And did we mention it's also vegetarian?! Truly the best weeknight, cozy family meal! My whole family loved the chili, even the picky eaters! Note: If you love vegetarian chilis or soup, be sure to check our nutrient-dense Mediterranean Chickpea Soup and our Italian Vegetable White Bean Soup.
❤️ Why We Love This Chili!
As far as chilis go, we know there are a lot of recipes out there! But this one stands apart for so many reasons:
- Kid-friendly! Most chilis are somewhat spicy, but this non-spicy chili is mild enough for kiddos. Plus, it's healthy and simple. And kids can have so much fun with the toppings!
- Healthy! This chili is full of veggies - two thirds of the ingredients are veggies! And this is a three bean chili. Beans are nutritious and a great source of fiber, protein, and potassium.
- Vegetarian! No meat, no problem. This chili is actually even vegan, as written (but the toppings you choose may change that).
- Easy to Make! Let me list the ways...you only need one-pot, simple ingredients, over half the veggies are canned/frozen, and it's ready in 28 mins.
This is an extremely flexible recipe. Here are some notes on options and potential substitutions:
- corn - frozen, canned or fresh
- carrots - big or little are fine; we always have baby carrots around, so I just used those
- garlic - minced or chopped; fresh or jarred/tubed garlic
- tomatoes - diced, petite diced, or crushed (for cans); or fresh, chopped tomatoes
- beans - pinto, black, chili, light kidney, dark kidney, red, white, whatever!
- broth - we love Better than Bouillon (which is vegan but not gluten-free, FYI), but any stock is fine (even chicken/beef if you're not vegetarian)
- seasonings - chili powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper, cocoa powder, garlic powder, paprika, bay leaves, chipotle powder
- red wine vinegar - or sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice
Note: Consider holding onto your bell pepper stem for this adorable Peppers Art craft.
👩🍳 How to Make This Kid-Friendly Chili
Prep: Chop veggies and open cans
🥄 Kids Step. Kids can do almost all of this chopping (with supervision). My daughter's fave knife is in this Curious Chef Knife Set. When using the can opener, I get it set up and pushed into the metal, so all my kiddo has to do is turn the crank.
Step 1: Sauté onion, pepper, carrots, celery, garlic
🥄 Kids Step: Pouring all the veggies in the pot is a great task! If they want to stir and hold the side of the pot, try these cute oven mitts for kids.
Step 2: Add other ingredients and boil for 10-15 mins.
🥄 Kids Step: More pouring and stirring! Kids can take over this step, adding all the other ingredients to the pot (except the vinegar).
Step 3: Stir in red wine vinegar
🥄 Kids Step: Have them taste the chili before adding the vinegar and after. Ask them if they notice a difference in taste. An amazing tip I learned from The Food Lab is to add something acidic to the soup at the very end of cooking (p.204). It brightens up the flavor and, for me, is often the missing link ingredient that ties everything together.
Step 4: Serve and add toppings!
🥄 Kids Step: This is, by far, the most fun part for kids! Just monitor so that your kid's bowl doesn't have a mound of cheese on top (I speak from experience here, lol).
✏️ Tips to Customize This Chili
The beauty of this chili is how flexible it is. Use what you have at home or swap out what you don't like. Check out these ways to make it your own:
🍅 Veggie swaps - A frozen bag of mixed veggies might cover a lot of your bases. Most beans work (pinto, black, chili, light kidney, dark kidney, red, white). No red bell pepper? Use canned green chilis (mild) or green/yellow/orange bell pepper. No yellow onion? Use onion powder, red onion, or green onion/scallions.
🍅 Go canned or frozen! It saves time and money. You can use a frozen bag of chopped, mixed veggies and a jar of minced garlic. Most of the chili ingredients don't have to be fresh. And we don't have to be whole food purists 😉
🍅 Be a carnivore - Add ground turkey, chicken or beef. Use chicken or beef stock instead of veggie. You can even throw some bacon crumbles on top!
🍅 Pick your toppings - Delicious choices are cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, corn chips, nutritional yeast, chopped green onions, and hot sauces.
