Quinoa Chili

This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

It’s been a bit warm here in San Francisco but I’ve been wanting to make chili for weeks now. Chili gives me the perfect excuse to have oh-so-crumbly cornbread on the side, except I overdo it and make it a main course. Either way, I still wanted a piping hot bowl of chili. Desperately. But this time, I tried something very different with my batch of chili – I added quinoa, and lots of it!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

The quinoa added such a fun texture, soaking up all the flavors and goodness of this chili. It’s also loaded with kidney beans, black beans, tons of veggies and just enough lime juice to give you a subtle kick in the pants. Plus, this batch will make enough to feed an army so it’ll keep you and your family well fed for days!

Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!

Quinoa Chili

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 35 minutes

Total Time 45 minutes

Yield 6 servings

Quinoa Chili

This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, or more, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime, optional
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced


  • In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in quinoa, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chiles, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper and 1-2 cups water, making sure to cover most of the ingredients; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in beans, corn, cilantro and lime juice, if using, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve immediately with avocado, if desired.


Adapted from Cooking Classy


Quinoa Chili - This vegetarian, protein-packed chili is the perfect bowl of comfort food that you can eat guilt-free!


    • Lauren says

      THIS WAS THE BEST CHILI EVER. The quinoa is great added protein to go with the beans. I used all organic ingredients, but left out cilantro and lime juice since I did not have them in fridge. Used himalyan pink salt, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Made everything in slow cooker, added cooked quino into cooker during last 10 minutes to infuse it with flavor. I am going to freeze multiple containers worth for lunches at work. THANKS!!

    • Meg says

      This was the best Chili recipe I have made. The quinoa made the dish so textured. I’ve never eaten avocado with chili but I was surprised as to how refreshing it was. Totally delicious!

    • Julie Webb says

      I love this Chili! I started eating Quinoa instead of rice and noodles about 6 months ago so I was so excited when I found this recipe! I added ground turkey for my meat loving family and it is a huge hit :) Looking forward to more from Damn Delicious

      • Essie says

        Hi, when in the recipe did you add the turkey? How much did you add and did you change any of the other ingredients?

  1. says

    How yummy looking, I just made Chili the other night and now I’m craving this one. I used to be an all veggie girl so I still love good vegetarian meals, thanks for the recipe and for stopping by me blog :)

  2. says

    GORGEOUS, Chung-Ah! Love this recipe…so healthy with quinoa and all of its protein…perfect for vegetarians who need it in their diet. Beautiful styling and color pop! You are truly inspiring, girl. Thanks for sharing. Pinning!

  3. says

    Dang, I totally made black bean chili tonight, sans quinoa! Kicking myself that I didn’t read your blog post beforehand. Obviously I’ll need to make your version soon–I need this in my life, along with a big slice of cornbread. :)

  4. says

    I live in the South Bay Area and it has been absolutely gorgeous weather here! We had our lunch outside in the sun today and it felt so good. I love a Mexican inspired chili like this and the addition of quinoa definitely makes me want to try it.

  5. Jennifer says

    Could you make this in the crockpot? I am just wondering if the quinoa would do well in a crockpot on low for around 8 hours?


    • Chung-Ah says

      I’m not too sure – I’ve never tried cooking quinoa in the crockpot. If I try it, I’ll let you know how it turns out!

      • Kristin says

        I’m going to make this for a huge interview dinner for my husband’s residency program tonight. Have you tried it in the crockpot yet? If not, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Becki says

      Did you end up trying this in the crockpot? Curious how it turned out…my idea was to try it but not cook the quinoa & let it sit in on low 3-4 hours…thoughts?

      • Chung-Ah says

        Becki, I have actually not tried this in the slow cooker. I think letting it sit for 3-4 hours would be a good idea. Just be sure to the add the quinoa before serving. Hope that helps!

  6. Michelle says

    Just finished preparing for dinner and tastes yummy! Exciting! Looking forward to eating it because it is healthy also!

  7. Beth says

    I made this and it is very good. I love the bright tanginess of the fresh lime juice but it was a little overpowering. I think I will start with 1/2 lime next time. Everything else – just the same. Thanks!

