This Smoky Eggplant Vegan Chili is simple comfort food at its best. My plant based chili is simple to cook from scratch, meat free, yet hearty enough for everyone to enjoy. Whether you're vegan, vegetarian or just bored of ground beef, this gluten and dairy free 'chile non carne' is the perfect midweek meal!
Made with black beans, kidney beans and lentils and flavored with smoky burnt eggplant, my aubergine vegan chili is packed with protein.
Dark chocolate is added to this chili to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes. The chocolate adds real depth of color and flavor - plus the kids can't wait to try it in something savory.
One of the hardest things about cooking for a family is making one dish which everyone likes. This aubergine chili nails that problem since you can leave the spice out entirely if you're cooking for kids that don't like it. Serve them first, and then add in extra spices for the adults.
Why You Should Make This Smoky Eggplant Vegan Chili
- This is a great one pan dish the whole family can enjoy. And it's packed full of nutrients.
- We're all trying to eat less meat and this is and inexpensive and hearty veggie dish to have in your meal rotation.
- This is a perfect dish for a football game or any relaxed party. To feed a crowd simply double up the recipe, get creative with a toppings bar and allow everyone to help themselves.
For another simple dish that can be doubled up, try my Oven Quesadillas with Black Bean and Sweet Potato.
- Chili non carne freezes well - so is great for get-ahead meal prepping.
How to Make Eggplant Vegan Chilli
Find a full printable recipe with measurements below.
Start by charring the eggplant, removing the skin and roughly chopping the flesh. [There are detailed instructions on how to do this below.]
Saute the onion and carrots over a medium heat until softened - this takes approximately 10 minutes.
Add the diced red pepper and chopped aubergine and saute for a further 5 minutes. Then add and quickly saute the garlic.
Now add the remaining ingredients and bring the chili to the boil, stirring to combine. Turn the heat to low, pop the lid on and simmer gently for an hour, stirring occasionally. Simple.
How to prepare burnt eggplant?
It can be a bit fiddly taking the skin off the aubergine - but it’s worth doing as the flesh breaks down and adds a lovely smokiness to the chili.
If you have a gas stove, char the skin by placing it directly on top of the naked flame. Turn it occasionally with tongs until the entire skin has blackened. Allow to cool, then remove the skin.
If you don't have a gas stove, set your grill/broiler to the highest setting, place the eggplant on a baking tray and place under the grill. Keep turning the eggplant until the entire skin has blistered.
Where is Chili from?
The dish we recognise as chili or chili con carne (chili with meat) is thought to originate from the American West, most often associated with Southern Texas. The dish is believed to have been brought to the US by immigrants settling in San Antonio.
Should there be beans in chili?
There is a lot of debate as to whether or not there should be beans in chili. Most traditional recipes will tell you that a chili should only contain meat, red chili peppers and spices - definitely no beans or pasta. No Texan would put beans in their chili.
However, when you want to make a vegan based chili you have to get a little creative. I like to add lentils, kidney beans and black beans to the mix.
Should chili be thick or soupy?
Chili should have a thick consistency. If your chili looks to be a bit thin then remove the lid from the pot and allow it to bubble away and reduce a little.
Another way to thicken a veggie chili is to add a few more beans to the pot. The beans will soak up any excess liquid.
Variations of Eggplant Vegan Chili
- You can use either puy or green lentils in this chili. Lentils should be cooked first before adding the the chili. However, canned lentils can also be used.
- I like to use canned black beans and kidney beans in my veggie chili, but you could add any variety of bean, mixed beans or even chickpeas. If you like beans try my White Bean Soup with Leek & Potato.
- The blend of spices used here, add a lovely level of mild heat. However, add more chili powder if you want to increase the heat. For another great mildly spiced dish try my Chickpea and Spinach Curry.
Tips For Making the Best Eggplant Vegan Chili:
- Dark chocolate adds both flavor and depth to this aubergine chili. Use a high cocoa chocolate with a cocoa content of 60% or more for the best results.
