The inspiration behind the recipe…
I’ve said it before – & I’m sure I’ll say it again – but I am a CHILI LOVER (all caps necessary, trust me). I make a pot of chili at least once a week during the fall & winter months. It’s the perfect satisfying, & comforting cold-weather Sunday dinner. Plus, leftovers make for the easiest lunch to reheat throughout the week. Satisfying, healthy, & multipurpose? Yes, please – that’s a combination I’ll always sign up for.
We’ve shared a couple of really awesome meatless chili recipes here on PWWB over the years – ahem, Vegan White Chili & Vegan Pumpkin Chili. A few months ago I realized we didn’t have a good classic option, so I got to work developing a plant-based chili that’s tomato-forward, a little bit spicy, & totally hearty. The result? You’re looking at ‘er – Hearty Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Chili.
A few noteworthy things – this vegan quinoa chili is:
- HEARTY. We don’t do wimpy chili here at PWWB! Chili should be thick & hearty, even when it’s meatless. This vegan chili delivers major heartiness from a satisfying combination of sweet potatoes, black beans & quinoa.
- WEEKNIGHT-FRIENDLY. It’s a one-pot recipe & it comes together in 45 minutes or less. Perfect for weeknight cooking, & made even easier with a little prep!
- VERSATILE. You very easily can tailor this chili recipe to your liking based on what veggies you have on hand or how spicy you like things. Plus, you can make it on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or in your Instant Pot – directions for all 3 are in the Recipe Card, below.
A new go-to! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Key Ingredients in this Vegan Quinoa Chili recipe
As is the case with most soup, stew, & chili recipes, the list of ingredients used in this sweet potato quinoa chili isn’t the shortest, but everything you need for this recipe is likely already in your pantry or on your spice rack.
The ingredients you’ll need for your vegan quinoa chili can be grouped into 4 main categories:
#1 – Hearty base ingredients: The base of this particular meatless chili is a hearty combination of sweet potatoes, black beans, & quinoa. You will not miss the meat – promise!
#2 – Chili staples: A handful of staples you’ll find in most chili recipes – onion, garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, & broth.
#3 – PWWB’s go-to chili spice blend: Made with generous amounts of chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, & oregano. I also love using chipotle peppers in chili; their smoky heat adds an extra layer of rich flavor to the chili.
#4 – Umami boosters: Since this sweet potato quinoa chili is meatless, there are a few secret ingredients added to help build richness & depth of flavor – cocoa powder, Worcestershire sauce, & tomato paste. If keeping this vegan quinoa chili vegetarian or vegan is important to you, be sure to use vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more information about our preferred brand & sourcing information.
How to make Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili
This quinoa and black bean chili is a weeknight dinner winner – it’s a one-pot recipe & you can get it on the table in less than 45 minutes. It could not be easier to make!
There are 3 key steps involved:
- Soften the veggies: Add the base veggies to a pot, & cook until softened. Why? ⇢ Softening aromatic veggies concentrates their flavor by drawing out some of their natural moisture. Soups & chilis are best when they have richly developed layers of flavor; this first step creates a flavorful base for our sweet potato quinoa chili.
- Bloom the spices: Add all of the chili spices to the pot, stirring to coat the base veggies, & let it cook for a few minutes. Why? ⇢ The heat under the pot will draw out the the spices’ flavors, making for a richer & more flavorful chili. Do not rush this step – it’s important!
- Build & simmer: Build chili by adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot – tomatoes, beans, quinoa, broth, etc. Give it all a good stir, & simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Why? ⇢ Simmering does double duty in this recipe, marrying the flavors of all the ingredients into a single & cohesive dish & cooking the quinoa. The chili is ready to serve once it’s thickened slightly & the quinoa is fully cooked.
This sweet potato and quinoa chili recipe is pretty flexible – you can tweak it based on the ingredients you happen to have on hand or enjoy most. Swap the sweet potatoes for butternut squash (or any other hardy winter squash), the black beans for kidney beans or chickpeas, the quinoa for brown rice, & so on. If you’re a meat-eater, feel free to start with a base of your ground animal protein of choice or finish it off by stirring in shredded chicken, etc.
