Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

The best pot of chili I've made in years. A vegetarian chili recipe Inspired by a bunch of little bags of remnant grains and pulses collected 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. 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 little bags of remnant grains and pulses collected in my cupboards. But that’s what happened. This chili is made with bulgur, farro, lentils, chile peppers, crushed tomatoes and the chickpeas I had hanging around. Beyond that, you've got chili powder, and the wildcard - a bit of grated ginger.

Vegetarian chili in a bowl with chopped onion on top

What To Do With Leftover Chili

Like most chili, or stews, this vegetarian chili 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 large 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.

To Freeze Chili

This chili freezes brilliantly. Allow it to cool completely before ladling into freezer safe containers. I like to divide the chili into meal-sized allocations which will be different depending on your family size.

Close up photo of lentils


I should also note, you can swap in other grains if you like. That said, I think part of the success here was choosing grains that held their structure. And shoot for grains that cook in roughly the same amount of time as the lentils. Pearled grains cook much more quickly than whole farro or barley, although certain brown rices, perhaps a basmati, could work well. There are countless great ideas in the comments as well. For example someone swapped in hominy in place of the chickpeas and said it was the best part. Brilliant! French lentils pictured above, and pearled farro pictured below.

Close up photo of pearled grains

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Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

5 from 1 vote

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, making your own homemade bouillon is simple and great to have on hand. 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 pasta pot. If you stick with vegan toppings, the chili base is vegan.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 medium 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 (plus more 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
  1. 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 another 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.

  2. Simmer away for 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. Stir in the salt.
  3. When everything is cooked and tender, take a taste of the broth. Make adjustments for salt here. If you're using water in place of broth, you can add another teaspoon of salt for starters and add more, a bit at a time, if needed.
  4. 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 large pot of chili - serves 12 or more.

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
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Recipe Rating


I cooked this fantastic chilli last week and it is divine. I didn’t have all the ingredients so substitued red lentils for the black ones and didn’t include the bulgur as I didn’t have any of that either.
But it was still fantastic. One thing struck me though, I was amazed that the recipe asked for 4 tablespoons of chili powder. I only used one heaped one and it is quite hot enough.
Anyway, I’ve frozen it and have been having it on toast at work for lunch. It’s winter here in NZ so it’s a lovely warm spicy way to get through the day.


Hey, this looks truely amazing and I’d love to try it, but I have to ask: is “bulgur” the crushed wheat we call in Hebrew and Arabic “burgul?”


Made this chili last night (omitted the chickpeas) – it is delicious! However, I did have a problem with the pearl barley. It took forever to cook. Any suggestions? Precook it next time? Use quick barley?

Luanne tenHarmsel

I made this for dinner tonight and it was very good, I bet it is even better tomorrow.
I like my chili with a little more tomato so I added a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and juice. I also didn’t have a serrano chili so I just doubled the amount of chilpolte. I also added 1 extra tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of mustard powder and 1 Tblsp of unsweetened cocoa powder


made this tonight! i used hominy instead of chickpeas – omg the hominy was the best part. also i threw in some paprika, which worked great. next time i may put in some nutmeg or clove. i also put in a square of vosges red fire exotic chocolate, which is a chipotle-infused dark chocolate. that was incredible, but next time i definately will need more.
total success!

kirsten Mayell

We made this last night and it was AMAZING!
We live in Texas, so given all the stereotypes about Texans and their love for meat chili (with no beans whatsoever!), we should not have liked this chili. However, I have always disagreed with Texans’ fear of beans in chili, and this dish just solidified that belief for me.
We followed the recipe pretty much exactly, but we were actually concerned about a LACK of heat…So we added some extra serranos in and it was just perfect for us heat-loving Texans. We sprinkled on some cilantro and local Pure Luck goat cheese. Seriously…the best chili EVER.
Now I’m sitting here at work and I’m eating some leftover chili with baked eggs, just like you suggested. Also…AMAZING!
And tonight, we will be freezing a bunch of the leftover chili with a layer of mashed potatoes on top, sort of like a shepherd’s pie.
Thanks so much for your site–I have tried probably about 10 things now and I have always gotten raves from everyone on whatever I make.
HS: Glad you liked it Nicole!


I was obsessed with Bittman’s Black Bean Espresso Chili last year (in the Vegetarian cookbook) – served it at a Strange Dinner Party for Parisians and they left it in their bowls while 3 Americans practically licked the deep, dark, spiciness of it clean off their plates. It can keep you up, but it left me occupied for a while. Can’t wait to try this one!