  8. Cassie Scott says

    Made this for dinner tonight, but added some chicken for my husband who thinks dinner isn’t dinner without meat. It was yummy! Even passed the picky 5 year old test! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Meg says

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. Thanks for the wonderful recipe. I can’t wait to try out some of your other recipes.

  10. says

    I made it last night for my boyfriends birthday. Thanks for the great photos and well written guide. I served it with a cold beer, nachos and a feta cheese salad. He could not have been happier đŸ˜€

    / Sanna

  11. Ally Gill says

    Made this tonight, and it’s absolutely delicious! The spices are dead-on perfect! The lime juice at the end adds a slight acidic kick. Quinoa in chili is genius. It adds not only great protein, but gives the chili the perfect texture that many veggie chilis lack. Just love it, and will make it again! Looking forward to trying some of your other recipes. Thanks!

  12. Stephanie says

    So I just made this and I have to say it’s THE best chili I’ve ever had. Tastes so fresh and the quinoa really adds that extra kick. You had really taste all the flavors and is so much lighter than traditional chili

  13. says

    I’ve had this recipe on my todo list for ages now and we’re finally going to have our first snowy day of the season tomorrow! I’m going to be cooking up a huge pot and inviting my friends over. Been craving it for weeks so I can’t wait!

  14. Jen says

    I found this recipe on pinterest and made it the other night. I cooked the quinoa in beef broth and used broth instead of water to give the chili a richer and more chili-like flavor. It was delicious! I actually threw everything in my crock pot (with the cooked quinoa) and simmered on low all day while I was at work and it was so great to come home to a yummy dinner. Even hubby, a die-hard meat-eater, said it wasn’t too bad. I consider that a win! It reheated well for lunches, too. Great recipe, will definitely make again.

  15. Carla says

    Made this tonight. Hubby said it was kind of spicy for the kids. So maybe I’ll try a little less of the spices next time. But I’m going to serve it with some garlic bread and some sour cream on top. Hopefully that’ll help. And maybe only 1/2 a lime also. But I’m still excited I made it! Thanks for the recipe!

  16. Kelly says

    Hi! I’m not a vegetarian and have never made chili without some form of meat in it, BUT this recipe is sooooooo good! Made it tonight. I didn’t have any quinoa but had some orzo on hand and it seemed to work out just fine! Thank you. I will make this over and over again.

  17. Karin says

    Asking because I’m lazy and I want this RIGHT NOW…do you think uncooked quinoa would cook enough in the dutch oven along with everything else?

  18. Kaellen says

    I just make this for dinner and it was awesome! Next time I’ll have to cook the quinoa in broth to see how it tastes!

  19. Bethany says

    I am making this on Sunday and will enjoy it for lunch all next week!! Perfect chili for our Iowa -20 degree days!!

  20. Emma C. says

    Fantastic! Makes a huge amount. Only used half a small lime.
    Topped mine with avocado, low fat sour cream, and (gasp!) some Fritos (guilty pleasure).
    Will definitely make again (after I work my way through my freezer full of leftovers).

  21. Taylor says

    I saw this yesterday, made it last night. SO good! It’s the perfect food for the cold weather right now, and just enough spice for this Texas girl.

  22. Beth says

    Made this last night and it was AH-MAZING! I did cut down the amount of cayenne to 1/4 tsp. as I did not want it too spicy and it was perfect. Even my husband who normally shuns all things vegetarian liked it! Thank you for your wonderful recipe!

  23. Shelli says

    Made this recipe last night for my family…added a bit more chili powder, cumin and sea salt. It was really delicious and best of all, really healthy. It was super easy and quick to make, too! Will add this to my recipe index for sure!

  24. says

    Omgosh! Is it possible I never came back to let you know how insanely delicious this was?? My friends and I made this with some goat cheese biscuits on the side and it was just so. good. Thanks for the fabulous recipe!! This will definitely be a repeat meal.

  25. Amber S says

    This recipe looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it. A few people asked about making this in the slow cooker. I make a quinoa chili recipe similar to this one in the slow cooker and it works very well. All the ingredients are put into the slow cooker including uncooked quinoa and I cook on low for 5 – 7 hours. The quinoa doesn’t become soggy at all and comes out perfect everytime. The spices take a hit, so you will need to add more seasoning when it it comes time to serve.