If you try one of these easy swaps, be sure to leave a comment below to let me know how you tailored this recipe to fit your tastes – we love hearing from you!
Chili FAQs – Storage, Freezing, & Alternate Cooking Methods:
- How long does quinoa chili last? Can you freeze it? This sweet potato quinoa chili is incredibly make ahead-friendly & freezer-friendly…it’s the kind of thing that tastes even better the day after it’s made. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days & in the freezer for up to 3 months. See the Recipe Notes, below, for full storage, freezing, & reheating instructions.
- Crockpot or slow cooker quinoa chili: Easy! Cook the aromatics & bloom the spices, which helps maximize their flavor, before assembling the chili in your slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a “brown/saute” feature, even better – you can make this recipe start-to-finish in the slow cooker. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full slow cooker instructions.
- Instant Pot quinoa chili: Even easier! Use the Instant Pot’s “brown/saute” feature to cook the aromatics & blooming the spices, which helps maximize their flavor, before assembling the chili in the Instant Pot & sealing the pot to pressure cook. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for full Instant Pot instructions.
Saving the best for last…Quinoa Chili Toppings!
The best part of making chili is ladling it into a bowl & piling it high with all the toppings you love most. Chili is all about the toppings, so don’t hold back!
A few of my favorite plant-based chili toppings:
- Thinly sliced jalapeno
- Finely diced red onion
- Plenty of cilantro
- Diced avocado (or a big ol’ dollop of guacamole!)
- Shredded dairy-free cheese – Field Roast Chao is my personal favorite.
- Vegan sour cream – we have a chipotle version & a cilantro lime version here on PWWB!
Last, but not least, don’t hold back on crackers or tortilla chips on the side. The extra crunchy texture they add is perfect (…& they’re basically edible spoons…just sayin’!).
Here’s to hearty, healthy, plant-based goodness. This Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili recipe will not let you down – I can’t wait for you to try it!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Hearty Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili with Black Beans
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: serves 6-8 1x
- Category: Soup, Stew & Chili Recipes
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican & Tex-Mex
- Diet: Vegan
This Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili is insanely hearty & rich in flavor, thanks to its nourishing base of quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, & flavorful spices. It’s easy to make, perfect for meal prep, & totally healthy & wholesome with more than 13 grams plant-based protein per serving. Naturally vegetarian, dairy-free, vegan & gluten-free. Instant Pot & Slow Cooker directions provided in the Recipe Notes, below.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, deseeded & diced
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1–2 chipotle peppers (from a can, in adobo sauce), finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (see Recipe Notes, below)
- two (2) 14-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with their juices
- two (2) 15-ounce cans black beans, drained & rinsed
- ½ cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 1 large, juicy lime, juiced
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: cashew crema or shredded cheese (or vegan cheese), smashed avocado or guacamole, sliced jalapeno, chopped cilantro, tortilla chips, etc.
- Cook the veggies: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven (at least 4 qt) over medium heat. Once hot & shimmering, add the onion, bell pepper, & sweet potato. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the spices: Add the chipotle peppers, garlic, bay leaves, tomato paste, chili powder, cocoa powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, & dried oregano to the pot, stirring to coat the veggies. Cook for 2-3 minutes, to allow the spices to bloom.
- Build & simmer the chili: Add the Worcestershire sauce, fire-roasted tomatoes, black beans, quinoa & veggie stock/broth to the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the chili to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the chili is thickened slightly and the quinoa is cooked. To finish the chili, squeeze in fresh lime juice & taste and season with additional salt or ground black pepper as needed.
- Serve: Ladle the chili in individual bowls & finish with toppings of choice – cashew crema or shredded (vegan) cheese, smashed avocado or guacamole, sliced jalapeno, pico de gallo, chopped cilantro, tortilla chips, etc. Enjoy!
