Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili Recipe

The best pot of chili I've made in years. A vegetarian chili recipe Inspired by a bunch of those little bags of remnant grains and pulses that collect in my cupboards - bulgur, farro, and lentils, join chile peppers, crushed tomatoes, some chickpeas, and a secret ingredient.

Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

I think its safe to say, we are long overdue for a good vegetarian chili recipe around here. I'm not entirely sure what has taken me so long - I guess I wanted it to be really good. It's not that I wasn't cooking chili, I just wasn't sharing. I kept waiting until I had a pot in front of me that I was giddy about, the kind of chili that has you leaning over the pot, spoon in hand, shaking your head once or twice, saying mmm-hmm. And believe me, I never thought the best pot of chili I'd made (in years) would be inspired by a bunch of those little bags of remnant grains and pulses that collect in my cupboards - lentils, farro, bulgur - but sure enough, that's what happened. This chili is made with bulgur, farro, lentils, chile peppers, crushed tomatoes and some chickpeas I had hanging around. Then you've got the chili powder, and a secret ingredient - a bit of grated ginger.

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

And yes, like most chili, or stews, this is even better the day after! This makes an XXL pot of the stuff, so you'll have plenty left over. If you are feeling adventurous, you can ladle some of it into a shallow baking dish, make a few indentations with the back of a spoon, crack eggs into the hollows, drizzle generously with olive oil, and toss it into a 375F degree oven until the eggs set up - a twist on baked eggs.

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

I should also note, that you can swap in other grains if you like, but I think part of the success here was choosing grains that held their structure. I'd stay clear of the grains like, say, quinoa that go quite soft when cooked. And shoot for grains that cook in the same amount of time as the lentils -pearled grains cook much more quickly than whole farro or barley. Anyhow, I hope you like it as much as I did!

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Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili Recipe

A few notes related to this chili recipe. The chili powder I used was very ancho-centric. I think the earthiness of ancho and lentils works nicely together, but feel free to use your favorite chili powder. This recipe makes a pot of chili with a bit of a kick to it - if you're nervous about heat, scale back a bit on the powder and peppers, wait until you get to the simmer stage and add more a bit at a time tasting all the while. As far as broth goes - I really dislike many of the pre-made vegetable broths out there, but do like Rapunzel Herb Bouillon with Salt. I'd actually prefer you use water if you can't find a vegetable broth/stock good enough to heat up and drink on its own. I should also mention I used a blend of two types of lentils here - black and French green lentils - 1 1/2 cups black lentils, 3/4 cup French green lentils. And lastly, this makes a huge pot of chili, so get out your largest pot.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
8 small/med garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 chipotle pepper (from can or rehydrate), minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
10 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
2 1/4 cups black, brown, or green lentils (or combo), rinsed and picked over
2/3 cup pearled barley or pearled farro
2/3 cup bulgur wheat
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (or to taste)

toppings (opt): a bit of chopped serranos, a bit of feta or dollop of thinned out salted yogurt, a drizzle of equal parts chopped fresh oregano and olive oil, chopped onion

In a large stockpot pot over medium heat add the olive oil, onion, and shallots. When the onions soften up and get a bit translucent, add the garlic, ginger, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook for a minute of so, until everything gets quite fragrant. Stir in the serrano pepper and chipotle pepper, tomatoes, and 8 cups of the broth. Now add the chickpeas, lentils, barley/farro, and bulgur - stirring between each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer. Take a taste of the broth a few minutes into the simmer - you can make adjustments for salt here - if you're using water in place of broth, you can add a teaspoon of salt for starters and add more later if needed.

Simmer away for about 35- 45 minutes or until the lentils and grains are cooked through. You will likely need to add the rest of the water, a cup at a time, if the chili thickens up too much. Before serving do your final adjustments - add more chipotle, salt, or whatever you think it needs and enjoy! I love this chili with a bit of feta or goat cheese on top and a big drizzle of olive oil, but I listed off a few other topping ideas up above.

A huge pot of chili - serves 12 or more.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Heidi, this is so exciting. I still remember a gorgeous black bean chili I had about a decade ago and I've never been able to reverse engineer it to my satisfaction. You have some wonderful ideas for me to try.

Janine at Rustic Kitchen

I just made this for dinner tonight! Never did that with your emails before but this looked so interesting. Needless to say, it is amazing. So much texture it doesn't need meat or beans. I substituted brown rice for the wheat because I'm not crazy about it and it was wonderful. Even the feta cheese on top was perfect-who knew?


