Award Winning Vegetarian Chili

Award Winning Vegetarian Chili

My Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili Recipe is so good you will never miss the meat!  This healthy Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili just happens to be vegan too and actually WON a chili cook-off against classic meat-filled chili and has become a tried and true family favorite.

Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Hi everyone!  This Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili recipe is the VERY first recipe I ever posted on Running in a Skirt and it is hands down my most famous, most loved family recipe.

Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili Recipe

I have made my Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili for years… ever since I WON a chili cook-off with it against some of my friends at the TV station I used to work at.  And all the other competitors were meat-based chili and I’ve got to say that I’m still pretty proud that I won.

The Hubs even says he prefers Award Winning Vegetarian Chili to regular chili!  Now if those two things aren’t a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.

On a side note, this chili can also easily be vegan.  The toppings shown here are dairy-based, but the entire recipe is vegan and dairy-free.

Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili Recipe-62-3

The Story Behind My Award Winning Vegetarian Chili…

So before we get to the details of the chili, let me take you back to the night I won that cook-off.

I only have a few, small and sad pictures because it was circa 2008… but hopefully, you will get the idea.

I was in my 20’s working at a local tv station and my friends and I often spent our time planning over the top parties and food competitions like rib contest and port cook-offs.


2008 Chili Cook-off 

I wasn’t planning on cooking for the contest because at that time cooking wasn’t my thing.  I found out there were about a half dozen chili entries, but none of them were vegetarian.  I asked the organizers about representation and food for the “meat-free” crowd.  Next thing you know my name is on the list to cook.

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.  My competition all had tried and true recipes that they had made for years.  I was fighting an uphill battle when all the other stews had beef, pork, or chicken in them.  I didn’t let scare me though and I dived into creating my own chili.  I then recruited my girlfriends to put together a GIANT batch for the cook-off that we made in a turkey fryer size pot.


Since I knew I was fighting an uphill battle with vegetarian chili, I decided I needed a little publicity.  I launched a full-fledged campaign for my chili with stickers and flyers.


I even covered the competition, Eric, with my propaganda.

Even though I focused a bunch of time on my gimmicks, the actual chili I made turned out really, really good.  I served bowl and after bowl of it.  It was a crowd hit and at the end of the night, I won!

There was no prize; just bragging rights.  But that was more than enough to start my cooking career.

Over the years, I recreated the chili to be cooked in a Crock-Pot in a reasonable size portion.  It’s changed and adapted a little over time, but it has truly become one of the go-to recipes that I can call all mine.

We’ve come a long way since those days, my friends. 🙂

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Why this Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili is the BEST…

  1. It has lots of different bean types.  I included light kidney beans, dark kidney beans, black beans, AND garbanzo beans to give this variety and texture.  It makes my Award Winning Vegetarian Chili more interesting to look at AND taste.
  2. It has lots of color. The different peppers and beans make it a pretty dish.
  3. It does NOT have “fake meat.”  I like tofu but so many people are turned off with the possibility of “fake meat” that they will not even try it.  This chili is packed with so many ingredients, you will not even miss it.  You also have plenty of protein from the beans.
  4. Chipotle Cholula is my secret ingredient.  Need I say more?

Ingredients in my Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili:

This is a bit of a longer ingredients list than most of my recipes but most of this is canned goods that are shelf-stable and easy to keep around.  I actually always keep enough of these items in my pantry to make my Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili in a pinch.

  • Canned Beans: I use canned dark kidney beans, light kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas,) AND canned black beans for the most flavor and texture.  You can use any combination of beans you like, but this is my favorite.
  • Canned Tomato: I like the fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic to add even more flavor without a lot of fuss.
  • Diced Green Chilis: Those little cans of diced chilis add a lot of flavor to the mixture and just a small touch of heat.
  • Canned Tomato Sauce: Use your favorite kind!
  • Bell Peppers: Chopped bell peppers in any color work for this.
  • Onion: I prefer a sweet onion for my Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili but any type will work.
  • Garlic: You can’t have a good chili without garlic! Feel free to add extra if you love it.
  • Spices: My spice blend is chili powder, hot chili border, cumin, and bay leaves.
  • Chipotle Cholula: This is my SECRET ingredient!  Chiplote Cholula has just a touch of heat and chipotle flavor that makes this dish irresistible.  You can substitute canned chipotle in adobe sauce but I love the Cholula for this.  Not sponsored, I just love it.