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: If keeping your quinoa chili vegetarian or vegan is important to you, be sure to use vegan-friendly Worcestershire sauce. My favorite vegan Worcestershire is Annie’s, which is also certified organic. If you have a hard time finding vegan-friendly Worcestershire, feel free to substitute with an equal amount of soy sauce (or tamari, or coconut aminos).
- Storage: To store, transfer cooled quinoa chili to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator. Leftover quinoa chili will keep for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Freezing: This quinoa chili is very freezer-friendly! To freeze, transfer cooled quinoa chili to an airtight freezer container. (These are my absolute favorite!) Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight & reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Alternative cooking methods:
- Slow Cooker or Crock Pot: Prep the veggies & spices according to Steps 1-2, above. Transfer the spiced veggie mixture to the slow cooker, along with the remaining ingredients as directed in Step 3. Slow cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish the quinoa chili as directed in Step 3. Serve as directed in Step 4. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire vegan quinoa chili recipe (Steps 1-3) in the slow cooker.
- Instant Pot: Use the Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 1-2, above. Build the chili in the Instant Pot according to Step 3, then cover & seal. Cook on manual high pressure for 4 minutes (it will take 15-20 minutes for pressure to build). When the timer goes off, quick release by carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position. If the chili seems a little too liquidy, feel free to turn on the Sauté setting again, letting the chili simmer down a little before finishing & serving as directed in Steps 3-4.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Most of the active prep time involved with this recipe is chopping up the veggies. With just a little prep, you can cut down on all active prep the night you want to throw it together. Pick & choose from the list below, or do it all & all you’ll have to do at dinnertime is get cooking – easy!
- Dice 1 large yellow onion
- Deseed & dice 1 bell pepper
- Peel & dice 2 medium sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes
- Optional: Prep desired toppings, such as making a batch of guacamole or cashew crema.
- Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Keywords: sweet potato quinoa chili, vegan quinoa chili, dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free, easy, healthy, winter, hearty, plant-based, meal pep, freezer friendly
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat
Obsessed with this Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili? More Must-Try Vegan Soup, Stew & Chili Recipes:
- Vegan White Chili & Vegan Pumpkin Chili – A couple of other hearty plant-based chili recipe!
- Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup & Damn Good Lentil Soup – A couple of classic plant-powered faves.
- Creamy Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup – A Midwest classic, made totally vegan & dairy-free, thanks to a secret healthy ingredient!
- Butternut Squash Red Curry – The creamiest Thai-style red curry, with hearty squash, peppers, onions, & kale.
- All PWWB Soup, Stew & Chili Recipes
Love Plant-Based Everything? You HAVE to try these PWWB Faves!:
- Roasted Sweet Potato + Cauliflower Tacos (with Chipotle Cashew Crema!) – The BEST vegan tacos!
- Vegan Quinoa Black Bean Taco Meat – Another goodie!
- Lemony Basil Creamy Vegan Pasta with Broccoli & Sun-Dried Tomatoes – A 25-minute weeknight wonder!
- Sheet Pan Chickpea & Veggie Shawarma – SO. MUCH. FLAVOR.
- All PWWB Plant-Based & Vegan Recipes
Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!
Delicious. I’ll admit, I forgot the worcestershire. But it still turned out great. Has a bit of spicy to it, but my 6 month old ate it when some mashed avocado! I made the instant pot version but it kept giving me the burn notice, which was ridiculous because I scraped it and all that. Still, I just turned it to saute and finished up cooking it that way. I’ll probably just do stovetop next time since the IP was misbehaving.
Hi Suzie, so glad to hear that you enjoyed! Sorry to hear that your Instant Pot was acting up – so strange! Either method should work great!
a great chili, every time I think I’ve tried every version, another, and love them all! Love sweet potatoes too, thank you!
Sabrina, completely agree – there seems to be endless amounts of chili recipes! We are SO glad you enjoyed this one!
I nearly completely followed this recipe, and it turned out fabulous! Straight from heaven!
Hi Blaire! So glad you enjoyed – we love this recipe too!