🍅 Specific toppings - This non-spicy chili is already vegan, gluten-free (GF) and dairy-free*, as written and without toppings! To keep it this way, ditch the cheese and sour cream. Top with avocado, cilantro, corn chips (FYI, original Fritos are vegan, GF and kosher), and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. Delish!
*Check all your pre-packaged ingredients to make sure they're vegan, GF and dairy-free. Every ingredient we used (except toppings) fit the bill, except our Better than Bouillon vegetable base is not GF.
What makes chili spicy is typically hot peppers (i.e. jalapeños), hot sauces, red pepper flakes, or lots of cayenne and chili powder. In our recipe we use red bell pepper (not spicy at all), no hot sauces, and a small amount of chili powder and cayenne. Plus, having sour cream as a topping always helps diffuse any unwanted kick in flavor.
You can use so many kinds of beans in chili: pinto, black, chili, light kidney, dark kidney, red, and white. Use up what you have in the pantry!
On our chili we put sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, cilantro and Fritos. You could also add avocado (yum!), chopped green onion, nutritional yeast and (for the spice-seeking adults) hot sauce.
The sky is the limit. But I would recommend any corn-based sides, like cornbread with butter and honey, corn on the cob, and corn chips. Other great sides: mashed potatoes, salad, any dark leafy green (like kale), sliced cucumber, sweet potato fries, and toast.
Our non-spicy, vegetarian chili is definitely nutritious due to all the fiber and nutrient-rich beans. You can't go wrong with a veggie-loaded meal.
You can use leftover chili as a dip for chips or scoop it on top of nachos. Another great use for leftover chili is to make a loaded baked potato or a chili cheese dog. Of course, you can also freeze it until you're in the mood for chili again. It reheats fabulously.
👶 Tips for Picky Eaters
This is definitely a chili for kids, but here are some tips to make it even more so:
🍅 My winning tip - have some cornbread with butter and honey on the side!
🍅 Swap the veggies. Try exchanging some veggies in the dish for ones your kids prefer. Or increase/decrease veggies in the recipe.
🍅 Add meat! This is a vegan chili, but you can certainly add meat. Ground beef, turkey or chicken would be great options. I also love Beyond Meat's Beefy Crumbles as a great non-meat substitute.
🍅 Add in a starch. Serve your chili over rice, quinoa, cornbread or even tortilla chips. You can crumble goldfish crackers, Fritos or tortilla chips on top.
🎨 Do This Cute Craft: Pop-up Paper Peppers
While you make our non-spicy chili, your kiddos can make these adorable Pop-up Paper Peppers! This 3-D craft is easy for kids of all ages. And you probably have all the supplies at home already!
🥣 Try Our Other Belly-Warming Soups
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🍅 Kid-Friendly Non-Spicy Chili
- large pot
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 2 carrots peeled & finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes or 3 cups tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 15 ounce can pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce can kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ Tablespoon cumin
- 2 Teaspoon oregano
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- ⅛ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ Tablespoon red wine vinegar
Toppings (all optional)
- sour cream
- shredded cheddar cheese
- corn chips
- Heat oil on medium in a large stock pot. Add onion, pepper, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
- Add broth, tomatoes, corn, beans, tomato paste, and spices. Stir together. Increase heat, bring mixture to a boil, and boil lightly (slightly more than a simmer) for 12-15 mins.
- Bring heat to low and stir in red wine vinegar. After 1 minute, remove from heat.
- Scoop into bowls and have fun with toppings!
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. While we are not certified nutritionists, we work with a WordPress-integrated nutrition API to calculate our recipes' ingredient values.
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Is the amount of spices palatable for toddlers? Or should we omit it?
Hey Jenn! I would omit the cayenne. If you're really worried about it, decrease the chili powder a bit. But my kids were fine with all the spices and one of them was 4 yo the first time I made this chili. Of course, it totally depends on what flavors they've experienced already. Hope that helps! Cheers --Julie
Just YUM. I love the taste of the red wine vinegar in this chili! Our kids chowed this down to the point there were no leftovers; next time I'm doubling the recipe!!!
Dan! Thank you so much!! So happy to hear your kids dug it! ❤️