The Best Kidney Bean Chili Recipe (Vegan + Better for the Planet)

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Why is this the best kidney bean chili recipe?

Well, of course ‘the best’ is way too subjective.

I, for one, enjoy it because it tastes amazing, is better for the planet, vegan (no cows needed here), fairly inexpensive, and nutrient dense with extra veggies.

As a nutrition expert and vegan with plenty of non vegan folks to test this recipe on, I can definitely say it has proven delicious over and over again. So let’s get cooking!

Disclaimer: You should do your own due diligence and work with your own health care provider to determine what foods and dietary pattern is suitable for your unique needs. This post is not personal dietary or health advice.
See our Disclaimers for more details.

Text reads: Kidney Bean chili Recipe (vegan + Better for the planet). Picture at the top includes the chili in a beautiful white bowl. Chili is topped with vegan cheese

You Will Love this Kidney Bean Chili Recipe

  • Firstly- It’s delicious!: It’s got warm and rich flavors, coupled with a ‘bite’ from the hearty beans. Even non vegan folks I know enjoy it! That being said…
  • It’s an awesome vegan alternative to chili: If you are vegan, or trying to reduce your consumption of animals-you’ll be in for a treat!
  • Nutrient dense with lots of veggies! While traditional chili recipes might skimp on the veggies, this one adds them sort of sneakily by shredding in zucchini and carrots! Onions and tomatoes round out the flavors and textures.
  • Chances are you’ll still love it even if you don’t like veggies (it still tastes good!): Frist of all, the vegetable haters might not even notice the veggies. If they do, the shredded carrot and zucchini might actually remind meat lovers of finely shredded pulled pork or chicken.
    So it’s a win for those trying to eat more veggies but having a hard time getting on the ‘veg train!’
  • This recipe makes a lot: and you’ll be happy about that- because it tastes just as good leftover as fresh (in my opinion). If you happen to take it to a potluck or a gathering, you’re sure to be asked where you got the recipe!
    Finally, If you love meal prepping– this recipe will give you lots to spread out over the week.
  • It’s pretty cheap!: This recipe largely uses easy to find and inexpensive ingredients or those you might already have on hand, especially if you are vegan. I loosely calculated the cost of this recipe to be only about about 55 to 85 cents (US) per serving

Where’s the Beef?

Unlike traditional chili, there is no beef in this recipe, and I think that’s kind of cool!

Here’s the benefits of omitting traditionally used beef in chili, and replacing it with healthier nutrient dense foods:

  • Health Benefits: The legumes and veggies in this recipe contain almost zero saturated fat, while 1 cup of ground beef could easily add 8 grams of unhealthy saturated fats(1) (learn more about fats here). Not to mention, this recipe is nutrient dense and fiber filled- just a couple important aspects of a healthy dietary pattern.
    If you are interested in taking all the meat out of your diet, make sure you read my article: Can Humans Survive Without Meat?
  • Better for the Planet: One study suggests that substituting beans for beef in the US could free up an estimated 42% of US cropland and reduce greenhouse gas emissions(2)!
  • Reduces Animal Cruelty: Perhaps the most obvious benefit! Swapping beans for beef means that a cow did not have to be slaughtered for that dish.

Why Kidney Beans for Chili?

Birdseye view of the vegan kidney bean chili recipe in a pretty white bowl on a wood table

Kidney beans make a great main bean for chili because they:

  • Tend to be bulkier and more broad than smaller beans, such as pinto, cannellini or black beans.
  • They have tougher skin than other common beans used in chili, giving the chili some extra ‘chew.’
  • Their vibrant red color makes the chili pop (see picture above)!

So, if you are only familiar with using chili beans for chili, consider giving kidney beans a try!

FYI- If you don’t know what chili beans actually are – that’s valid!

‘Chili beans’ could mean a variety of things. I’ve often seen them labeled as being red beans with a chili sauce, but the description can differ between brands.

Toppings and Pairings

kidney bean chili recipe with cornbread on the side

Need some inspiration to top off this chili recipe? I got you!

Topping ideas:

  • Vegan cheese
  • Green onions
  • Chives
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Pepper

This chili idea goes swell paired with:

  • Cornbread
  • On top of a baked potato
  • Corn on the cob
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bread
  • On top of rice, quinoa, or other cooked grains.

I personally love to have this with either bread or cornbread, a side of fruit, and plant based milk.

Birdseye view of the vegan kidney bean chili recipe in a pretty white bowl on a wood table.

The Best Kidney Bean Chili Recipe

This kidney bean chili recipe is nutrient dense, better for the planet than beef chili, probably cheaper, and doesn't involve killing a cow!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Cups (approx)
Calories 160 kcal


  • 1 large pot for the stovetop
  • 1 measuring cup, 1/2 cup
  • 1 measuring spoon, tablespoon
  • 1 measuring spoon, 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 Grater
  • 1 Large stirring spoon


  • 5 Cans Kidney Beans Using 'No Added Sodium,' or 'Low Sodium' canned kidney beans helps to cut down on the sodium-recommended.
  • 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes Again, you can look for 'No Salt Added' diced tomatoes to reduce the sodium in this recipe!
  • 1 Large Onion, chopped
  • 1 Large Zucchini, shredded
  • 2 Large Carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 Cup Ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 12 ounce package Morning Star Farms Veggie Griller Crumbles optional


  • Shred the carrot and zucchini with a grater.
  • Add the beans and tomatoes to a large pot.
  • In no particular order, put all the other ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover the pot, and bring to a boil on medium to high heat on the stove top. Then, let simmer for 30 minutes at medium heat. Don't forget to stir often!
  • Be careful- chili will be hot! Dish out and wait till it's cool enough to consume.



  • I used red kidney beans for their vibrant color! 
  • Topping ideas include: vegan cheese, avocado, or guacamole (the options are endless)!
  • This chili is nicely complicated by corn bread, or over quinoa, baked potatoes, etc!
Keyword kidney bean chili recipe, vegan

Because some folks enjoy knowing where inspiration for recipes came from: this one was handed down from my hubby’s mom to us- and now to you to enjoy the flavors!

It has been slightly modified from her original recipe and we love making it again and again.


Kidney bean chili in a glass storage container, with the lid near by.

I like to use glass containers that are also microwave safe. That way, you can easily reheat!

Properly store this vegan chili in an air tight container in the fridge. This should last about 3-4 days. This recipe also freezes well.

Did you enjoy this kidney bean chili recipe? What’s your favorite things to eat with chili? Let me know in the comments!
If you loved this recipe, check other vegan recipes and round up posts right here!:
Whole Food Plant Based Snacks
Easy Vegan Popcorn Recipe
Tofu Recipe Roundup
If you are loving my content and recipes, sign up to get notified of new posts right here!  ❤✌
❓Ready to go vegan? 📓Check out my book: ‘Going Vegan: A Vegan Lifestyle Journal!’ It makes the puurfect gift for yourself or someone interested in this philosophy/lifestyle.

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