Sounds delicious!
For any Indian cuisine fans..this is exactly how my mom makes most of her Indian curries…especially the chick pea curry.
Its always fun to get a little experimental and try different vegetables and grain soups (obtained upon boiling them for a long time). The basic recipe remains the same for most curries and soups..


I made this yesterday and it was delicious! I subbed 1 teaspoon dried ginger for the raw, a red pepper for the serrano, and 2 cups dark beer for some of the veggie broth. It made 14 cups! Plenty to share with my neighbors. I’ll definitely be making it again.


Delicious and hearty. I cut down on the chili powder and added extra ginger. I wanted to accommodate the whole family. My two and a half year old loved it. I added shredded sharp cheddar and plain yogurt on top. I’m so excited to have a veggie chili now!


My husband said that chili looks delicious


Just made – and ate – this great chili! I had mine with feta and cilantro, my son with yoghurt. Following the suggestions of a couple of reviewers, I added a tblsp of cocoa powder during cooking and then at the end a dollop of honey and a squeeze of lemon. Looking forward to having some tomorrow after it sits overnight.
Lovely. Thanks!


I made this last night, adapting the recipe because I didn’t have a few key ingredients (as always)… Instead of lentils and chickpeas, I used black beans and marfax beans. I par-cooked the beans first, boiling them for about 12 minutes, and then used the bean cooking liquid as my liquid in the chile. I did add a little Better-than-Bouillon. For the grains I used barley and wheatberries and at the end threw in some couscous to soak up extra liquid. I ended up adding a very little maple syrup to the chili, and rather too much salt (when will I learn??), but it was quite delicious and a guest staying with me has requested a take-home portion for her dinner tonight. Thanks, Heidi!


that is the yummiest looking veggie chili i’ve ever seen


This looks fantastic – thank you! I’ll be making this to bring to families with new babies this week. I love serving veg chili over a split roasted sweet potato – sprinkled with a little crumbled feta, at times.


I just made this, it was really yummy. I did make some additions though…
-fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, some chopped carrot and celery, soy sauce in place of some of the salt.

An Li

Made this last night, dark rich chocolate and my favourite beer (Stinger, made by River Cottage for the Badger Brewery) made tasty apprearances.
The lentils and chickpeas were great, I had no access to chipolte pepper, so I added a couple of cans of spicy refried beans.
Then went on to baking eggs in it with cheddar cheese on top, served with Jacket wedges and Sour cream with fresh oregano.
Om nom nom. The leftovers won’t last long.


Delicious! Wolfing this down right now. I don’t cook a lot but wanted to make something for my partner, who arrives for a visit tomorrow. He happens to be Denis Cotter, a veggie chef Heidi featured here a while ago. Can’t wait for him to try it!!
HS: His book is beautiful! Hope you have a great visit Maureen.


Yum! I REALLY enjoyed this. Made it as is and sprinkled some goat cheese at the end as suggested. My boyfriend loved it too. I’ve made a bunch of your recipes, but this ranks in the top for me. Thank you!


hi, excellent recipe. try adding grated ginger at the end after switching off heat rather than cooking with the garlic at the outset, it give a gentler, slightly sweeter taste. either switch chili powder entirely or whizz just one dried red chili in a food processor, since freshly ground chilis taste much better and dont have the food dye widely used in some countries to give a vivid red colour, but are also much sharper in taste. you could also add a little freshly ground turmeric with the beans, it has an interesting taste.

Kannan Srinivasan

Thank you for posting the recipe that finally inspired me to rekindle “Family Dinner Night”. An apartment full of friends, good food and drinks is the stuff dreams are made of. And this veggie chili will be perfect to feed the crowd that I usually get for “FDN”.


Well, I tried it! With what I had in my cupboard, but it was still excellent! I used black and brown lentils, split peas (no cooked or canned chickpeas), two lots of cracked wheat to make up for the lack of farro or barley and two tablespoons of chili – powdered – no fresh chillies around here – and it turned out great! I also love the idea of using leftovers for a cottage pie! There certainly is a LOT of chili left in the pot!
Thanks ever so, Heidi!

Lina Papadopoulou

On the subject of comfort food, remember that you can turn left over chilli into a decadent cottage pie.
Put the chilli in an oven-proof dish, spread a layer of cheese on top.
Fry up some mushrooms and an onion,
mix in with mashed potato.
Put the mash on the chilli and put it in the oven for 30 mins.


