Meaty Vegan Chili

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This vegan chili is hearty, filling, and so tasty! Crumbled tempeh, walnuts, and mushrooms give the appearance and texture of ground meat.

bowl of meaty vegan chili

Chili is one of my staple dishes that I make almost every week. It’s also my go-to when I’m traveling and staying at an Airbnb or somewhere with a kitchen. It’s easy to make and a tasty way to get in lots of veggies, fiber, and plant protein. Plus you can make a big batch to enjoy throughout the week or freeze for later. I have lots of chili recipes on my blog already, but this meaty vegan chili is my new favorite! I took my beloved Mushroom Walnut Chili and Tempeh Chili and combined them to make this amazingly meaty vegan chili.

meaty vegan chili ingredients

Key Ingredients

  • Tempeh, Mushrooms, and Walnuts Finely chopped, these are what give the chili its “meaty” texture. Tempeh is firm, hearty, and high in protein. Mushrooms are chewy and full of umami. Walnuts add healthy fats, nutty flavor, and a slightly crunchy texture.
  • Beans It’s not chili without beans! I prefer kidney beans or black beans, but you can use any kind.
  • Tomatoes Another chili staple. I like using whole canned tomatoes since I’ve heard they’re better quality than the crushed or diced variety. You can use fire roasted tomatoes for extra flavor.
  • Spices Instead of using a spice mix, I like to combine individual spices to suit my tastes. Coriander, cumin, paprika, oregano, chile powder (not chili powder in the US which is a spice mix), nutritional yeast, and cocoa powder.
    • Cocoa powder adds more depth to the chili and also darkens the color so it looks more “meaty”. If you don’t have cocoa powder, you can add one or two squares of dark chocolate (preferably 85% or higher).
    • Ancho chile powder is best for chili, but I’ve also used other types of ground chilis. Basically anything to add some heat, even cayenne pepper works. You can use chili powder if it’s all you’ve got, but you’ll likely need to increase the amount.
  • Balsamic Vinegar To deglaze the pot. It also adds a subtle sweet, acidic flavor and darkens the color of the chili.
  • Soy Sauce For salty, umami flavor. Soy sauce packs a lot more flavor than just using salt.
  • Lime Juice Adding a bit of lime juice at the end really helps round the flavors – the vitamin C also increases the bioavailability of the iron in the chili.

Tips for Success

Prep a day in advance/make extra ⟶ While delicious the day you make it, chili is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day after all the flavors have had time to mingle. I always make enough for leftovers!

Use a food processor or food chopper ⟶ You can of course chop by hand, but for the meaty crumbles a food processor/chopper will really save you some time.

Add umami ⟶ What makes this vegan chili so “meaty” is not only the crumbly appearance/texture, but also the strong umami flavor. We get umami from a few main sources: mushrooms, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. If you feel like the final chili needs more flavor but is salty enough, you can add more nutritional yeast or a pinch of MSG.

spoonful of meaty vegan chili close up

Meaty Vegan Chili FAQ

Can I make meaty vegan chili without a food processor?
You can chop by hand, it’s just easier/quicker to use a food processor.

I don’t like tempeh. Can I use something else?
If you don’t like the flavor of tempeh, I still recommend you try this chili because you can’t taste the tempeh! It’s really just for texture. However, if you can’t find tempeh, you can use crumbled extra firm tofu.

How do I make this chili gluten-free?
To keep the chili gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Also make sure your tempeh doesn’t include gluten from grains like wheat or barley or any added seasonings (I recommend using plain tempeh).

How do I make this chili soy-free?
For a soy-free version, use a soy-free tempeh such as chickpea, lentil, or split pea tempeh (there are recipes online for making your own). Or, omit the tempeh and add more mushrooms and walnuts.

bowl of meaty vegan chili with a spoon

More Delicious Vegan Chili Recipes

If you make this meaty vegan chili, don’t forget to leave a comment/rating down below and tag me in your photos on instagram I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!

Meaty Vegan Chili

This vegan chili is hearty, filling, and so tasty! Crumbled tempeh, walnuts, and mushrooms give the appearance and texture of ground meat.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Servings 4


Meaty Crumbles

  • 8 oz tempeh, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • cup walnuts


  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • ½-1 tsp chile powder*, adjust to desired spiciness
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast*


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 14 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cooked beans (kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, white beans, etc), drained and rinsed if using canned beans
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free
  • ½ lime, juiced

Garnishes (optional)

  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 green onions, sliced
  • avocado, sliced
  • vegan sour cream
  • vegan cheese
  • tortilla chips


  • Mix spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add tempeh, mushrooms, and walnuts to a food processor and pulse a few times until crumbly. Be careful not to over-pulse them – you want to retain some texture, not form a paste.
  • Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
  • Add the meaty crumbles and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add spices and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato paste and stir another 30 seconds.
  • Add balsamic vinegar and stir to deglaze the pot.
  • Add tomatoes and water/vegetable broth. Use the back of your stirring spoon to crush the tomatoes (be careful of splattering).
  • Add beans, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • Add bell peppers and simmer another 5 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and stir in soy sauce and lime juice. Taste and adjust flavors as needed: more salt or soy sauce for saltiness, lime juice for acidity, sugar for sweetness, or even a pinch of MSG for umami.
  • Garnish as desired.

Nutrition per serving: 380 kcal | 16g fat | 2.5g sat fat | 44g carbs | 11g fiber | 24g protein | 659mg sodium

*Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but the price remains the same to you. Thank you for supporting Ellie Likes Cooking!

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