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Vegan Bean Chili Sin Carne + Mexican Chili Powder

The ultimate vegan bean chili sin carne with a complex and well-rounded flavor made with a homemade Mexican chili powder. Worth every ingredient and you can top it (and side it) with anything from rice, pico de gallo, avocado, guacamole and vegan sour cream. This is the best vegetarian chili and you won't miss the meat at all!


Bowl of vegan chili, topped with sour cream and guacamole.


What is chili sin carne?


Chili sin carne, or chilli sin carne, means chili without meat. And yes, it is a chili con carne, chili with meat, without the meat! So then the next question may be what chili is, and a chili is a comforting stew made with chilies and usually ground beef. The sauce is tomato based and has tons of delicious Mexican (or Southwestern) flavors.


So a vegan bean chili does not have the ground beef obviously, but a trifecta of beans. I used three different kinds of beans to add both interest and good looks, but you can use just one of these and it will still be good. Vegan chili con carne is also often made with lentils, but I think beans are so perfect for Mexican and Southwestern cuisine!


Taking a spoonful of the chili sin carne.




Don't get frightened by the amount of ingredients in this dish, most of them are spices. If there's any ingredients you can't find, there are many good substitutions too, just keep on reading!


  • Vegetables: onion, bell peppers, beans - easy right? You can add any other vegetable you want, but this is usually enough.
  • Spices: homemade Mexican chili powder (read below), but a little extra smoke from the smoked paprika, extra cumin because hello Mexico, bay leaves and freshly cracked pepper.
  • Sauce ingredients: tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, veggie stock, soy sauce, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • Flavor enhancers: garlic, salt (try mushroom salt for an extra umami boost!), maple syrup, lime juice. Also some cocoa powder which helps to deepen the complex flavor of this chili!


Casserole with finished bean chili, taking a big scoop out.


Best toppings


So I love ALL the toppings when it comes to chili. My favorites include rice to make the chili stretch longer, pico de gallo for some freshness, guacamole or avocado for that luscious creamy element, (vegan) sour cream for some tangy balance.


Also, I love some crunchy tortilla chips for texture! And I sprinkle cilantro on every Mexican dish, but you could also go for green onions.


Topping ideas from tortilla chips to pico de gallo and avocado. 




  • Switch up the vegetables: Use the three mentioned, add more like celery, carrots, other types of onions and cherry tomatoes for more diversity or use them instead of the mentioned ones!
  • Simplify the sauce: Omit the homemade Mexican chili powder (oh it breaks my heart) and substitute it with something store-bought, you can also leave out cocoa powder, soy sauce, some spices and garlic. Keep in mind that it will no longer be the ultimate vegan chili! 
  • Other "meats": Use 3 cans of drained lentils instead of the beans, or 2 cans of beans or lentils and 1 can of the other. You could of course also use 1 lb (400g)  ground beef and 1 can of beans but then it is obviously no longer vegan. Sear it in a separate pan towards the end of the sauce cooking. 
  • Other toppings: So I love the Mexican style toppings mentioned above, but my parents really love this with a big bowl of mashed potatoes. So that means you could also go for polenta. 


Big bowl of vegan bean chili, optional topping ideas on the side.




This type of dish is fantastic as a make ahead meal because the flavors deepen over time. You can make it in the morning, and just reheat it for dinner. Or you can make it up to 3-4 days in advance. Once it has reached room temperature, cover with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days


To freeze, add to a freezer-safe container and freeze for about 4-6 months. It will still be good after, but best before. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat in a casserole. You may or may not need a splash or two of water to thin out the chili when you re-heat it. 


Mexican Chili Powder


This red chilli powder makes the vegan chili stand out from the others. Super complex with a variety if yummy whole dried chilies. Of course, you can add or subtract but remember the flavor will change when you do so. However, it will most likely still be very much delicious. 


It is easy to make when you first have the ingredients. It's recommended to use gloves when handling chilies though (1), or else you will burn your eyes out when you accidentally touch your face later that day. Yes, it sticks for a long time! 


Steps to prepare dried chilis. Steps to make Mexican chili powder.


Remove the membranes and seeds (2) because the membranes are bitter and the seeds make the powder too spicy and hot! I usually never remove seeds, but for this and for homemade harissa paste it is highly recommended!


Tear into similar sized pieces and add them in a single layer in a non-stick pan (3-4) on medium heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and set aside to cool. Now you toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds for a minute too (6)


Since this is quite a bit of dried chili, I add them in batches to the grinder (5). Once all the chili and cumin and coriander seeds are ground, I add the other ingredients and just pulse a few times (7-10).


Small bowl with Mexican chili powder.


Types of whole dried chili peppers


But why girl, why do you have 5 different kinds of dried chilies in this recipe? Let me tell you, each chili brings another nuance, another complexity to the chilli powder.


According to Benito's, the holy trinity in Mexican cooking is ancho chili, mulato and pasilla. 


  • Ancho chilies are sweet, fruity and mild
  • Mulato chilies are sweet, smoky with a moderate heat
  • Pasilla chilies tastes like sweet raisin and coffee and is mildly hot


Baking tray with 5 kinds of dried chilis.


However, many agree, including the City Cook, that the real Mexican trifecta includes ancho, pasilla and guajilo, which generally are easier to find. However, I really like the smoky addition of the mulato. 


