One-Pot Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

A hearty, one-pot, vegetarian quinoa chili made with sweet potato, onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and beans. Vegan-friendly, but your meat-eating friends and family will love it, too!

large pot of vegetarian quinoa chili on white marble background with jalapenos, tortilla chips, cheese and cilantro

All great recipes have a story behind them. 

This hearty and healthy veggie quinoa chili recipe was born on a cross-country road trip with one of my grad school besties, shortly after we finished school back in 2012.

I’m dating myself, but the fact that I’ve been making this recipe all these years should have you writing your grocery list already!

After four days of eating and drinking all the yummy things in New Orleans, Libby and I pulled into Dallas, Texas — the next stop on our adventure — craving all the veggies. 

Like literally, all of them. Have you seen that ingredient list?  

Since we were in Texas, chili seemed like the obvious choice. So we raided our friends’ pantry, grabbed some veggies from the grocery store, and ended up with this big, beautiful pot of chili. 

This Vegetarian Quinoa Chili features a hearty mixture of quinoa, sweet potato, onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and lots of chili powder.

The quinoa gives this vegetarian chili a meaty texture, and makes it thick and perfectly spoonable, the way chili should be. Topped with some avocado, fresh jalapeño, sour cream, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips, it actually could win first prize in a chili competition — without any meat. 

What makes this veggie quinoa chili next-level is the secret ingredient we daringly tossed in at the end. 

Before I tell you the secret ingredient and you’re all WHAT!? I just have to say… trust me on this one. 

Cocoa powder. That’s the secret ingredient! 

Did your head just explode? 

No? Because mine almost did the first time I saw someone add it to tomato sauce on a cooking show.

The cocoa powder gives this chili a complex, meaty taste, and tricks your tongue into thinking it’s been slow-cooked all day. Whatever you do, don’t leave it out. 

closeup overhead shot of a bowl of vegan vegetarian quinoa chili on marble background with tortilla chips and cilantro

Ingredients in Quinoa Chili

This healthy, vegetarian quinoa chili is chock-full of healthy vegetables, plant-based protein, and spices. To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Onion
  • Sweet potato
  • Bell pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Garlic
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: an unusual addition to chili, I know, but cocoa powder gives it a complex, meaty taste that’ll make you think it’s been slow-cooked all day, so don’t leave it out!
  • Vegetable broth
  • Quinoa 
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Zucchini
  • Black beans
  • Red kidney beans

Can quinoa chili be frozen? 

Yes! This quinoa chili freezes really well. In fact, it makes so much you’ll probably want to freeze some unless you’re feeding a crowd.

To freeze, transfer cooled chili to a freezer-safe food storage container or bag. I love these half-gallon Stasher bags — just lay flat to save space when freezing! 

Can I use cooked quinoa instead? 

Absolutely! You will need about 2 cups of cooked quinoa, and will need to reduce the vegetable broth to a scant ½ cup. Add the cooked quinoa when the tomatoes and broth go in. If the chili is thicker than you like, simply add a bit more broth or water at the end.

overhead shot of a bowl of vegan vegetarian quinoa chili on marble background with tortilla chips and cilantro

Looking for more hearty vegetarian recipes?

Here are a few more of our favorites!

Print
Recipe

One-Pot Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

A hearty, one-pot, vegetarian quinoa chili made with sweet potato, onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and beans. Loved by vegans and meat-eaters alike!

  • Prep Time:
    20 minutes
  • Total Time:
    65 minutes
  • Makes:
    16 cups 1x
  • Prep Time:
    20 minutes
  • Total Time:
    65 minutes
  • Makes:
    16 cups 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
    • 2 bell peppers, cut into ¼-inch pieces
    • 1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and diced (optional, omit for little ones)
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
    • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
    • ½ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
    • 3, 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
    • 1, 15-ounce can tomato sauce
    • 23 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (see notes)
    • 2 medium zucchini (about 12 ounces total), diced
    • 1, 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1, 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • Topping ideas: Sliced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream , fresh jalapeño slices, cilantro, tortilla chips

    Instructions

    1. Saute the veggies. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sweet potato, bell peppers, jalapeno, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until vegetables are just starting to soften. 
    2. Add your liquids and spices. Add the vegetable broth, quinoa, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and cocoa powder and stir well to combine. 
    3. Cover and cook. Cover the pot and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and quinoa fully cooked. 
    4. Add the zucchini and beans. Stir in the zucchini, black beans, kidney beans, cover and cook another 10 minutes, or until heated through.  
    5. Top and enjoy! Serve with your favorite toppings: shredded cheese, avocado, sliced jalapeños, sour cream, and/or tortilla chips.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Notes

    • Cocoa Powder: It’s an unusual addition to chili, I know, but cocoa powder gives it a complex, meaty taste that’ll make you think it’s been slow-cooked all day, so don’t leave it out!
    • Quinoa: You can use cooked quinoa in this recipe. To modify, add 2 cups of cooked quinoa and reduce vegetable broth to just under a ½ cup. Cooked quinoa can be added at the same time as the tomatoes and broth.

    Ingredient Prep

    • Chop: Sweet potato, onion, bell peppers, zucchini, jalapeños, and garlic; store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use
    • Pre-measure: Chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, and quinoa
    • Drain and rinse: Canned beans; store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Help measure the quinoa and spices; rinse the canned beans, help adding ingredients to the pot (closely supervised)
    • Little Kids: All of the above plus help chopping the veggies
    • Big Kids: All of the above plus help opening the canned beans and tomatoes

    Leftovers

    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

    Freezing Tips

    This quinoa chili freezes well. To freeze, transfer cooled chili to a freezer-safe food storage container or bag. I love these half-gallon Stasher bags — just lay flat to save space when freezing. 

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information reflects a generous 1 1/2 cup serving, toppings not included

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: Generous 1 1/2 cups
    • Calories: 220
    • Sugar: 11 g
    • Sodium: 442 mg
    • Fat: 4 g
    • Saturated Fat: 1 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 3 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 37 g
    • Fiber: 11 g
    • Protein: 10 g
    • Cholesterol: 0 mg

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    If you make this  Vegetarian Quinoa Chili, leave a comment and give this recipe a rating! Ratings and comments help other busy parents and families discover this recipe. Plus, I appreciate the feedback and love to hear from you!

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    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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