Health Nut Vegan Chili

A special, triple-bean, vegan chili inspired by Jess Damuck’s new cookbook. It’s bold, flavor-packed and uses a technique to achieve the best texture of any chili I’ve eaten. It’s time to schedule a big chili night.

Health Nut Vegan Chili

There are a number of cookbooks this spring I’m wildly excited about and this exceptional vegan chili is from one of them. It is from Jess Damuck’s Health Nut: A Feel-Good Cookbook and I’ve been making it regularly ever since I saw an early version of the book last year. I’ll talk a bit more about the cookbook down below, but we’ll jump into the chili details first. Jess calls it her Very Good Vegan Chili. I double the recipe and cook it in the absolute largest pot I own - freezing the extra portions for later. It freezes brilliantly. The chili is bold, thick flavor-packed, and primed for lots of toppings.
bowl of vegan chili topped with sour cream and avocado

What I Like About This Chili

The two stand-out things I love about this chili are the flavor and the texture. Both are fantastic. Jess describes a chili full of “simmering on the stove all day” flavor, in minutes. Using smoked paprika and fire-roasted tomatoes absolutely contribute to hitting that mark. On the texture front, she has us puree a small amount of the chili with a hand blender, to lend a rich, creamy vibe when it is re-incorporated. This is a super clever technique I’ve used when making ribollita, but it never occurred to me to try it with chili. Total game changer!
marble table topped with bowls of chili and a skillet cornbread

Key Ingredients:

  • Beans: This is a triple-bean vegan chili. The beans are the stars. Jess lists a mix of black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. You can use canned beans or the equivalent amount of beans cooked from dried. Sometimes I use a blend of both depending on what I have on hand or in the freezer. I encourage you to experiment with different types of beans. One version I did that was extra good swapped Rio Zape beans for the pintos.
  • Chile Powder: Ok, here’s where you *really* need to pay attention. There is a wide range of “chile powder” out there. Chile powder can be pure, single-varietal chile powder, a blend of pure chile powders, or a blend of chile powder and other spices. Jess likes to use ancho chile powder in this chili, I tend to keep guajillo chili powder on hand lately, so I’ve been using that. If you have a chile powder you know and love, use it. The key: don’t go overboard. You can always add more, a bit at a time, but if you make your chili too spicy, it’s hard to go back. For a large pot like this one, Jess would use 4 tablespoons of ancho chili powder, I’ve been starting with 2 tablespoons of guajillo chili powder. Make notes so you can adjust in the future.
  • Tomatoes: As I mention in the recipe below, I make this with crushed tomatoes because that’s what I tend to keep on hand. Jess calls for diced in the original recipe. The key is: fire-roasted. It really brings some added depth and dimension to this chili.

health nut cookbook by jess damuck
Health Nut: A Feel-Good Cookbook

Take a peak at a few of the photo spreads from this book. As a life-long Californian I lost my mind (in a good way) when I first saw Health Nut. It has 70s California health food vibes throughout, and my co-op nostalgia kicked in hard. The fonts! The graphics! Omg the recipes!
opening page spread of health nut cookbook by jess damuck
chapter opener text and graphics from health nut cookbook by jess damuck

The sun-drenched photography is by Linda Pugliese and some amazing double-exposures by Roger Steffens. If real food with hippie vibes through an updated lens is where you want to be as a cook, track this book down. I know a lot of you were fans of Salad Freak, also by Jess, Health Nut is her follow up. You can follow Jess here.
photo of jess damuck in health nut cookbook
photos from health nut cookbook by jess damuck

Having a great chili recipe in your back pocket is never a bad idea. It’s legitimately the perfect go-to if you’re feeding a crowd. A chili like this one is both fantastic, and can accommodate the whole range of eaters - vegetarians, gluten-free, and dairy free. It’s great alongside this skillet cornbread.  

More Chili Recipes

bowl of vegan chili topped with sour cream, lime, cilatnro and avocado

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Health Nut Vegan Chili

5 from 3 votes

You’re going to need your largest pasta pot or dutch oven for this recipe. It’s basically a double version of the recipe. This way you can freeze half for later. It tops out my 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven, so if you you have a smaller pot, cut the recipe in half. Jess calls for ancho chile powder, I have been using guajillo, delivering quite a bit of heat. Use whatever chile powder you have (and like) and add it incrementally if you’re worried about spiciness. I make this with crushed tomatoes because that’s what I tend to keep on hand. Jess calls for diced in the original recipe. Either way!

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, crushed between palms
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 14- ounce cans black beans (or equivalent from dried)
  • 1 14- ounce can kidney beans (or equivalent from dried)
  • 2 14- ounce can pinto beans (or equivalent from dried)
  • 1 28- ounce can + 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced (or crushed) tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • For serving: limes, unsweetened coconut yogurt, cilantro, sliced ripe avocado
  1. Heat the olive oil in an extra-large pot over medium-high heat (see headnotes re: large pot). Stir in the onions, garlic, and carrots. Cook until the onions are soft and transluscent, about 7 to 9 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent browning. Add the cumin, coriander, chile powder, smoked paprika, and oregano and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the tomato paste and allow to cook for another couple minutes. Drain the beans and add them all to the pot along with the two cans of tomatoes.
  2. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove 3 cups of the chili to a separate bowl and use a hand blender to puree this bit of the bean mixture. Stir it back into the pot. Season the chili with salt.
  4. Serve bowls of chili topped with yogurt, cilantro, lime wedges, and whatever else you like. I always add a bit of sliced avocado.

Serves 12.

Adapted from the Very Good Vegan Chili recipe in Jess Damuck’s Health Nut: A Feel-Good Cookbook (Abrams, 2024)

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
40 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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My library has this cookbook on order already!


    Fantastic - you'll love it!

    Heidi Swanson

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