With all the hustle and chaos of the holiday season, this is the time of year that I especially appreciate comfort food recipes that make large quantities for reheating later as easy lunches and/or quick dinners. With the general air of indulgence at every party and get together, I try especially hard to keep our meals on the healthier side. Normally my first strategy for keeping things healthy is going meatless. But, though I love most naturally meatless meals, I am sometimes turned off by vegetarian variations of traditionally meaty fare. Though I love beans and I love chili, I’ve had a hard time finding a vegetarian chili that met my standards. Most were fine, some good even, but none were “the one.” Finally, it has arrived.

Many vegetarian chili recipes are heavy on the beans, as is this one, but the difference here is a mixture of ground mushrooms and walnuts as well as the addition of bulgur. These contribute a more classic “meaty” texture and flavor. All of us who tried this meal agreed that, had we not known already, we would never have suspected this chili was vegetarian. Like most chili, this reheats extremely well and made for numerous excellent lunches after the fact. Here’s to healthy recipes that sustain us through the holiday festivities!

  • Yield about 8-10 servings


  • 8 oz. dried black beans
  • 8 oz. dried cannellini beans
  • 3 tbsp. plus 1¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and chopped coarse
  • 4 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 lb. yellow onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 7 cups water
  • 2/3 cup medium-grind bulgur


  • 01

    In a large Dutch oven, combine 4 quarts water, dried black and cannellini beans, 3 tablespoons of salt and the baking soda. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain the beans and rinse well.

  • 02

    Place an oven rack at middle position and preheat to 300˚ F. Combine the mushrooms and oregano in the food processor and pulse until finely ground, about 30 seconds; transfer to a separate bowl. Process the walnuts until finely ground; transfer to a separate bowl. Add the drained tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapeños, garlic, and soy sauce to the food processor. Process until the tomatoes are finely chopped, about 45 seconds.

  • 03

    Heat the olive oil in the now empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add the onions and the remaining 1¼ teaspoons of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Lover the heat to medium, mix in the ground mushroom mixture, chili powder and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rinsed beans and the water to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook for 45 minutes.

  • 04

    Remove the pot from the oven. Stir in the bulgur, ground walnuts, tomato mixture and reserved tomato juice. Cover the pot and return to the oven. Cook until the beans are fully tender, about 1 hour (1½ hours if planning to serve right away.) Remove the pot from the oven and let cool. Serve warm with greek yogurt/sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, and avocado as desired.