the zucchini–it seemed too soft after cooking that long. I think next time I will substitute mushrooms.

  11. Love your recipes Andrew but have a problem with any that contain chilli peppers or any other peppers for that matter as I am allergic to them. Have you any suggestions for alternatives or do I just miss them out?

    • Hi Gina, if you cannot have the bell pepper, that shouldn’t be a huge deal. Perhaps just add a little more zucchini + carrots or virtually any other vegetable to take its place (mushrooms, eggplant, etc. could work).

  12. I love homemade, comforting stews/chillis like this during the Fall and Wintertime! And this Chili looks super comforting! 🙂 Can’t wait to try, Andrew! Pinned!

    • Thanks, Ceara! I know, it’s still so hot here in California… I keep making things like chili hoping that it will encourage fall to come pay us a visit (hasn’t worked yet). I hope you love it! 🙂

  13. OH MY! I prepped the veggies on Saturday and threw everything in the crock Sunday morning. Quick, easy and delish. I’ve been making my own vegetarian chili with variations of Tofu and Morning Star Farms veggie crumbles for over 20 years. THIS has become my new favorite.

    I live in AZ, so I’m accustomed to a spicier chili. The only tweak I made to the recipe was to throw in 3 chopped Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Gave me the perfect amount of heat. The avocado and diced onions were a great addition.

    Thanks for this recipe, Andrew!! Love, love, love it. 🙂

    • A new favorite?! I’m so glad you liked it, Michele!

      And I love the chipotle idea. That sounds like an incredible addition!

      • With the cocoa powder, the Chipotle almost makes it taste like a mole sauce. And yes, the cocoa powder and cinnamon were a stroke of brilliance. What a great recipe!

  14. Hi Andrew,

    This chili recipe looks delicious! What can substitute for tomatoes if folks are allergic or intolerant to them?

    Many thanks for any suggestions you might offer!

    • Hi Cynthia, I’m really not sure about that… tomatoes are such an important part of chilis that it might be best to find a different recipe that’s specifically designed to be tomato free (like a white chili?).

  15. Thanks for your response Andrew. I’ll see what can be created with your wonderful vegetables, a white chili base and harmonizing seasonings!


  16. Thanks for this delicious recipe. It was easy to do, and the walnuts really made it special, with a delicious “bite” in every spoonful. I actually reduced the walnuts by half, and it was still fab.

  17. I’m on the”gout diet”which means no beans, so I left those out and used a big old patty pan squash from my garden instead and it turned out excellent. The flavor was so complex. I made it for a chili cook off at our church and was really surprised that the pot was almost empty by the end of the night.

  18. Hi Andrew!
    Just to report that my chili has been in the slow cooker for a bit over 5 hours now and I just tasted it to adjust the flavours, amazing!!!! Cannot wait to dig in with the corn bread that just came out of oven. Yum!

  19. London calling!!!!! Anytime you are more than welcome to our humble Greenwich home for a vegan feast!!!
    BTW, we are going to California in March next year and would be great to get recommendations on yum veggie places (from my past experience there I know there are tons, but I know the veggie scene is even bigger now).
    Oh! And for the corn bread, it was the first time trying this vegan recipe, also gluten free, and it turned out great, had it for breakie with some cashew cheese.

    • Aw, that’s so nice! 🙂 I’m actually thinking of visiting London sometime next year, mostly just because I’m a *huge* Chelsea fan and seeing them play at Stamford Bridge would be incredible.

      Yes, get in touch about California when you’re coming. I can give you lots of good vegan restaurant suggestions… but only if you do the same when I come to London! 🙂

      • We have got a deal!
        So, who would have thought you are a Chelsea fan?!?! My brother in law and 7 year old nephew are fanatics, my husband likes to honour his working class roots and supports West Ham and I, well… As a foreigner I just pretend I like West Ham to make husband happy, sadly enough they are rubbish! In the end of the day ny heart will always go with my local team from Rio de Janeiro.

  20. Yum! I made this last night and am eating it for lunch right now. Since I needed a quicker meal, I made it on the stove top. For my own taste, I just did half the chili powder and used black beans instead of pinto. Also put in a sweet potato (chopped small) instead of carrots, since that was on hand.

    Great mix of flavors! I’ve already recommended this recipe to a few friends!

    • I’m so glad to hear that, EmmaJ! 🙂 The addition of sweet potato sounds AMAZING here. I think I’ll try that next time I make this recipe.

  21. I am looking for any kind a recipe for a Vegetarian White Bean Chili with a clear like broth to it. I’m not sure if you would call it chili or soup. Can you help?

    • I can’t help you with that yet, but it sounds like fun… I’ll add it to the list and see what I can come up with! 🙂

  22. Can I ask why you would use canned beans in a slow cooker recipe? It doesn’t make sense to cook already cooked beans so long, when you could use soaked dried beans and cook them in any slow cooker recipe to absorb the flavours and not be overcooked. I never use canned beans in slow cooker recipes, it’s also more expensive than using bulk dried beans.

    • That’s a good question. I do make beans in a slow cooker as well (and even have a recipe for that), however they would take several extra hours in this recipe, and they would absorb much of the broth, so that the chili would then require extra water and the whole thing would be watered down. If you wanted to make slow-cooker beans, I’d suggest doing that first (at least getting them cooked halfway in water alone) before starting this recipe.

  23. I do have a white chili recipe from 1 of my cookbooks, but strangely book has temporarily gone missing. I’ll send that info back to you all when I get back from Vermont for holidays.

    Actually I’m also trying to perfect that actual recipe, since yrs ago I had a great white chili in restaurant on Cape Cod, restaurant since closed.

    Recipe I have now I’d like to up the heat. also it doesn’t include tomatoes, which I like that it does omit in a white rather than red chili.

  24. Ok, I found the book for white chili. New Vegetarian Cuisine is the recipe I’ve used many yrs, with tweaks. Actually planning to combine part of that recipe and one I have in Passionate Vegetarian cookbook. I’ll let you all know how that works out.

    These 2 recipes are vegetarian, but not slow cooker, though I’m sure you all would know how to convert them to that.

  25. This worked out great for me. I was working to clean out my fridge and cabinets of unused food so I had some modifications. (Celery for walnuts and I added a small can of corn and a cup or two of black beans.) Im learning to love beans and the great flavor of this chili made me forget I was eating them. In terms of spices I only added more salt and chili to taste. I was shocked at how simple and equally yummy this turned out be. Im transitioning from vegetarian to vegan and I didn’t miss the standard dairy toppings at all. Thank you!

  26. I feel like every one of your recipes that I’ve made is absolutely delicious! My chili is in the slow cooker now and I can’t wait to try it later today. I have never thought of using chopped walnuts in a recipe. It cooks up just like ground beef — perfect for tacos! Anyway, I’m making the chili for my parents to show them how delicious plant-based cooking can be and I’m sure they’ll be very impressed 🙂

    • Thank you, Janelle! I try to make sure my recipes turn out as good as possible for everyone who makes them, so I’m glad to hear that. It’s very cool that you’re making it for your parents – I’ve done the same thing over the years and slowly convinced them of how great plant-based diet can be 🙂

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