This must be the best vegetarian chili I’ve every seen–who needs meat anyway? I love all the lentils as well as the chickpeas.


I agree completely w/Emilia. Restaurant veggie chili leaves so much to be desired. But this recipe does look quite rich and thick!

Feast on the Cheap

I love beans and grains. Looks yummy! Such wonderful flavours.


This looks wonderful! I’m intrigued by the bean/grain combo, as well as the ginger! I make my chili with eggplant and chocolate…but I will definitely be trying yours!


I I saw this recipe and knew that I had to make it the first chance I got. I made this for dinner tonight and my place smells wonderful…and the chili tastes great. Thanks!


Wonderful! As I get older, the harder it gets to eat something like chili later in the day, so I have to eat it earlier. I think it’s the tomato that’s the problem with me, and since this has crushed tomato, it may give me the same problem, though I’ve often thought it might be the beans — and since this has no beans, maybe this one’ll work! I’ve got to try it to find out! I wonder if a person could make chili without tomato? Hmm… I guess I should try. Would love to know if anyone knows alternatives to tomato in chili!


Heehee, have been watching this one to see for everyones special additions for chile and has paid off well so far.
Thanks To Emo for the Lager tip and to Peter for reminding me how well Cashews go in a curry (I’ve used them in my fruit curry and love the soft texture they turn into).


I made this last night. The only difference(s) was adding more chipotle peppers (4 small ones) and 3 tablespoons of masa harina about 15 minutes before serving.
Suffice it to say it was FANTASTIC!
Thanks again Heidi. You rock.


Wonderfully Hearty! There is a very distinct chill in the air here in Sydney as we approach winter and something like this to soak some sourdough bread up with would be fantastic!

Sneh | Gel's Kitchen

I am drooling… its way too early in the morning for me to be craving chile 🙂
As always your recipes are fresh and inspiring


Lovely recipe Heidi. Love the idea of being able to make 2 quite different dishes out of one – the chili baked eggs sounds excellent.


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 love that you added chickpeas! i love making chili.


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

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

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

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

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

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Heidi, your followers’ comments are so enlightening. Many mention they use cocoa or bitter chocolate in their chili…makes so much sense! Heidi, you certainly inspire your followers in the kitchen.

Julie Erwin

I always add a bit of fresh Ginger to a basic tomato sauce, but never thought about adding it to chili!!! (Molasses or Yacon syrup instead of sugar or agave is another phantom ingredient I like in dishes with tomato based sauces). I love your use here of black and green lentils and the mixture of grain remnants. Thank you!

Julie Erwin

I live on Pierce St. in SF too!


This is something I can adapt quite easily for my slow cooker, especially now we are going into winter here in New Zealand. I love using the slow cooker – the aroma just fills the whole house. Perfect when it’s cold and rainy outside. Mmm……


I have several veg chili recipes that I rotate through but none of them send me. This looks terrific with lots of texture and lots of flavor. Thanks for sharing!


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?


It looks really nice and hardy and earthy. I am an ancho fan too. I always add a bit of kelp to my chilis and any bean or grain dish. It really helps to make it more digestible and adds some good for you trace minerals.

Marissa Makes

Love, love, love the baked eggs idea!

ali & evan

WOW that looks so incredible – That is comfort food at its finest!!! What a great blend of flavors!!

Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer

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 the idea of a grain and lentil chili….I can just imagine the taste by looking at the lovely photos. You never cease to amaze me with your creations….

Mixing Bowl Mama

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.


Wow – how refreshing and healthy. Love the ginger idea and serrano’s are one of my favs!


Yum! Looks great, thanks.
A couple of things:
* I think I will add adzuki beans to this. Like lentils, they require no soaking, and they cook up faster than other beans.
* I will use whole barley, because pearl barley is not wholegrain. But I’ll have to cook it for 45 minutes or so first. I think it’ll be worth it. 🙂


I love a good vegi chili. I will be trying this soon!


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!


I’m up for chili any time of year. Though I think of it as a fall/winter dish, these spring days, alternately cool and damp, are really just perfect. Plus, the spring cleaning of the pantry is a nice bonus. I made a Moroccan stew with a miscellany of leftovers from my cupboard not long ago. Serendipitous cooking is happy cooking!