You’ll notice that the recipe for the actual chili is vegan.  The topping your pick can keep it vegan or make it vegetarian.

What goes with vegetarian chili?

  • Sour Cream, Plain Greek Yogurt, or Dairy Free Yogurt
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sliced Green Onions
  • Chives
  • Corn Bread

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How to Make Vegetarian Chili in a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot:

  1. Rinse and drain the canned beans.
  2. Chop your peppers and onions.
  3. Open the rest of the cans and dump it all into a large slow cooker or crock pot. <— Amazon Affiliate Link
  4. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

I love to serve my chili with toppings like shredded cheese, plain greek yogurt, and green onions!  I also can’t resist cornbread on the side.  Pick your favorite though.

Variations & FAQ

  • You can use any combination of beans for this vegetarian chili.
  • If you don’t like any spice just use regular chili powder.  This is NOT a spicy recipe though at all it just has a tiny bit of warmth.
  • If you like to save time you can use pre-chopped or even frozen peppers and onions.

Can I use fresh and frozen vegetables in this recipe?

YES! You can use a bag of frozen peppers and onions although I prefer the texture of the fresh.  You could also add some frozen corn at the end for a colorful twist to this recipe.

How do I serve vegetarian chili?

I love serving this Award Winning Vegetarian chili in a bowl with cheese, plain greek yogurt, and green onions on the top.  I serve cornbread on the side.  You could also serve it Cincinnati style over spaghetti or over a baked potato.  Other great toppings are avocado, cilantro, or even chives.

How do you store the vegetarian chili?

Store the chili in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Does vegetarian chili freeze well?

YES! You can freeze this recipe in two different ways.  You can mix all the ingredients in a large freezer style ziplock bag before cooking.  Put the entire bag flat on a cookie sheet and put it in your freezer.  Once frozen this is a fabulous freezer meal!  When you are ready to enjoy the vegetarian chili you pull it out of the freezer and allow to thaw.  Once thawed just put everything back into the crockpot and follow the same cooking instructions.  It will last 4-6 months in your freezer.

You can also fully cook this vegetarian chili and freeze it in individual portions for later.  This recipe does make a large batch!


So without further ado HERE is my Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili I really hope you will try it and enjoy it as much as I do.

Love Crock Pot Vegetarian Soups?  Try these too!

If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment and a star rating ★ below. Make sure to follow me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook too!


Award Winning Vegetarian Chili

Julie Wunder
My Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili Recipe is so good you will never miss the meat! 
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 10 mins
Course Dinner, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 339 kcal


  • 1 14.5 oz canned dark kidney beans , rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5 ox canned light kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5 oz canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 14.5 oz canned black beans , rinsed and drained
  • 2 - 14.5 14.5 oz canned diced fire-roasted tomato with garlic
  • 1 4 oz canned diced green chilies
  • 2 8 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons Chipotle Cholula
  • Salt & Pepper to taste, 1/2 teaspoon each


  • Put all ingredients in a large Crock Pot.
  • Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  • Serve with cornbread, cheese, sour cream and an additional splash of Cholula.


You can adjust the chili spices to match your own taste. This does not have a LOT of heat. Add more hot chili powder and red pepper flakes instead of regular chili powder if you like it hot.
I buy reduced-sodium cans when I can find them because they are so much healthier. You can then add just as much salt as you like to taste.
If it’s the middle of winter and peppers are hard to find, you can buy bags of frozen chopped peppers and onions. It’s not quite as good, but it is a great substitute. It can also make it easier to stock all the ingredients.


Calories: 339kcalCarbohydrates: 63gProtein: 20gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1089mgPotassium: 1352mgFiber: 21gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1610IUVitamin C: 60mgCalcium: 142mgIron: 8mg
Keyword Award Winning Vegetarian Chili, Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili
Tried this recipe?Mention @Julie_Wunder or tag #RunninginaSkirt!

