cilantro, limes, and a colorfully striped cotton napkin surround a black bowl filled with chili with sweet potatoes, plant based and gluten free

Instant Pot Chili with Beans, Tempeh, and Sweet Potatoes is a budget-friendly vegan chili recipe with meaty, hunger-satisfying, protein-packed tempeh. And best of all, this Instant Pot vegan chili is an easy, one-pot meal that your entire family will enjoy.

Before going any further, I’d love for you to know why Mike and I create the recipes that we do. We hope that if you’re on the fence about whether or not to try a plant-based lifestyle, the backstory of this budget-friendly, incredibly healthy chili recipe will tempt you to give veggie chili a try.

At first, my initial opinion of veggie chili or vegetarian chili was meh at best. Almost every memory of veggie chili causes me to recall a bland experience lacking distinction. Does that seem harsh? Well, my forgettable previous experiences with meatless chili could easily cause a person to throw in the veggie towel. But believe me when I say that removing meat from chili is anything but a bad thing.

However, in reality, meatless chili makes room for even more flavor and gobs of nutrients!

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a fermented food usually made from soybeans. But if you’re avoiding soy, tempeh is made from all sorts of plants such as hemp or black-eyed peas!

It’s practically effortless to cook and loaded with plant-based protein. Tempeh is also incredibly economical, making it the perfect addition to this budget-friendly vegan chili recipe. We genuinely look forward to biting into the chunks of tempeh in our chili—it’s a meatless source of protein that we highly recommend.

To learn more about our tempeh and possibly order direct from the best tempeh makers in the southeast United States, we suggest this article and website.

How to Make Meatless Vegan Chili with Tempeh

When we went vegan and chili season rolled around, we got busy working on this meatless chili recipe loaded with exciting veggies and other flavorful ingredients.

So rather than going into great detail about making this easy meatless Instant Pot chili with beans, let’s look at three elements that give this fantastic tasting chili its unforgettable taste—enter sweet potatoes!

Long before going vegan, we began to include a sweet potato for an extra layer of flavor. So with or without meat, you can add a lot of flavor to your chili by adding a simple sweet potato.

Garlic is another ingredient that adds a layer of flavor to your chili that is undeniable, meatless or not.

And last but certainly not least is the addition of a pinch of cinnamon.  There is no way to describe precisely what cinnamon does to enhance the taste of a pot of vegetarian chili or chili con carne!

By the way, this deliciously meatless vegan chili recipe is too easy to go into specific detail. To make this Instant Pot chili with beans, put the excellent ingredients into an Instant Pot and hit go.

a hearty bowl of chili sits below a spoonful being lifted above it

How to Thicken Vegan Instant Pot Chili with Beans without Flour

When you’re a chili lover, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a thick and hearty bowl of homemade chili. In many packaged chilis, you may notice the inclusion of flour, which is used as a thickener and is not gluten-free.

It makes sense that chili made with veggies may be on the thin side given the vegetables’ high water content. But there’s no need to live in fear of wimpy veggie chili. It’s easy to combat plant-based chili’s sometimes watery texture by including a starchy vegetable such as sweet potato.

So, adding a sweet potato to your chili is about more than just flavor; sweet potato or any starchy veggie can help thicken your chilly.

Including plant-based protein such as tempeh also adds a nice thickness to your chili. Also, tempeh adds heartiness to your budget-friendly Instant Pot chili with beans.

Another way to thicken chili and make it more hearty and satisfying is by adding a few smashed or refried beans. The addition of a few extra mashed beans will not typically make a big difference in the flavor; it mostly enhances texture. And like the addition of potato for increasing the broth’s thickness, adding a few smashed beans is a budget-friendly solution.

If you don’t have extra beans to smash and add to your chili to increase the thickness or refried beans, there is one more thickening method to try.

After seasoning chili, use a handheld potato masher and smash the chili just a bit to break up the ingredients and thicken the broth.

on a gray and white swirled marble surface sits a sturdy black stoneware bowl  of budget friendly chili that is vegan, oil free, and gluten free topped with vegan sour cream, cilantro, and lime

How to Store Leftover Chili

Chili makes excellent leftovers that can keep well for a handful of days in the refrigerator.

You may also freeze your chili for a few months for later use.

Be sure to use containers that seal well to keep out as much air as possible to ensure that freshness is maintained.

How to Reheat Chili

To reheat this healthy chili, put it in a pan and heat on the stovetop or in a microwave oven, and bam—it’s ready to enjoy, again! Sometimes reheated chili tastes even better than it did on day one since the seasonings have had plenty of time to marryawe.

Creative Ways to Use Leftover Chili

Leftover instant pot chili with beans is the perfect foundation for all sorts of delicious dishes which can come in handy for make-ahead meal planning.

