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Easy Cowboy Chili Stew with Black Beans

  • a savory vegan dinner 

This easy Cowboy Chili stew with black beans is a savory and satisfying vegan comfort food recipe. We’re talking bold flavors and amazing comforting textures wrapped in a creamy savory sauce. Browned chunks of eggplants, tender zucchini, meaty beans, and a rich spicy sauce. And unlike a regular chili that takes hours to make, this easy quick chili can be made in just 20 minutes in an instant pot. Don’t have an instant pot? No need to worry. This quick vegan chili can be made in a crockpot or a regular pan too. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

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The seasonings alone – oregano, chili, cumin, paprika, and more – are enough to make your senses know something great is cooking in the kitchen. 

Make a big pot of this freezer-friendly plant-based chili stew and freeze the leftovers for a healthy and tasty dinner for another day. 

Why you will adore this easy vegan chili recipe 

Vegan comfort food – Loaded with cozy and comforting flavors 

Meal prep dinner – A meal prep friendly easy vegan dinner great for a healthy weekday meal when you’re running low on time 

Easy to make – low on time? Make it in an instant pot. Got plenty of time? Cook this savory vegan bean stew in a crockpot. 

Healthy low-calorie dinner – loaded with heart-healthy ingredients and delicious flavors this stew is as tasty as it is comforting.

Versatile – serve as a low-calorie dinner just as is with a topping of your favorite chili toppers. Or scoop on top of baked potatoes or a creamy bowl of mashed potatoes.

Full of nutrients – this chili is a flavorful bowl of cozy rich tastes and textures that completely makes you forget that it’s packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

What is cowboy chili?

Traditionally, chili was a stew made with everything the cowboys had available usually ground beef, chili powder, tomatoes, and vegetables. Originally beef chili would be served with a side of beans to make the chili last longer. At some point, a Cowboy decided to combine the chili and the beans, and the Cowboy Chili was created. 

In my easy vegan Cowboy Chili, the beef is replaced with eggplants and zucchini for those meaty textures the chili is known for. The beans take care of all the proteins, and the rest is spices and seasonings. Not to mention the utterly rich and flavorful sauce. Yum.

Tips and tricks to making the best plant-based Cowboy Chili stew 

  • Cut the vegetables into uniform 1” inch chunks to make everything cook at the same rate.
  • Drain and rinse the beans to wash away the sodium water they are canned in.
  • Vegan Cowboy Chili with beans can be cooked in a Crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, or in the Instant Pot under the “stew” setting. (Just Sauté the vegetables before adding the other ingredients.)

Secret ingredients that will make chili stew “Extra”

Cocoa powder or chocolate – adding cocoa powder or chocolate to your chili will deepen and intensify the flavors of the sauce. 

Beer – a rich dark beer can turn a regular chili into a rich chili feast. The beer gives the sauce a rounded flavor and a hint of sweetness. As the alcohol burns away during cooking it leaves only the fragrant notes of beer that can take your chili to the next level.

Wine – a good red wine adds depth and flavor to any chili.

Cinnamon – although the taste of cinnamon isn’t for everyone, ground cinnamon adds a fragrant deep flavor to the chili that gives it just a hint of spicy goodness.

Coffee – a strong coffee can make your chili sauce rich, deep, and incredibly luxe.

Mixed beans – beans are the secret to a really good chili. Use black beans or add a mixture of different beans for a deliciously satisfying meal.

Brown sugar – if your chili tastes like it need something more, try adding 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the sauce. The brown sugar has a deep-rounded sweetness that makes the sauce rich and irresistible.

What we’re working with today

Ingredients to make easy vegan Cowboy Chili stew

Black beans – the black beans give the stew a wonderful meaty texture and add all the proteins you need for a well-balanced meal.

Eggplants – sautéed at high heat in the pan before the other ingredients are added, the eggplants become deliciously golden brown on the outside and almost melty on the inside…and perfect to soak up all the spices.

Zucchini or squash – the zucchini or squash adds extra texture to the chili

Red bell peppers – add a little spice and a delicious hint of pepper.

Onions and garlic – make the base for the fragrant rich sauce.

Spices and seasoning – paprika, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. A good chili stew needs lots of seasoning so don’t be afraid to be generous. Taste test and add more if needed.

Vegetable broth – you can use vegetable broth or dissolve a stock cube in 1 cup of hot water and add the stock mixture to the sauce.

Plant milk – depending on how much sauce you want (I like a lot of sauce) you need 1/2 cup to 1 cup plant milk. This can be cashew milk, coconut milk soy milk, or whichever plant milk or cream you prefer.

How to make the best easy plant-based Cowboy Chili stew 

Heat olive oil in a pan and add the eggplant chunks. Sear the eggplants at high heat while stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the eggplants are golden brown on the outside. 

Now, add the diced onions, beans, and zucchini and season with paprika, oregano, cumin, chili flakes, cayenne pepper, and salt. Combine everything and turn the heat down to medium. Let the vegetables cook while stirring once in a while for 3-5 minutes or until the onions are just softened.

Once the onions are softened, add the garlic to the pan and cook for a minute before stirring in the tomato paste. 

Next, add the fire-roasted tomatoes, tamari sauce, vegetable broth, and plant milk and combine everything. Bring to a boil before lowering the temperature to a simmer. Leave the chili to simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve and enjoy.

