I can’t get enough of this Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili recipe! It is so chunky and hearty, even meat-lovers will be pleased. Thanks to a combination of beans, lentils and butternut squash, this vegetarian chili recipe will rival any meat-based chili out there.

Overhead image of chili in two white bowls, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter. Chili bowls topped with avocado, cilantro, jalapenos, cheese. Lime wedges scattered around.

Let’s cut to the chase, this vegetarian chili is:

  • Ready in less than an hour!
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Low-fat
  • Smoky
  • Slightly spicy
  • Savory
  • PACKED with textures and flavors
  • Great as leftovers
image of chili in two white bowls, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

Easy Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili…with canned beans?

It may sound counterintuitive to use canned beans in an Instant Pot recipe. And most of the time I would agree with you. BUT, after doing some testing and balancing the cook time of the butternut squash, lentils and beans, I found that relying on canned beans created the simplest cooking process, and the best texture of all the components. 

It also means you don’t have to think ahead—no soaking of beans required—you just need to open a couple cans. 🙂 

Overhead image of chili in a white bowl, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

What’s in vegetarian chili?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vegetarian chili recipes out there. Where I think most vegetarian chili recipes go wrong is in lack of composition and flavor building. Too often vegetarian chili recipes are simply a pot of veggies thrown together and covered with diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.

The problem with this is that it isn’t going to be a satisfying vegetarian meal. When we can’t rely on meat for texture, protein and flavor, we have to find a way to add those things. And in a way that will truly satisfy. 

To tackle the protein issue, I made sure to use a combination, and an adequate amount, of plant-based proteins—beans and lentils. 

The combination of beans and lentils also bulks up the texture and somewhat resembles meat. Additionally, using large chunks of butternut squash creates textural interest and color. 

Lastly, flavor. Achieving a savory, umami-like flavor in meatless dishes is always a challenge. Here, I used a splash of soy sauce and some tomato paste to add depth and savoriness.

How to make easy vegetarian chili (step-by-step)

  1. Cook onion and peppers in Instant Pot on Sauté function. 
  2. Add tomato paste, chipotle, garlic, and spices.
  3. Cook 2 minutes. 
  4. Deglaze with water.
  5. Add squash, tomatoes, and lentils. 
  6. Lock lid in place, close pressure valve, cook on low pressure for 11 minutes. 
  7. Quick-release pressure.
  8. Stir in beans and soy sauce; season with salt to taste.

Make this vegetarian chili on the stove top:

Use a Dutch oven or large pot instead of an Instant Pot

Follow the recipe as written, cooking over medium-high heat on the stove top, up until the step of locking the lid and pressure cooking. Instead, partially cover the pot with a lid and simmer the chili until lentils are tender and butternut squash is fork-tender, 30–40 minutes.
Stir in beans and honey; allow to heat through and serve. 

Make this vegetarian chili in a slow-cooker/crock pot:

Sauté the onions and peppers in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomato paste, chipotle and adobo, garlic and spices and cook 1 minute; scrape into an 8-quart slow-cooker. 

Add water, squash, tomatoes, lentils and soy sauce; cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours. 

Stir in beans and honey, cover and let cook 10 minutes more until heated through. 

image of chili in two white bowls, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

Chili Toppings Ideas:

  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Shredded Cheddar, Chihuahua cheese, or Cotija cheese
  • Picked onions or pickled jalapeños
  • Corn chips
  • Scallions or diced white onion
  • Diced radish

What to serve with vegetarian chili:

Overhead image of chili in two white bowls, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

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Overhead image of chili in two white bowls, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

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Overhead image of chili in a white bowl, one set on a wood board, the other on the counter.

Vegetarian Instant Pot Chili

  • Author: Lauren
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 cups (68 servings) 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Full of texture and savory flavor, this meatless chili is please even the biggest meat-lovers out there! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for serving
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced (I like a combination of a red and green pepper)
  • Salt 
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves (1 heaping tablespoon)
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced + 1 teaspoon adobo sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander 
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 45 cups)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
  •  ¾ cup green or brown lentils 
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed  
  • 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup
  • Lime wedges
  • Optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, scallions, sliced jalapeño, shredded Cheddar

Instructions

Preheat Instant Pot on sauté setting 3 minutes. Add oil and heat until shimmering, add onions, peppers and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until vegetables start to soften and onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, chipotle and adobo, cumin, oregano, and coriander; cook 2 minutes. 

Stir in 3 cups water, and cook, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pan.

Stir in squash, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, lentils, and soy sauce. 

Lock lid in place and close pressure release valve. Select low pressure cook function and cook for 11 minutes. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure.

Stir in beans and honey; season with salt to taste.  

Drizzle servings of chili with olive oil, top with desired toppings, and serve with a lime wedge. 



Notes

Vegetarian chili lasts up to 1 week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 ½ cups
  • Calories: 332
  • Sugar: 17g
  • Sodium: 1233mg
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 61g
  • Fiber: 18g
  • Protein: 15g
  • Cholesterol: 1mg

Keywords: Instant pot vegetarian chili, vegetarian chili, easy vegetarian chili

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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  1. Top notch vegetarian chili and could not be easier! Made exactly as instructed and it was insanely delicious. Bonus, it makes a TON so we have leftovers for days! Thank you Lauren for a perfect comfort food recipe. 🙂