  26. says

    Tris ismthe fiesta time i almond madera a metal oit of cans. I can soy that it taste delicious and love the texture, lots of good flavors and aromas…. Great recipe and will do it again. Bone Aperite

  27. Melinda says

    I’m new to using Quinoa. Do you take 2 cups of dry quinoa and cook it, or use 1 c dry and cook it so it makes 2 c when it’s done?

  28. Carly says

    I made this today with a little less chili powder and cayenne and my family went crazy for it. My meat loving husband said it was his favorite chili I’ve ever made and my picky 4 year old son ate two bowls. I served it with ff Greek yogurt on top and homemade cornbread on the side. Yum!! Will be a new staple – thanks!!

  29. says

    As a food blogger I rarely get the chance to try many other bloggers’ recipes (so little time in the day!), but I was stoked to try this one! Made this the other night for a dinner party and it was a big hit. Super delicious, flavorful and filling. I thought I had quinoa but it turned out it was millet. Used it instead and it worked just fine! I liked how the grains were deceptive in that they almost made it look like there was ground turkey or beef, which maybe made it “feel” more satisfying, if that makes sense. In any case, loved this recipe! 5 stars fo sho.

    • Chung-Ah says

      I’m so glad you had a chance to try this, Dana. You just reminded me that I need to make this again, maybe using millet instead! :)

  30. Christy says

    Fixed a double batch of quinoa the other night so I went in search of recipes….found this recipe and had to try! Wow!! t won’t feed my army of 3 for days because my husband & 5 yr old son ate 3 bowls each!! I devored 2 myself!!!! Followed recipe exactly. Served with cheese on top and had Jiffy cornbread muffins! Yummo! This is a keeper for sure.

  31. Jen says

    This recipe was superb! We omitted the chiles and chile powder just because my toddler is sensitive to spicy stuff and it was still great.

  32. Lore says

    I made this for dinner tonight. I was unsure how my family would react. My 4 kids went back for seconds! This definitely will be a regular on our menu. Thank you!

  33. Kelleigh says

    Made this yesterday. It was my first time making chili with quinoa. I loved it, everyone loved it. It is a versatile, and easy recipe. We will be making much more. Thanks!

  34. Holly says

    This chili is REALLY good! I did make a few changes because I needed to put it in the CROCK-POT. So instead of putting in canned beans, I put in dried, unsoaked beans, 1/2 cup kidney and 1/2 cup black beans. Instead of putting in the cooked quinoa, I put in 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, and I didn’t have fresh cilantro so I put in 1 tsp. dried cilantro. It takes 5 hours on high and approximately 8 hours on low. Definitely do the avocado and cheese on top. The whole family loved it!

    • Caroline says

      Hey Holly – Thank you for the crock pot tips! Did you cook the onions or garlic prior to adding to the crockpot or just put them in raw?

  35. Jan says

    Best veggie chili EVER! Followed directions except added extra cayenne. Husband loved it and taking to lunch tomorrow as well.

  36. Conny says

    I am printing some of your recipes. I just discovered your site and totally love it! I go very often on the popular sites but yours is very very attracting, easy and seems soooo yummy! I like the personal touch that you bring to it, it’s not only a site but a sharing place, friendly in all the ways. Will try your food soon! All this for a heart-warmed thank you for sharing!

  37. tina ledbetter says

    I printed your ingredients and took to the market, when I got home and looked at your delicious photo again before I began putting this together, I’ve noticed you didn’t include cheddar cheese! You’ve used this as a garnish with that delicious looking avocado and cilantro.

    Unless I’ve missed it somewhere in the ingredients list?

    • Chung-Ah says

      Tina, the cheese is simply used as a garnish and for photographic purposes. It is not a crucial ingredient that is needed in this recipe. It’s just a little added bonus :)

      • Tina Ledbetter says

        Your food styling is fabulous! Yes I did notice that and the sour cream were ‘extras’. Thank you! Delicious recipe!

  38. Lauren says

    How much is one serving? I want to make this for my work Earth Day party and Just want to make sure I make enough. This looks so tasty!

  39. Amy says

    Do you make it exactly like the recipe if planning on freezing? Or do you make it without the quinoa and then add that after you thaw it out and reheat it?

