Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

The best pot of chili I've made in years. A vegetarian chili recipe Inspired by a bunch of little bags of remnant grains and pulses collected in my cupboards - bulgur, farro, and lentils, join chile peppers, crushed tomatoes, some chickpeas, and a secret ingredient.

Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

I think its safe to say, we are long overdue for a good vegetarian chili recipe. I kept waiting until I had a pot in front of me that I was giddy about, the kind of chili that has you leaning over the pot, spoon in hand, shaking your head once or twice, saying mmm-hmm. And believe me, I never thought the best pot of chili I'd made (in years) would be inspired by a bunch of little bags of remnant grains and pulses collected in my cupboards. But that’s what happened. This chili is made with bulgur, farro, lentils, chile peppers, crushed tomatoes and the chickpeas I had hanging around. Beyond that, you've got chili powder, and the wildcard - a bit of grated ginger.

Vegetarian chili in a bowl with chopped onion on top

What To Do With Leftover Chili

Like most chili, or stews, this vegetarian chili is even better the day after! This makes an XXL pot of the stuff, so you'll have plenty left over. If you are feeling adventurous, you can ladle some of it into a shallow baking dish, make a few indentations with the back of a large spoon, crack eggs into the hollows, drizzle generously with olive oil, and toss it into a 375F degree oven until the eggs set up - a twist on baked eggs.

To Freeze Chili

This chili freezes brilliantly. Allow it to cool completely before ladling into freezer safe containers. I like to divide the chili into meal-sized allocations which will be different depending on your family size.

Close up photo of lentils


I should also note, you can swap in other grains if you like. That said, I think part of the success here was choosing grains that held their structure. And shoot for grains that cook in roughly the same amount of time as the lentils. Pearled grains cook much more quickly than whole farro or barley, although certain brown rices, perhaps a basmati, could work well. There are countless great ideas in the comments as well. For example someone swapped in hominy in place of the chickpeas and said it was the best part. Brilliant! French lentils pictured above, and pearled farro pictured below.

Close up photo of pearled grains

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Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

5 from 1 vote

A few notes related to this chili recipe. The chili powder I used was very ancho-centric. I think the earthiness of ancho and lentils works nicely together, but feel free to use your favorite chili powder. This recipe makes a pot of chili with a bit of a kick to it - if you're nervous about heat, scale back a bit on the powder and peppers, wait until you get to the simmer stage and add more a bit at a time tasting all the while. As far as broth goes - I really dislike many of the pre-made vegetable broths out there, making your own homemade bouillon is simple and great to have on hand. I'd actually prefer you use water if you can't find a vegetable broth/stock good enough to heat up and drink on its own. I should also mention I used a blend of two types of lentils here - black and French green lentils - 1 1/2 cups black lentils, 3/4 cup French green lentils. And lastly, this makes a huge pot of chili, so get out your largest pasta pot. If you stick with vegan toppings, the chili base is vegan.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from can or rehydrate), minced
  • 1 28- ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 10 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
  • 2 1/4 cups black, brown, or green lentils (or combo), rinsed and picked over
  • 2/3 cup pearled barley or pearled farro
  • 2/3 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • toppings (opt): a bit of chopped serranos, a bit of feta or dollop of thinned out salted yogurt, a drizzle of equal parts chopped fresh oregano and olive oil, chopped onion
  1. In a large stockpot pot over medium heat add the olive oil, onion, and shallots. When the onions soften up and get a bit translucent, add the garlic, ginger, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook for another minute of so, until everything gets quite fragrant. Stir in the serrano pepper and chipotle pepper, tomatoes, and 8 cups of the broth. Now add the chickpeas, lentils, barley/farro, and bulgur - stirring between each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer.