- If you're looking to increase the amount of veggies in your diet feel free to add extra vegetables to this meat free chili. Zucchini, squash and sweet potato all work well.
- Make sure to finish the chili with some freshly squeezed lime and cilantro as well as any other favorite toppings. This really helps to lift and brighter the chili.
How To Serve Eggplant Vegan Chili?
The great thing about chili is that it is so versatile. I like to make a big bowl of chili and then prepare a variety of sides and toppings to go with it.
Serve with steamed rice, wheat or corn tortillas or tortilla chips to help mop up all the sauce. I find any meal served with tortilla chips can get most kids around the table (it certainly helped with my reluctant 6 year old).
Be as creative as you like with the toppings, that way everyone can have the chili exactly how they like it. Lime wedges; sliced avocado or guacamole; sour cream; tomato salsa; shredded cheese; pickled jalapeno chilies.
How long can you keep Veggie Chili?
This chili is a great make ahead dish and can be made up to 3 days before you serve it. It will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge.
Chili is actually one of those dishes which can benefit from being made a little in advance since this allows the flavors to meld together and really intensify the finished dish.
How to Freeze Veggie Chili?
My aubergine vegan chili is easy to freeze. I like to double up the recipe, enjoying some once cooked and saving the rest to enjoy at a later date.
Simply allow the chili to cool completely before decanting into a container suitable for the freezer. This chili will store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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More Easy Dinner Ideas
Smoky Eggplant Vegan Chili
- 1 Eggplant (Aubergine)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Onion - diced
- 2 Carrots - diced
- 1 Red Pepper - seeded and diced
- 2 cloves Garlic - minced
- 1½ cups Puy or Green Lentils - cooked
- 15½ oz Cooked Kidney Beans - canned, including the liquid
- 15 oz Cooked Black Beans - canned, drained
- 3 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1½ cups Vegetable Stock - gluten free if required
- 14½ oz Diced Tomatoes - canned
- 1 oz Semisweet (Dark) Chocolate - vegan if required
- ¼ tsp Chili Powder
- 2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 tsp Sweet Smoked Paprika
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- Limes and Fresh Cilantro - for serving
- Avocado, grated cheese, sour cream or any other toppings you like - for serving
- Start by charring the eggplant. If you have a gas stove, char the skin completely by placing it directly in the heat, turning occasionally with tongs. If not, set your grill/broiler to the highest setting and char the skin that way on a baking sheet.
- Remove, cool and peel the eggplant (the blackened skin comes off very easily). Roughly chop the flesh and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and sauté the onions and carrots over a medium low heat until softened - around 10 minutes.
- Add the diced red pepper and chopped aubergine and sauté a further 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and fry another minute.
- Add the lentils, beans, soy sauce, stock, tomatoes, chocolate, and all the spices.
- Bring the chili to the boil whilst stirring. Turn the heat to low, add a lid and simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with rice and all the 'fixins!
This recipe has been shared with the #CookBlogShare community hosted this week by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.
Oh, what a very good idea to add smoky aubergine to chilli. Chilli is such a fabulous comfort food dish and a great crowd pleaser too. It's one of my go to dishes. Next time I get an aubergine in my veg box, I might just give it a try.
Thanks for joining in with #CookBlogShare
Jo Keohane says
Hope you do Choclette! It's one of our favourites. Thanks so much for commenting.
This was very straightforward to make. I’m not particularly competent in the kitchen but my guests absolutely loved this. I’m not a huge fan of vegan food but I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. So full of flavour. Simply the best chilli recipe around!
Jo Keohane says
Thanks so much Eva - so glad you liked this!!
Rachel Lampen says
Made this for a veggie friend and we all devoured it! Super easy to make and delicious - fabulous umami taste from the soy and chocolate. I left out the lentils (cannot resist tweaking a recipe) and when I grilled the eggplant also threw on the red pepper. Today I warmed up for lunch and added sweetcorn. YUM.
Jo Keohane says
Hi Rachel - thanks so much for your lovely feedback, so glad this one was a hit!! Always add some spice in myself xx