  • Guajilo are similar in flavor to the pasilla, and has a sweet and earthy flavor almost like tea. Pretty mild.
  • Chiles de arbol are used mostly for their heat in this recipe. So if you like it spicy, add more, and omit if you don't like it spicy. I added 2 and it was hardly spicy at all. 


How to substitute one chili for another, please refer to the dried chilis guide below:


Dried chilis guide infographic.


Where to find all the dried chilies


I thought I could not find all these chilies in little Norway, but there is this one thing called the Internet, and I figured there exists tons of spice stores online, many Norwegians too.


I bought my chilies from (not affiliate). But you can probably find them in Mexican stores if you have that, because all of these chilies are common in Mexican cuisine!


How to make it


Considering this post is already so long, I will just give you the highlights of the recipe here. The complete recipe can be found in the recipe card below. 


First you need to prepare the Mexican chili powder as mentioned above and prepare all the ingredients for the chili (1). Then start by cooking the diced onion in oil until translucent, about 10 minutes (2). Add in the bell peppers and garlic and fry a little more (3)


First six steps of making chili sin carne. Last four steps of making vegan chili.


Add in the tomato paste, cocoa powder, chipotles and all the spices and stir to coat the vegetables (4-5). Toast for a couple of minutes before deglazing the pan with vinegar or wine if necessary (6). Then add the sauce ingredients: crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and soy sauce (7). Simmer for about an hour, stir occasionally. 


Add all the canned beans and taste the chili (8-9). Add salt, maple syrup and lime juice and cook for another 5 minutes (10). Serve with all the toppings you want - enjoy!


Bowl of vegan chili con carne with backlighting.


Did you like this recipe? Here are more comforting meatless dinners I think you would like:

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📖 Recipe

Taking a spoonful of the chili sin carne.

Vegan Bean Chili Sin Carne + Mexican Chili Powder

Yield: 6-8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

The ultimate vegan bean chili sin carne with a complex and well-rounded flavor. Worth every ingredient!


Vegan Bean Chili Sin Carne

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (one red and one green)
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce + 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce
  • 2 bay leaves (or Mexican bay leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 tablespoons Mexican chili powder (or any mild chili powder*)
  • 2 tablespoons light vinegar (to deglaze, if needed)
  • 2 x 15 ounce cans crushed tomatoes (about 800 grams)
  • 2 cups cups vegetable stock (500 milliliters)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or vegan Worchestershire sauce)
  • 3 x 15 ounce cans beans, drained (black, white and kidney beans, about 240 grams drained per can)
  • 1 teaspoon salt**, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice, to taste

Mexican Chili Powder (Makes 1 ¼ cup)

  • 3 ancho peppers*** (40 grams cleaned)
  • 2 mulato peppers (10 grams cleaned)
  • 2 pasilla peppers (15 grams cleaned)
  • 1 guajilo pepper, optional (6 grams cleaned)
  • 2 to 4 chiles de arbol, for extra heat (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • ½ tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano (or 4 teaspoons regular oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon


Vegan Bean Chili Sin Carne

  1. Make sure you make the Mexican chili powder first, read below.
  2. Heat a large heavy-bottomed casserole or saucepan to medium heat and add the canola oil. Add the onion and stir until translucent or a little golden, about 10 minutes. Now add the chopped bell peppers and garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Then add tomato paste, cocoa powder, chipotles in adobo sauce with the adobo sauce and all the spices (bay leaves, cumin, smoked paprika and Mexican chili powder). Stir to coat the vegetables and toast the spices, about 2 minutes. If needed, deglaze the pan with a good splash vinegar, scraping the pan to get the good bits that sticks to the pan.
  4. Then add in crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and soy sauce. Bring it up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add all the drained, canned beans. Taste and add salt, pepper, maple syrup and lime juice to your own taste, my recommendations are in the ingredients list. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. If you find the chili too liquidy, add 2 tablespoons cornflour mixed in a little water, to thicken.
  7. Serve with your preferred toppings and sides, like rice, pico de gallo, tortilla chips, cilantro, vegan sour cream and guacamole or avocado (I prepare these while it's cooking for an hour).
  8. It is also great the next day as the flavors have blended even more! Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 4-6 months.

Mexican Chili Powder

  1. Remove the stem from each chili pepper and tear the chilis into similar sized pieces. Remove and discard the seeds and membranes. Wear gloves when handling the chili!
  2. Add the chili pieces to a dry non-stick pan heated to medium, in one single layer. Let them toast for 30-60 seconds on each side. Set the chili aside to cool.
  3. In the same pan, add cumin and coriander seeds and toast for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Shake the pan to avoid burning. Set aside to cool.
  4. Once cool, add everything to a spice grinder or powerful blender and grind until pulverized. I grind the chilis first, before adding the rest.
  5. Add to a spice jar or an air-tight container, keeps well for at least 6 months. It makes 20 tablespoons or enough for 5 of this chili sin carne.


* You do not have to make the Mexican chili powder if you don't want to. It is an amazing spice blend, but for ease you could also go for any kind of mild chili powder, for example ancho and/or guajilo chili powder.

** For even more umami flavors, use mushroom salt instead!

*** Read blog post if you want to omit any chilies, but generally you can add any 2-3 of these and it would still be delicious!

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or tag @thegingerwithspice on Instagram, I'd love to see!

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Tuesday 15th of February 2022

Amazing chili recipe!

Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice

Friday 18th of February 2022

Thank you!

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