    • Chung-Ah says

      Unfortunately, I cannot answer these questions with certainty as I have not tried freezing this myself. I do think the latter is a better option though as the quinoa can soak up the chili, resulting in sogginess and less liquid.

  40. Karen Valladares says

    Oh my gosh! THIS WAS DELICIOUS. I don’t ever comment on blogs I just scroll around looking for awesome recipes and cool stories! But let me tell you this was by far the best chili I have ever had! I have only been a vegan for about year, so I have had my fair share of chili with beef but it does not come close to this recipe! This was amazing! Thank you so much!!!!

    I didn’t see that it said 2 cups of COOKED quinoa so I cooked two cups and then realized it did not look the same…I ended up doubling the recipe! I am not complaining :)

  41. Saskia says

    This might be a stupid question, but when you say 2 cups of cooked quinoa, do you meassure this as two actual cups of cooked quinoa or just cooking two cup of uncooked quinoa?. How much uncooked quinoa would I then need to have two cups of cooked quinoa.

      • Saskia says

        Thank you. I cooked to much quinoa, but I will use the rest for the pastasauce I am planning to make tomorrow, since I forget to buy minced beef.

        I couldn’t find canned green chills where I live, so I just used a fresh one.

  42. Marilita Fujisawa says

    I’ve done this dish several times and in each time my friends and family just love it. This time I want to make sure I put the topping which I see in the picture but don’t know what it is. Could it be sour cream? Can you please let me know what it is?
    Thank you

    • Chungah says

      I’m so glad you were able to give this a try! This is my absolute favorite chili yet. And yes, this is topped with sour cream. Sometimes I top it off with Greek yogurt too for an extra healthy touch. And it tastes just as good!

  43. Rita says

    Chungah (would love to know how to pronounce your name?) I love your site. The Beef Enchiladas are to die for love love love them. I have been looking over your other recipes also and find so many I want to try. Your pics are beautiful. Can you tell us what camera you use and lighting?
    Aim to work my way through your recipes!

    • Chungah says

      Thank you, Rita! My first name is actually pronounced Chung-Ah. I am currently shooting with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i and a 100mm f/2.8L IS. I only use natural lighting, and I utilize Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 to edit.

  44. Rita says

    Am making this chili today! My husband, a non-lover of most meats, and like a picky two-year-old about eating will be the test, I will let you know how he likes it. I am a big meat-chili aficionado, but just the spices in this (I use all of them in my home made enchilada sauce) have my mouth watering. I will have to substitute Barley for the Quinoa since I have none on hand.

  45. claudia says

    I have been liking and sharing and repinning this recipe and FINALLY made it today!!! I added lean turkey instead of quinoa, and it was AMAZING!!! I also added fresh green peppers instead of can and of course made some corn bread! My two year old LOVED it!!!!!! Ok…nap time…food coma!

  46. Shelley says

    I made this last week and it was awesome! So many great flavors and textures! I love how the quiona gives it the meaty texture. This one is definitely a keeper!

  47. Monica says

    tasted just like the chili mixes you buy at the store, but better! I’m going to try and get my parents to try this dish. I have a feeling they’ll love it.

  48. Brooke says

    LOVE this chili! Just made it and can’t wait to eat it again! :) If this recipe makes 6 servings, do anyone know the amount per serving? Thanks!!

  49. says

    this recipe looks delish! I love making different types of chili this time of year. Very excited to try this recipe!

  50. Sheila says

    I’d like to make this and freeze it. Would you recommend freezing the chili with the quinoa or leaving it out and adding it later?

    • Danica says

      I’ve made chicken soup with quinoa and have frozen it. When heating it up it still tasted great, But some people have different preferences. :)

  51. Jocelyn Thagard says

    I am super excited to cook this recipe again!! I am cooking it for a Chili Contest for work tomorrow. The Men I work with say ” That Chili is not Chili without Meat”. I told them they weren’t the judges!!
    Either way, this Chili will Rock!! I decided after reading the posts. That I will wait to put in my Quinoa 30 mins before serving. I do not want the Quinoa soaking the juice up to much.

    • Chungah says

      Danica, please understand that it is very difficult to give exact conversion information to translate a traditional stovetop recipe to the slow cooker method without further recipe testing. I recommend using your own judgement to convert this recipe to utilize a slow cooker.

