This vegetarian small batch chili for two is ultra flavorful and bursting with spices, smoky chipotle, vegetables, and plenty of pinto beans. Rich, hearty, and oh-so comforting, it's an easy one-pot meal that gently simmers in a cast-iron skillet.
There are a few dishes I always look forward to making during the fall and winter months of the year. My spicy vodka rigatoni is comfort food heaven, this Mediterranean chickpea soup is full of flavor, and this lamb ragu is equally cozy and delicious.
But my favorite meal has got to be a batch of hearty chili! It's warm, and full of flavor and spice! But to be honest, my favorite part of making a nice pot of chili is loading it up with toppings like sour cream, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. It's infinitely customizable!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
I took my favorite parts of my classic chili recipe and added a few twists to make my *best* version yet! Though this recipe is designed for small batches, it doesn't compromise on flavor in the slightest.
- Smoky flavors: Chipotle chilies add a ton of flavor! And fire-roasted tomatoes give the chili a nice depth.
- Deeply savory: The combination of spices, vegetables, beans, and miso paste adds a nice savory flavor sure to please vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!
- Faster cooking time: Cooking this homemade chili in a cast-iron skillet allows for better heat retention and faster evaporation, producing more flavor in a shorter amount of time. If you'd like, you can serve the chili right in the skillet as a fun presentation loaded with all the toppings! It makes a weeknight dinner for two much more exciting.
This is also a great recipe if you're serving a lot of other snacks for a football game or movie night and want appetizer-sized portions! For more game day snacks, try my sour cream and chive dip or garlic pumpkin cheesy bread.
- Green bell pepper: I love the slightly more savory flavors of green peppers in chili, but you can use a red pepper too.
- Pinto beans: Canned beans make this appropriate for a weeknight dinner. I love using pinto beans as they're super creamy, but feel free to use a combination of beans you like. A mix of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans would be great, too.
- Vegetable stock: Vegetable stock is fine here, though I more recently started using Better Than Bouillon's vegetable base flavor (not sponsored, just love it!).
- Crushed fire-roasted tomatoes: Fire-roasted tomatoes add smokiness, acidity, and sauciness to the chili. Can't find crushed fire-roasted tomatoes? You can sub in regular crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce and a tablespoon of tomato paste) and a pinch of smoked paprika. Fire-roasted diced tomatoes will work too, but you may need less vegetable stock.
- Canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce: These chipotle chiles have lots of smokiness and are coated in a tangy, spicy sauce. I add just two of these to the chili, as they can be quite spicy! You should be able to find a can of these at your standard grocery store or supermarket, typically in the international aisle.
- Miso paste: A bit of miso paste helps round out the chili and add some umami. I love adding miso to vegetarian dishes, as it has such a complex depth of flavor.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card.
Below are a few topping suggestions to get you started. I love adding a combination of creamy, crunchy, and fresh toppings!
- Creamy toppings: Grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese makes the chili nice and creamy. A dollop of sour cream helps cut the acidity and spice of the chili. Don't have sour cream? Sub in greek yogurt with a bit of lime juice. I do this all the time, and it's a great swap!
- Crunchy toppings: I love to crush some tortilla chips and top them with the chili for a little bit of crunch. Fritos corn chips would be great, too!
- Fresh toppings: Freshly chopped cilantro, thinly sliced scallions, finely chopped onion for a bit of heat.
- Acidic toppings: A squeeze of lime juice or pickled red onions will add a bit of acidity.
- Spicy toppings: Try pickled jalapenos or a dab of hot sauce.
How to Make This Chili
This chili recipe is quite easy and straightforward. Here's how to make it.
Step 1: Over medium heat, saute the aromatics until they're golden-brown and softened. The key here is to get some flavor, so golden-brown (but not burnt) edges are a must.
Step 2: Turn the heat off, then add the chipotle chiles and spices, and stir to combine. Saute for a minute, just to "activate" and toast the spices.
TIP: Feel free to adjust the spice level to your liking!
Step 3: Stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock, and miso paste.
Step 4: Add the beans.
Step 5: Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour). If you find that it's splattering, cover it with a lid.
Step 6: Season with salt and black pepper, top with fresh cilantro, and serve with your favorite toppings.
Ever had a chili taste too acidic or too bland? I've been there! Typically, this can happen from canned tomatoes tasting a bit too "raw", especially if they're on the more acidic side, or if the chili hasn't simmered long enough.
If you've simmered the chili for at least 30 minutes, and it still tastes quite acidic, there are a few fixes.
- If the chili is flavorful, but also too acidic, try adding a teaspoon of brown sugar to mellow out the acidity. Or, add a pinch (less than ¼ of a teaspoon) of baking soda, which neutralizes the acid.
- Too bland? If you can barely taste the spices (maybe your spices are old, for example), spices like garlic powder, ground coriander, and ground cumin can help cut the acidity.
Fridge: Chili will last 3 - 4 days in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator. Make sure to cool it down to room temperature before storing in a container!
Freezing: For long-term storage, you can make a double batch and freeze an extra portion of chili in a sealed Ziploc freezer bag for 1 - 2 months. To thaw, defrost the bag in a bowl overnight in the fridge, then heat up on the stovetop until simmering.
Absolutely! This chili will taste even better the next day as the flavors continue to develop. You can make the chili itself a day in advance, and even prep any toppings in advance (and keep them in the refrigerator if needed). Then, you can reheat the chili in the over the stove on low heat until warmed through. Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!
You can substitute 8 ounces of ground meat for a meat-based version, such as ground beef or ground turkey. Make sure to cook the meat with the oil, first, until nicely browned before sauteeing the aromatics.
Try adding a bit more tomato product to dilute the heat! And keep in mind, you can serve it with cheese, sour cream, or greek yogurt to mellow the flavors as well.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Chili For Two (Small-Batch Recipe)
- Cast-Iron Skillet, or a small dutch oven
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 medium green pepper, deseeded and diced
- 2 chipotles chiles in adobo sauce, drained and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, avoid smoked or hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
- Pinch cinnamon
- Salt and black pepper
- 15.5 ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons miso paste
- Cheddar cheese, grated
- Sour cream
- Chopped cilantro and scallions
- Tortilla chips
- To a cold cast-iron skillet, add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil and minced garlic. Saute for 2 - 3 minutes until light golden-brown and aromatic. Add the diced onion, scallion, celery, carrot, and green pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 10 - 15 minutes until onions are translucent, and aromatics are soft and golden-brown at the edges.
- Turn the heat off, then stir in 2 chipotles chiles in adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, ¾ teaspoon ground coriander, and a pinch of cinnamon, salt, and black pepper. Saute for 1 - 2 minutes.
- Add 15.5 ounce can of pinto beans, 14 ounce can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 cup vegetable stock and 2 teaspoons miso paste. Stir to combine.
- Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Season with salt and pepper and stir occasionally, scraping the sides as needed. Make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.Note: After simmering, adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt and/or spices as desired.
- Remove from the heat. Divide chili amongst serving bowls. Top with desired toppings.Alternatively, for a fun presentation, serve the chili straight from the skillet. Top with desired toppings and dig in!Cheddar cheese, Sour cream, Chopped cilantro and scallions, Tortilla chips
- Fridge: Chili will last 3 - 4 days in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator. Make sure to cool it down to room temperature before storing.
- Freezing: For long-term storage, you can make a double batch and freeze an extra portion of chili in a sealed Ziploc freezer bag for 1 - 2 months. To thaw, defrost the bag in a bowl overnight in the fridge, then heat up on the stovetop.