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By | 2020-11-18T11:35:30-05:00 November 4th, 2020|All Vegetarian, Crock Pot Meals, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Soups, Vegetarian Meals|69 Comments


  1. Martine Cianni September 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Do you know how many calories per serving? Thanks 😛

    • JulieWunder September 16, 2020 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Hi Martine! I updated the recipe to include nutritional information. I’ve been slowly going back through my site to do this! It’s 339 calories per serving. It’s a very hearty bowl of soup. I love this recipe and hope you do too. 🙂

  2. […] Award Winning Vegetarian Chili […]

  3. […] other family favorite is my vegetarian chili!  I even won a cook-off with […]

  4. […] Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili […]

  5. Lisa cardello January 6, 2020 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Hey there! Your award-winning vegetarian chili looks amazing. I am in the midst of trying to create a stash of freezer meals because baby number two is on the way. Have you ever combined the ingredients and frozen them, then threw them in the crockpot at a later time? Just wondering how this freezes. Thanks!

    • JulieWunder January 6, 2020 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Hi Lisa! This freezes great!!! Get BIG bags and put it all in the bag and freeze. Cook it when you are ready. I made two big batches before my twins came and was so grateful. I also froze some cornbread to go with it. 🙂 Enjoy!

  6. […] Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili […]

  7. […] Award Winning Vegetarian Chili […]

  8. Lorie August 25, 2019 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    I just now turned on the crockpot and can’t wait to eat some! But I was thinking that this is way more than 8 servings especially for a little person like me. How much is a serving?

    • JulieWunder August 26, 2019 at 9:28 am - Reply

      It does make a lot with generous portions! Next time I make it I’ll measure out a serving but we usually eat it twice and then I freeze some for a few weeks later.

  9. […] a batch every couple of weeks in my slow cooker.  My go-to recipes are my Vegetarian Taco Soup, Award Winning Vegetarian Chili and White Bean Soup but I’m always looking for ways to mix it up.  Since the babies have […]

  10. Teri of NC November 3, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Thank you for posting this recipe! I made it today, but I made a few additions to it (diced sweet potatoes, quinoa and honey). It turned out great! Thank you for introducing me to Chipotle Cholula, too– yummy!!!

  11. […] kind of like my Crock Pot Award Winning Vegetarian Chili, but it is more soup like and the flavors are slightly different.  It features taco seasoning and […]

  12. Miz Helen September 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week! Hope you enjoy your new Red Plate and have a great day!
    Miz Helen

  13. Becky September 12, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

    I can see why you won the chili contest with this amazing recipe! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Kimmythevegan September 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Oh I do love me some chili. I LOVE all of the awesome beans you put in there. And totally on board with fake meat not having to go in everything – beans give great texture, taste & protein all on their own. The seasoning sounds especially good – I can totally see how you won this competition. YAY VEGGIES! Congrats – you earned bragging rights!
    Thanks for sharing at Healthy Vegan Fridays – I’m pinning & sharing. Have a great weekend.

    • JulieWunder September 14, 2016 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Kimmy! I hope you’ll give it a try! Put some avocado on it for vegan toppings!

  15. Miz Helen September 9, 2016 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    I love a great Veggie Chili and I can sure see why this would be an award winner! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Miz Helen

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Thanks Miz Helen! Hope you get a chance to try it.

  16. vicki September 9, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Love chili and this one looks great! I love all the different beans in this one. I like to put a couple different types in mine as well, I think it keeps it interesting.

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Hi Vicki! Hope you get a chance to try these. SO good!

  17. Annmarie September 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Homemade chili is my FAV, especially during football season! I cannot wait for there to be a little bit of a chill in the air so I can start whipping some up!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:57 am - Reply

      I know! One good thing about fall. Hope you enjoy it.

  18. Nicole @ Fitful Focus September 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    I love that you campaigned for your chili! And won! Guess that means I have to try it!

  19. Sarah- A Whisk and Two Wands September 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Veggie chili is something I have been craving all week! It’s been stormy on and off since Sunday and overcast and I want to make it so bad but it’s been steamy and muggy too so I’ve been putting off making it.

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Hi Sarah! You’ll have to try this– you’ll love it!

  20. Alisa @ Go Dairy Free September 7, 2016 at 11:44 am - Reply

    I love that you passed on the fake meat and I’ve never seen chickpeas in chili before. That’s a neat way to stock up the beans!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:55 am - Reply

      I learned early on it’s much easier to get my husband and other “meat” eaters on board if I don’t force fake meat crumbles on them! haha!