  52. Sheila says

    This chili was delicious! I’ll be making this again and again and I love how it’s healthy. I did only use 1/2 of the quinoa since it seemed like it would of been too much if I used it all. I had to add an extra cup of water due to the thickness.

  53. Crystal says

    Made this today and it was delicious. I also will use left overs to make it in to your enchalada recipe instead of buying canned salsa. Love your recipes and photos

  54. says

    This was the first time for me to try this. I used a homemade chili sauce that my mom had made and homemade canned black beans. Phenomenal! I will definitely make this again no doubt about it!

  55. Lauren says

    This looks almost identical to a recipe posted on Cooking Classy on 7/31/13. Are you aware that you have a reputation for plagiarizing recipes?

    • Chungah says

      Lauren, if you take a closer look, there is a link back to the original recipe to Cooking Classy who is actually a dear friend of mine. And yes, I adapt quite a few recipes but I always add my own personal spin to it and make quite a bit of changes sometimes. It is also important to note that ideas alone cannot be copyrighted (or plagiarized in your words) but again, I credit the idea of the blogger out of respect for my fellow food bloggers.

  56. Brittny Whitt says

    Amazing chili and the directions and pictures were a lifesaver! I can barely make cereal and I made this and it was so yummy I went out and got more ingredients to make another batch! Thank you!!!!

  57. Steph says

    This is the best chili recipe! I didn’t really like chili until I ate this. I don’t like kidney beans, so I used two cans of black beans, and it was delicious. I took this as a meal to my friend’s house after she had a baby, and her (non-vegetarian) family loved it, too. They said they didn’t even miss the meat. Thanks for sharing this.

  58. Desma Hart says

    I made this last night and it was AWESOME! A huge hit with my husband – he who thinks chili should be all meat and no beans. This will definitely be incorporated into our rotation. THANKS!

  59. Kim says

    Made this tonight and it was delicious! Great flavor and consistency, with lots of leftovers.
    Next time may add a little more spice, but loved the lime!

  60. Rachel says

    This recipe was great! Just what I was looking for. Thank you for sharing this! And loved topping it with avocado. Thumbs up.

  61. Gayle says

    ON THIS SNOWY DAY IN CENTRAL PA…..it was perfect! This is the first recipe of yours that I have tried. Have already d/l several others! Thank you!

  62. Melisa says

    Quick question…would TOO MUCH be lost if I omitted the beans? I’m not a bean eater but this looks delicious.

  63. Marcy says

    this was soo good . I added celery and red pepper . Topped it with the avocado chedder
    and sour cream

  64. Jaki says

    This was just amazing, thank you!! I used the opportunity to cook more quinoa so that I now have some in the freezer for future meals. The timing of everything was great – it was so easy to put the quinoa on and then chop all the ingredients ready to continue after the quinoa was cooked. I also diced my own tomatoes (about 4), instead of using canned, and added pasata instead of tomato sauce.

  65. Gma says

    Just finished eating our first ever Quinoa Chili. My husband and I loved it but my husband is supposed to be trying to lose weight. He ate 3 bowls! I couldn’t stop him! I need to know how many calories he just injested :-/

  66. Libby says

    This is a terrific recipe. I normally make chili with ground turkey, but I honestly don’t even miss it now that I have this recipe. I’ve made it twice now and I am sure I will make it many more. With my last batch, I forgot to pick up lime juice and green chiles, but it turned out great anyway. If you’re even a little in doubt about this recipe, try it anyway! You likely won’t regret it. Oh, and it really does make enough to feed an army.

  67. Aubree says

    My husband and I absolutely love this recipe! It was different than we are used to, but it turned out great.

  68. Elizabeth Bennett says

    This has been my go-to chili recipe for over a year now, I make it all the time! Sooooo good! If this has already been asked, I apologize. I read that you said a serving was 2 cups. How many calories in a serving?

    • Chungah says

      Elizabeth, thank you for trying my recipe!

      Nutritional information is actually provided for select and new recipes only at this time. However, if it is not available for a specific recipe, I recommend using free online resources at your discretion (you can Google “nutritional calculator”) to obtain such information.

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