  2. Simmer away for 45 minutes or until the lentils and grains are cooked through. You will likely need to add the rest of the water, a cup at a time, if the chili thickens up too much. Stir in the salt.
  3. When everything is cooked and tender, take a taste of the broth. Make adjustments for salt here. If you're using water in place of broth, you can add another teaspoon of salt for starters and add more, a bit at a time, if needed.
  4. Before serving do your final adjustments - add more chipotle, salt, or whatever you think it needs and enjoy! I love this chili with a bit of feta or goat cheese on top and a big drizzle of olive oil, but I listed off a few other topping ideas up above.

A large pot of chili - serves 12 or more.

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Recipe Rating


Looks lovely. Can't wait to try. Maybe I missed it somewhere in the notes, but why is it called "Pierce Street"? HS: Sorry :) I live on Pierce Street.


Sorry, I meant a couple cups of dark beer, and the rest water - not 10 cups of bee


Thank you Heidi! I can't wait. Yummmm. And I have all these grains/legumes in the cookie jar that I use as my grain 'silo'. (Cookies just don't last long enough to jar at my place.) Keep 'em coming!!


I would suggest using dark beer instead of the vegetable stock!


Love the all the different pulses in this chili and ginger is something I would have never thought to add. I agree with you on broth - if you can't drink it plain warm, its not going to add anything to your final product.


This looks fantastic, only i live at high altitude and cannot seem to digest lentils. Am going to try this with aduki beans instead!


That's one protein packed chili!

The Duo Dishes

I hate wasting food and am sure glad this recipe helps me from doing just that!!! Meg and I will try this a hora mismo!!

Vicel Meregillano-Hicks

Giddiness aside, I typically do not like chili but, as I have become enamored about Heidi's cooking for some months now. I think I will give it a try. I love ginger and while this recipe is ingredient intensive it looks like a chili I could love. I've been making Cashew Curry for weeks now (it's easy to bring to work and have everyone ask...'Ohhh, What's that?!"), which I added 1/2 tsp ginger too. Oddly, many people I work with don't know what curry is (dunno what planet they are from)! Thanks Heidi for a great (best on the web) site!

Peter (one of many ; )

I used to love vegetarian chili, and I ordered it in restaurants all the time, but I got discouraged by the watery flavors in the ones I made, and I stopped. This one looks incredible though! Hearty and rich... I'm definitely making this once the weather gets cold again.


Lentils a barley? That's a chili after my heart! :)

Fit Bottomed Girls

I've been procrastinating making veggie chili for some time now. I think today is the day I dive into the pool with this great recipe. Thanks Heidi and thanks to the writer who suggested cocoa powder. Sounds perfect.


Thanks for this! I have only been vegetarian since January and although am not craving meat have been unable to make a vege chili anywhere near as tasty as my beef one used to be. Here's hoping this is it - I will be looking forward to a bowl of chili one night, followed by enhiladas made with the left overs the night after! Oh, and I will be making this even though we have gorgeous sunshine over here! Joey, Scotland x x


A tip on the broth/stock/bouillon - I use mixed herbs and a can of larger beer/light ale! Works incredibly well.


I'm not big on "traditional" chili, but this looks really good!


As with everything you post, I'll have to try this one out, Heidi. It looks great and not far off from my own vegetarian chili recipe which I make on a near-weekly basis. I usually perform a little alchemy and mix together my own chili powder from a variety of spices (paprika, cayenne, cumin, oregano, sage, thyme, etc.) but one thing I always include is cocoa powder. It gives a subtle depth and sounds like it would accentuate the earthiness of the ancho chili powder your recipe uses. One tblsp. for a big pot is enough.


Nice idea to combinate ginger and lentils! I'll try soon this recipe. Thank you sharing...

Dominique (de vous à moi...)

Just curious, since I tend to shy away from hot-spicy dishes, can the serrano and/or chipotle peppers be omitted from the recipe (or just reduced) and have it still be tasty?


This chili looks absolutely wonderful, and so unique with the lentils and ginger!


I love the idea of using fresh ginger in chili! - another dimension of "spice". This would also be great topped with a smoked sea salt like Maldon. mmm mmm

Michelle @ www.PorktoPurslane.com

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