Easy way to make plant-based chili in an instant pot 

Turn on the sauté function on the Instant Pot. Add oil, and sauté the eggplants for a few minutes on each side. Now add the onions, zucchini, and peppers and let them Sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Sauté until the onions are softened. 

Add all the seasonings and the remaining ingredients to the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release the pressure.

Taste test the sauce and add more seasoning if needed. 

Serve with fluffy rice or a side of bread and top with chopped basil. Enjoy.

How to make vegan Cowboy Chili in a crockpot 

Step 1:

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker; mix well.

Step 2: 

Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours or until the vegetables are completely tender.

Step 3: 

Taste test the sauce and add more seasoning if needed. 

Serve with fluffy rice or a side of bread and top with chopped basil. Enjoy.

Chili toppings and mix-in ideas 

Every good chili stew recipe needs an assortment of delicious toppings. Since everyone in my family has their idea about what they want as a chili stew topping I like to make a plate full of different toppings and set it in the center of the table for everyone to customize their own chili bowl. 

Salsa – regular salsa, hot salsa, tomatillo salsa, or my easy tasty salsa (my favorite topping). You can never go wrong with a good salsa topping.

Crushed tortilla chips – crispy, crunchy and salty. Pretty much everything you need as a delicious topping you get in the humble tortilla chips. 

Sour cream – whether vegan sour cream or regular sour cream, sour cream is always a great chili topping choice. 

Hot sauce – because some people just need more spice in everything, all the time.

Sweet chili sauce – I would happily pour sweet chili sauce over just about anything…and that includes my easy vegan chili stew. Yum.

French fried onions – crunchy, onion-y, and irresistible. French fried onions are an AMAZING chili bowl topping.

Jalapeños and green chilies – if you want even more spice in your chili stew then this is the topping for you. 

Shredded cheese – vegan or vegetarian shredded cheese melting into a hot bowlful of cozy chili? Yes, please. 

What to serve with vegan Cowboy Chili stew 

Frequently asked questions about Chili stew

How to store Cowboy Chili?

You can store the chili stew in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Can I freeze Chili stew?

Yes, this easy chili stew is freezer friendly making it a great meal prep dinner. Just let the chili cool first, then freeze the chili in a ziplock bag or freezer-safe container for up to 4 months. Defrost and reheat before serving.

Best way to reheat chili stew

There are two main ways to reheat chili stew:
The saucepan way: Reheat the chili in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat until hot, while stirring often. 
The microwave way: Place the chili in a microwave-safe container and reheat at a high temperature for 1 minute. Stir the chili then reheat it one more minute. Stir, and continue heating in intervals until the chili is hot.

Easy Cowboy Chili Stew with Black Beans

This easy Cowboy Chili stew with black beans is a savory and satisfying vegan comfort food recipe. We’re talking bold flavors and amazing comforting textures wrapped in a creamy savory sauce. Browned chunks of eggplants, tender zucchini, meaty beans, and a rich spicy sauce. And unlike a regular chili that takes hours to make, this easy quick chili can be made in just 20 minutes in an instant pot. Don’t have an instant pot? No need to worry. This quick vegan chili can be made in a crockpot or a regular pan too.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword vegan dinner
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Simone – Munchyesta.com

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Eggplants / Aubergines cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 Zucchini or squash, diced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers cut into 1” chunks
  • 4 cloves Garlic finely chopped
  • 2 15oz cans Black Beans rinsed and drained 
  • 1 tbsp Paprika or smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • ½ tsp Ground Cumin
  • ½ tsp dried Chili Flakes
  • tsp Cayenne Pepper optional (leave out if you prefer a not-too-spicy chili)
  • ½ tsp Salt more to taste if needed
  • 1 cup Vegetable Stock or 1 stock cube dissolved in 1 cup water
  • ½-1 cup Plant Milk or Plant Cream can be cashew milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or soy milk (use plant cream for extra thickness)
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 15oz can Fire-Roasted Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Tamari Sauce

Instructions

How to make chili on the stove

  • Heat olive oil in a pan and add the eggplant chunks. Sear the eggplants at high heat while stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the eggplants are golden brown on the outside. Now, add the diced onions, beans, and zucchini and season with paprika, oregano, cumin, chili flakes, cayenne pepper, and salt. Combine everything and turn the heat down to medium. Let the vegetables cook while stirring once in a while for 3-5 minutes or until the onions are just softened.
  • Once the onions are softened, add the garlic to the pan and cook for a minute before stirring in the tomato paste. Next, add the fire-roasted tomatoes, tamari sauce, vegetable broth, and plant milk and combine everything. Bring to a boil before lowering the temperature to a simmer. Leave the chili to simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
    Serve and enjoy.

How to make vegan chili in an instant pot

  • Turn on the sauté function on the Instant Pot. Add oil, and sauté the eggplants for a few minutes on each side. Now add the onions, zucchini, and peppers and let them Sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Sauté until the onions are softened. 
  • Add all the seasonings and the remaining ingredients to the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release the pressure.
    Taste test the sauce and add more seasoning if needed. 
    Serve with fluffy rice or a side of bread and top with chopped basil. Enjoy.

How to make Vegan Cowboy Chili stew in a crockpot 

  • Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker; mix well.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours or until the vegetables are completely tender.
  • Taste test the sauce and add more seasoning if needed. 
    Serve with fluffy rice or a side of bread and top with chopped basil. Enjoy.

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