  21. Jen @ Pretty Little Grub September 7, 2016 at 9:26 am - Reply

    This looks SOOO tasty! I think chili is all about finding that right spice blend.

  22. Jenn September 7, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

    This chili looks so hearty and delicious! I love all the different variety of beans and veggies. So good!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Thanks Jenn! It’s so good! Hope you get a chance to try it.

  23. Kristy from Southern In Law September 7, 2016 at 2:13 am - Reply

    This looks increeeeeedible! Jesse is becoming more and more willing to eat meat free so I think I have to try this out!

  24. Lindsay Cotter September 6, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    I can’t wait to try this! Looks so warm and delicious! Perfect fall food!

  25. [email protected] the Long Way Home September 6, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Yum! For me it isn’t about having meat, it’s all about the flavor!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Me too! Thanks Wendy! You’ll have to try this one!

  26. Laura September 6, 2016 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    #1) I LOVE these photos! I just shot a chicken chili recipe and I had a heck of a time getting them to look pretty (actually they really don’t but oh well lol)! #2) this chili looks incredible! I LOVE all the delicious healthy veggies and beans packed in this recipe! YUM!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Hi Laura! Oh I know! It took some stacking of that bowl to make it look pretty! haha! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

  27. Sonali- The Foodie Physician September 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    This is definitely a winner in my book! It’s so fun revisiting recipes from the past, especially one’s that are attached to such wonderful memories 🙂

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:38 am - Reply

      Such a fun day! It’s wonderful how food brings people together. Hope you are having a good weekend.

  28. [email protected] September 6, 2016 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I love veggie chili. Every year we have a chili cook off too. I’ll have to make this recipe next time.

  29. Great story I love it!! I am so ready for cooler weather and chili too

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

      I know! I love good soups! I’m already craving them.

  30. heather @Lunging Through Life September 6, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Oh my gosh how fun is this! I love that you guys had competitions there but it’s hilarious the stickers and such you pulled out for your chili! I am a huge chili person. We’ve gone to a chili cookoff before and it’s so fun to try all the chilis!

    • JulieWunder September 11, 2016 at 10:22 am - Reply

      It is a lot of fun! I also put up campaign posters at my work in the weeks leading up to it. I had a lot more time back then- haha!

  31. Blane Sherer September 6, 2016 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Now that’s a nice memory for you.
    Thanks for sharing that again.

  32. Glynda October 23, 2014 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Need the link to print this recipe, thanks

    • JulieWunder October 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Glynda, The only option right now is the print the whole post. I am working on going back through my old recipes and will hopefully have a print button soon. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

    • JulieWunder October 24, 2015 at 9:27 am - Reply

      An easy print option is now available!

  33. […] I make the best… Vegetarian Chili (I desperately need to put better pictures in this post, but regardless it is one of my most […]

  34. […] have to admit, my husband and I both liked my original AWARD WINNING VEGETARIAN CHILI recipe a little more.  But this dish still has a surprisingly different taste and it’s a great […]

  35. Madeline St Onge January 19, 2013 at 12:31 am - Reply

    OK I already made this Chili and passed it on to my WW leader and friends, all gave it a 4 thumbs up, it is delicious

    • JulieWunder January 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      Awesome!! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Trina April 28, 2014 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      I saw your WW comment. Were you able to determine the WW points, or the calorie count for a 1 cup serving? I did enjoy the flavor!

  36. Crockpot Challenge & Rain January 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    […] is a link to my favorite original crockpot recipe—My Award Winning Vegetarian Chili… […]

  37. Madeline St Onge December 12, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Julie I made this yesterday and it is so good I could eat the whole thing myself. Thanks for shareing the recipe

  38. Eric December 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Julie, this is somewhat off-topic, but if you like Indian food, you might really like this vegetarian cookbook: IT’s from a small family restaurant in northern England. They are very nice and the book is really good.

  39. al fox November 30, 2012 at 2:27 am - Reply


    • JulieWunder December 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Al 🙂 I do love those puppies 🙂

  40. al fox November 30, 2012 at 2:24 am - Reply

    U come across as such a down to earth person, I’m a big fan,etc. I watch every morning,if I miss it,I try to catch 12:00 PM show; Ms.Dunkle ain’t bad either,etc.

  41. Madeline St Onge November 30, 2012 at 1:00 am - Reply

    This sounds yummy definetly trying this one. Thanks Julie


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