Becky and the Beanstock

Ordinarily I’d just file this away till fall, but it’s still so cool and rainy here in the northeast that I’ll probably be making this over the weekend. Love the addition of the grains as well!

Amy (Minimally Invasive)

I’ve been looking for a new vegetarian chili recipe. Thank you! Sounds particularly delicious with the egg on top. I’ve been cracking an egg over just about everything these days. Thanks also for the beautiful pictures of the lentils and the grains.


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.


Awesome. Will definitely try this, even though am not a veggie. Thanks!
Am likely to add sweet paprika & bitter dark chocolate….


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.


That does look good! But it makes me feel more like winter than the plant-the-garden-as-fast-as-we-can weather we’ve been having. When I make chili, I’ve taken to adding a couple squares of dark, dark chocolate to the pot—even if you can’t really taste the chocolate, it makes me feel exotic to be able to say it’s chili with chocolate. It’s the small pleasures….

Mama JJ

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.


Sorry, I meant a couple cups of dark beer, and the rest water – not 10 cups of bee


Thank you Heidi! I can’t wait. Yummmm. And I have all these grains/legumes in the cookie jar that I use as my grain ‘silo’. (Cookies just don’t last long enough to jar at my place.)
Keep ’em coming!!


I would suggest using dark beer instead of the vegetable stock!


Love the all the different pulses in this chili and ginger is something I would have never thought to add.
I agree with you on broth – if you can’t drink it plain warm, its not going to add anything to your final product.


This looks fantastic, only i live at high altitude and cannot seem to digest lentils. Am going to try this with aduki beans instead!


That’s one protein packed chili!

The Duo Dishes

I hate wasting food and am sure glad this recipe helps me from doing just that!!! Meg and I will try this a hora mismo!!

Vicel Meregillano-Hicks

Giddiness aside, I typically do not like chili but, as I have become enamored about Heidi’s cooking for some months now. I think I will give it a try. I love ginger and while this recipe is ingredient intensive it looks like a chili I could love. I’ve been making Cashew Curry for weeks now (it’s easy to bring to work and have everyone ask…’Ohhh, What’s that?!”), which I added 1/2 tsp ginger too. Oddly, many people I work with don’t know what curry is (dunno what planet they are from)! Thanks Heidi for a great (best on the web) site!

Peter (one of many ; )

I used to love vegetarian chili, and I ordered it in restaurants all the time, but I got discouraged by the watery flavors in the ones I made, and I stopped. This one looks incredible though! Hearty and rich… I’m definitely making this once the weather gets cold again.


Lentils a barley? That’s a chili after my heart! 🙂

Fit Bottomed Girls

I’ve been procrastinating making veggie chili for some time now. I think today is the day I dive into the pool with this great recipe. Thanks Heidi and thanks to the writer who suggested cocoa powder. Sounds perfect.


Thanks for this! I have only been vegetarian since January and although am not craving meat have been unable to make a vege chili anywhere near as tasty as my beef one used to be. Here’s hoping this is it – I will be looking forward to a bowl of chili one night, followed by enhiladas made with the left overs the night after!
Oh, and I will be making this even though we have gorgeous sunshine over here!
Joey, Scotland x x


A tip on the broth/stock/bouillon – I use mixed herbs and a can of larger beer/light ale! Works incredibly well.


I’m not big on “traditional” chili, but this looks really good!


As with everything you post, I’ll have to try this one out, Heidi. It looks great and not far off from my own vegetarian chili recipe which I make on a near-weekly basis.
I usually perform a little alchemy and mix together my own chili powder from a variety of spices (paprika, cayenne, cumin, oregano, sage, thyme, etc.) but one thing I always include is cocoa powder. It gives a subtle depth and sounds like it would accentuate the earthiness of the ancho chili powder your recipe uses. One tblsp. for a big pot is enough.


Nice idea to combinate ginger and lentils! I’ll try soon this recipe. Thank you sharing…

Dominique (de vous à moi...)

Just curious, since I tend to shy away from hot-spicy dishes, can the serrano and/or chipotle peppers be omitted from the recipe (or just reduced) and have it still be tasty?


This chili looks absolutely wonderful, and so unique with the lentils and ginger!


I love the idea of using fresh ginger in chili! – another dimension of “spice”.
This would also be great topped with a smoked sea salt like Maldon.
mmm mmm

Michelle @ www.PorktoPurslane.com

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