  • Serve this chili as a meatless, protein-rich topping on nachos.
  • Use this chili to top baked potatoes for a quick and easy budget-friendly meal.
  • Oven-baked fries taste terrific topped with this chili and drizzled in plant-based cheese sauce.
  • You can even use this chili as a vegan taco filling!
cilantro, lime and a spoon of vegan sour cream are sitting on a cutting board that's sitting on marble surface in a cooking scene with a bowl of red chili waiting to be served

Chili Toppings for this Vegan Chili with Tempeh

We’re very proud of this vegan chili recipe, and of course, we intend to serve it up as a dairy-free, gluten-free, and plant-based meatless meal. You can keep it healthy and clean by choosing plant-based toppings.

Here are some plant-based topping options:

Thank You For Sharing This Time with Us!

We cannot begin to say how much we appreciate every single one of you who take the time to check out what we’ve got cooking! It’s a complete pleasure to share our plant-based, gluten-free recipes with you.

If you haven’t already, follow us on Pinterest—food is so much fun when shared with friends!

And by the way, be sure to check out the nutritional chart at the bottom of this recipe—the nutrients on this healthy chili recipe are off the charts!

Happy Eating!

on a gray marble table or counter sites a black bowl of budget friendly vegan chili made in an Instant Pot with a festive striped fabric napkin sitting beside the bowl
served up in a black bowl with a festive striped colorful napkin and slices of fresh green lime is a bowl of vegan and gluten free instant pot chili with beans

Instant Pot Chili with Beans, Tempeh, and Sweet Potatoes

  • 10
    Prep:
  • 20
    Cook Time:
  • Yield: 8 Servings

This tasty recipe is the new go-to for veggie chili lovers everywhere!  And for everyone in search of a hunger satisfying plant-based vegan chili made with healthy protein-packed beans and tempeh—this easy and budget-friendly meal planning recipe is a dream come true!

Ingredients

  • 4 to 16 oz bag of previously picked over, soaked, and rinsed pinto beans
  • about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 to 4 or more cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • one medium to large onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • one jalapeño pepper or sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2-8 oz packages of tempeh, more or less depending on how "meaty" you prefer your chili
  • two 14.5 oz cans of tomatoes, whole or chopped - Fire roasted are delicious in this chili if you can fine them!
  • 2 tbsp of chili powder
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin 
  • 1 tsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon - This in an optional ingredient, but if you want truly delicious plant-based chili, try it!
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper - Again,  this generous pinch of cayenne is optional, but wow, does a bit of underlying heat taste terrific in this 'meaty' dish!
  • a few grinds or pinches of ground black pepper
  • three empty cans of water or veggie broth - We use the tomato cans to measure the liquid, rinsing the cans to extract those last bit of flavor as we do!
  • 1 to 2 tsp of pink Himalayan sea salt, more or less, to taste—after cooking

Instructions

  1. If you haven't already done so, pick over, soak, and rinse your uncooked beansIf time is in a crunch, quick soak your beans by covering them in hot water and allowing them to sit in water for as much time as you have or even just while you prep the other ingredients.  Just remember to drain and rinse the beans as directed before putting them in your Instant Pot.
  2. In an Instant Pot, place all of the ingredients into the cooking pot in the order listed above. Close the lid, set the valve to seal and cook with pressure, and set for 20 minutes of pressure cooking. Allow the pressure to release naturally, remove the lid, and stir. Now season with the suggested salt, more or less, to taste.  Serve with any or all of the toppings suggested in the article above the recipe and by all means, don't forget to top it off with 3-ingredient vegan sour cream, oil-free tortilla chips, and authentic Mexican guac!

Notes

  • Beans: We cannot even begin to express how much tastier chili becomes by the budget-friendly and straightforward method of using beans you cook yourself. And about soaking the beans, overnight soaking is the first choice, but even a couple of hours or so of soaking provides noticeable digestibility benefits.  For reference, you typically get about six cups of cooked beans from one pound of dry.
  • Tomato Base: Organic fire-roasted tomatoes add an incredible depth of flavor, although any variety of canned tomatoes will work fine, too.  Using an equal amount of freshly washed and chopped tomatoes also makes for beautiful tasting chili when they're in season.
  • Spiciness: If you prefer spicier chili, skip seeding the jalapeño pepper in this vegan Instant Pot chili recipe. Seeding peppers reduces heat to which allows you to spice things up to preference.  And as for the cumin, freshly ground cumin seeds tastes absolutely wonderful in this and any other recipe calling for cumin.  We keep an inexpensive grinder like this one set aside for spice grinding.
  • Instant Pot Cooking Time:  When cooking with an Instant Pot, it's important to remember to add a bit of allowed processing time for your pot to come to pressure, which adds significant minutes to the allotted cooking time.

Nutrition

% DV

Calories Per Serving: 397
  • Total Fat 7.5 g 11 %
  • Saturated Fat 1.7 g 9 %
  • Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
  • Sodium 421.4 mg 18 %
  • Carbohydrates 60.4 g 20 %
  • Fiber 18 g 72 %
  • Sugar 8.6 g ---
  • Protein 25.9 g 52 %
  • Vitamin A 204 %
  • Vitamin C 11 %
  • Iron 34 %
  • Calcium 21 %

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