Basic Pantry Vegetarian Chili

The easiest pantry vegetarian chili, made with pantry staples. This basic recipe is packed with flavor and high in plant-protein and fiber.

chili in a bowl and hand holding spoon

I don’t know about you guys, but chili is the meal I always turn to when my fridge is mostly empty. It requires few ingredients, plus it’s versatile. Other than garlic and onions (which I consider pantry staples), chili can be made with zero fresh ingredients.

This recipe is slightly adjusted from my hearty lentil chili in Cooking with Legumes. As we’re all trying to make it longer without a trip to the grocery store, it felt like the best recipe to share with you guys. Plus, I added lots of substitution notes for you!

If you’re looking for an easy vegan or vegetarian recipe that’s packed with fiber and protein, this one is for you. It’s made with both beans and lentils, which makes this chili hearty and filling, without the meat. Plus, it’s full of spices, making it packed with flavor!

kidney beans, tomatoes, spices and lentils
onions, peppers and spices in a saucepan
chili ingredients in a saucepan
Notes on Substitutions

Chili is very forgiving and versatile, which makes it the perfect near-empty kitchen meal. Here are some easy substitutions you can try:

  • Use any lentils you have on hand: French, brown, green or red will work. Note that red lentils will cook a little faster, so let the chili simmer for 15-20 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
  • Use any beans you like: Red kidney beans and black beans are great, but chickpeas, navy beans or other cooked beans you have will work.
  • Skip the bell pepper to make it completely pantry-friendly.
  • Don’t have garlic? Just add some garlic powder.
  • Don’t have canned diced tomatoes? Canned whole tomatoes will work too. Just break them into smaller pieces yourself. Crushed tomatoes will technically work too.

And that’s it! You likely have all of the pantry ingredients on hand already.

I hope you’ll like this hearty chili as much as I do! And for more easy legume recipes, you can get my Cooking with Legumes eBook here.

cooked pantry vegetarian chili in a saucepan
pantry vegetarian chili in a bowl from the top
pantry vegetarian chili in a bowl from the top
Print Pin
4.50 from 2 votes

Basic Pantry Vegetarian Chili

The easiest pantry vegetarian chili, made with pantry staples. This basic recipe is packed with flavor and high in plant-protein and fiber.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican, vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), diced (optional)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 can (796ml/28oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth (no salt added)
  • 1 cup dry green or brown lentils (see notes)
  • 1 can (450ml/19oz) red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed


  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add the bell peppers if using and sauté for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water (or vegetable broth), lentils and beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked and tender.
  • Serve with green onions, black pepper, shredded cheese and sour cream (if not vegan).


You can use any dried lentils you have on hand. Brown, green and French lentils will work. If using red lentils, reduce the simmering time to 15-20 minutes.
If you don’t have black or kidney beans, you can use chickpeas or other beans.
If using salted broth, adjust the added salt to taste.

If you make this pantry vegetarian chili, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I love to hear from you guys. And of course, if you try this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram!


  • Gina

    4 stars
    I liked how this recipe turns out quickly but I had to add an extra can of beans as it was way too hot (spicy)/ next time I will use one third the 3 Tbs Chill powder in the recipe and add more seasoning at the end.

    • Nourished by Caroline

      Hi Gina, I’m sorry it was too spicy for you! I wonder if your chili powder is different from mine as I have a very low spice tolerance and I never found it spicy. Of course everyone has different preferences. I’m happy you still liked it though! Thank you for the feedback.

  • Stormy

    5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! I have the canned tomatoes and what not for chili but none of the peppers are or things! I was really having a brainfart on how to make a simple pantry chili and this really helped! =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Nourished by Caroline

I’m Caroline, a registered dietitian located in Kelowna, British Columbia. I focus on plant-based nutrition and intuitive eating. I believe in living a balanced life, while eating the food you love. Learn more about my practice here or book an appointment today!


Dietitians of Canada Member Blog