I've been looking for some time for a vegie chili recipe to replace our much loved chicken/vegie chili (no beans) & just haven't found one we like. We actually went the entire past winter without chili. I believe this just may be the one. And yet another recipe that I'm copying for my daughter to take with her to college this fall. She did get into the Scholarship Halls (yay!) where she will have the opportunity to share in the cooking for the resident women. I've been collecting healthy, appealing & quick recipes for her...many of which are yours. Plus they have become favorites for us. The Chunky Celery Soup made with wild rice is simply wonderful!!! Thanks once again for sharing with us.


i love that you added chickpeas! i love making chili.


This looks delicious! This is a great variation from the standard "veggie chili" with tvp and kidney beans.


RE: GF grains. There are a variety of rices out there, if you are in a larger market and/or with ethnic stores available. I used to use whole wheatberries in chili, cabbage rolls, etc. There is a short grain reddish rice that has great texture, sorry I cannot remember the name, that cooks very much like whole wheatberries. Try also Japonica, a black rice or another red rice, Himilayan, both provide texture and flavor not found in most rices.


Your post made me realize I've been in a chili making rut - my go to chili recipe is delish but definitely looking forward to trying something new. This would be great scooped up with some blue corn tortilla chips.

nithya at hungrydesi

YES! i've been awaiting a vegetarian chili recipe on this site (my favorite veggie chili thus far is the eatingwell.com sweet potato chipotle black bean chili) but i am very excited to give this more complex recipe a try! heidi, you've never let me down- i can't wait!


This looks delicious but I am allergic to tomatoes. I am always having to pass on recipes when I read that they need tomatoes. Heather, do you have any suggestions on a good substitute? Roasted red peppers maybe? Thanks.


Wow, ginger in Chili! Great idea! I also like to freeze my chili in individual containers. Its a great brown bag lunch that everyone in the office will be jealous of.

Jennifer Galatioto

I love veggie chili. I don't have any set recipe, but I cook it all the time. I usually use black beans, but the chick pea & lentil combination sounds interesting. I'll be trying this soon. My other favorite addition, which looks like it would work in your recipe, is fresh corn. I cook it separately on the cob, cut it off & toss it in at the last minute or use it as a crunchy garnish.

Rani @ Random Acts of Art

Another chili addition that I love is a tablespoon or so of masa harina - the ground corn flour that is used in making tortillas. It adds a wonderful, earthy richness, and pairs so well with chipotle, chocolate and other southwest flavours. It also thickens somewhat (if you find your chili 'watery')


Looks intriguing - I've never had a chili with legumes other than beans before. My hands-down favourite for a long time has been from The Vegan Gourmet, chili with tempeh and dried apricots - this looks like an interesting option to switch it up.


Wow! A chili with lentils and chick peas - two of my favorites. Can't wait to try this. Maybe tonight since it's cool, wet and windy here in Toronto today. Thanks Heidi for what is sure to be another classic recipe.

Kylie @ Fun In Vegas

So, with Celiac eliminating both the farro and the barley for me.... and me not knowing much about comparable grains.... What would best be substituted so that it still turns out ok?? Because this sounds fantastic and I want to eat it! HS: Do they sell celiac-safe oat groats, or cracked oats? That might be one direction to explore.


Hi Heidi, I love eating all of these whole grains, but I am concerned about weight gain. Do you have any experience or expertise to add on this? I am wondering if the addition of all of these whole grains (which are also carbohydrates) are going to cause weight gain. HS: Hi Phoebe, I like to shoot for a balance - grains, lots of vegetables, some proteins, some fats... throughout the day. I find the less processed grains keep me from getting hungry right away.


I am definitely going to try this chili. I am especially excited about ginger. I usually add a bit of chocolate to chilies but tend to skip this with veggie chilis for fear of the chocolate taking over the dish. But I think this recipe is hearty enough to give it a try. Thanks.

Reginald J

It's just too hot for chili here in Texas, but I'm intrigued to try this when the cooler months return :)


Looks lovely. Can't wait to try. Maybe I missed it somewhere in the notes, but why is it called "Pierce Street"? HS: Sorry :) I live on Pierce Street.


Oh my goodness, this chili looks fantastic! Especially for these rainy, foggy days here. :)

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

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