Vegetarian Chocolate Quinoa Chili
This vegetarian quinoa chili is full of flavor and feel-good ingredients. Made with beans, quinoa, cocoa powder, chocolate, and molasses, it has a unique rich taste and wonderful depth. It's an easy-to-make, hearty, and healthy meal that even meat lovers will enjoy!
Serve this chocolate quinoa chili with a side of no yeast bread with herbs and cheese topped with a smear of our homemade butter.
This recipe was originally published in 2015. We've updated the post with some new photos and more information, but we've left the delicious recipe exactly the same.
There's nothing more comforting than a bowl of warm chili on a cold day. You're going to fall in love with this cozy chocolate quinoa chili that's more rich and delicious than many of the vegetarian chili recipes out there.
Using cocoa powder and chocolate (yes, chocolate!) lends a lot of flavor and gives this quinoa chili a creamy texture, which can be hard to do with vegetarian chili. Even a meat-eater might be fooled into thinking this is a meat-based recipe!
While you're at it, make a big batch of this delicious chili. It's a crowd-pleaser that kids will love, too! It's easy to make and freezes well for quick meals throughout the colder months.
Why use quinoa in chili?
We love using quinoa in chili because it gives it a wonderful chewy texture and adds bulk to the stew. You'll be surprised at how meaty it makes the chili. Quinoa is also rich in both fiber and protein, making it more nutritious.
It's also really easy and affordable to do! Simply add it in during the final twenty minutes of cooking (we use one cup in this recipe). Do note that the quinoa will take a little longer than normal to cook in the chili.
Here's what you'll need
The great news about this list of ingredients is that you're likely to have most of them in your pantry already. This is everything you'll need to make this vegetarian chocolate chili with quinoa:
- Olive oil – for sautéing.
- Onion + garlic – add flavor to the savory tomato broth.
- Veggies – we use celery, carrot, and red bell peppers for a tasty mix of flavor and color.
- Cocoa powder – this is a key ingredient in making the chili rich and creamy.
- Seasonings – two classic chili seasoning ingredients: chili powder and oregano.
- Tomato paste – adds a depth of flavor to the tomato broth.
- Water or vegetable stock – if using water, add a pinch of salt for seasoning.
- Diced tomatoes – bonus if they're fire roasted!
- Kidney beans – these hearty beans retain their shape in the chili and take on the other wonderful flavors.
- Molasses + honey – give the chili a warm, sweet depth of flavor.
- Quinoa – adds a wonderful, meaty texture and protein to this vegetarian chili.
- Dark chocolate chips – the surprise ingredient making this chili oh-so-delicious and creamy.
How to make quinoa chili
If you've ever wondered about using chocolate in chili, this recipe is for you! This quinoa chili with chocolate is easy to make in a few simple steps.
Once it's on, it's mostly hands-off cooking so you can make yourself a fizzy lime margarita and kick back while the stove does all the work. Here's how it comes together:
- Start by sweating the vegetables. In a large pot, add the olive oil followed by the onion, vegetables, and garlic.
- Next, add the seasonings and sauté for another minute. You'll need to push the vegetables aside so you can add the tomato paste. Stir it in until it caramelizes.
- Then add the water, tomatoes, beans, molasses, and honey and bring the pot to a boil then lower the heat to simmer.
- Now add the quinoa and continue simmering for another 18-20 minutes until cooked. The last step is to stir in the chocolate chips until they melt.
Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
Yes! Cacao powder is slightly more bitter than cocoa powder so you may need to adjust the sweetness accordingly.
Yes, any beans that will hold their shape (black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas) will work well and we think a mix would taste great.
Definitely! This is a great meal to make ahead and some might say the flavors improve in the fridge overnight. It will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Absolutely. Stored in an air-tight container, this quinoa chili freezes beautifully for up to 3 months.
How to serve chocolate quinoa chili
This chocolate quinoa chili is so rich that it tastes great on its own, but here are some other ways we like to enjoy it:
- Simply topped with chopped chives or cilantro.
- With warm corn tortillas for soaking up the delicious sauce.
- With a dollop of easy guacamole or Mexican corn dip and crispy tortilla chips.
- With our no yeast bread with herbs and cheese, and a smear of our homemade butter.
- Alongside some vegetarian tacos for a more filling meal like these pumpkin spice tacos.
Love quinoa? Try these quinoa recipes!
- Mexican Quinoa Soup
- Spring Quinoa Salad
- Curried Quinoa Vegetable Stew
- Healthy Southwest Quinoa Muffins
- Summer Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Almonds
Popular vegetarian chili recipes
- Easy Vegetarian Chili
- Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili
- Chipotle Bourbon Pumpkin Chili
- Black Bean and Corn Chili with Avocado Salsa
Vegetarian Chocolate Quinoa Chili Recipe
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, minced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1-2 tablespoon chili powder, depending how spicy you want it
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 5.5 ounce can tomato paste
- 4 cups water, or vegetable stock
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, bonus if they're fire-roasted!
- 2 14-ounce cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon honey, can use brown sugar
- 1 cup quinoa
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until it is soft and brown. Add the carrots, celery, and bell pepper and continue to cook until the vegetables are all soft and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 large onion, 2 large carrots, 2 stalks celery, 1 medium red bell pepper, 4 cloves garlic
- Add the cocoa powder, chili powder, and oregano to the pot and let them cook until they are fragrant, about 1 minute. Push the vegetables to the side of the pot and add the tomato paste. Let it cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to caramelize, about 2-3 minutes.2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1-2 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 5.5 ounce can tomato paste
- Add the water, tomatoes, beans, molasses, and honey to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.28 ounce can diced tomatoes, 2 14-ounce cans of kidney beans, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 tablespoon honey
- Add the quinoa to the pot and let the pot simmer for another 18-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked. The quinoa will take a little longer than normal to cook in the chili. Add the chocolate and stir the pot until it melts.1 cup quinoa, ½ cup dark chocolate chips
Absolutely delicious. Easy to make and very filling.
Absolutely delicious. The quinoa took longer than 10 minutes to cook, but that was fine. It made a huge pot that will last us days. I used broth instead of water, and might use some beer too next time.
One thing – most dark chocolate still contains milkfat or whey, so it’s not vegan, and honey, if you are using it, is obviously also not vegan. We’re not vegan so that wasn’t an issue but FYI for others 🙂
You’re right … some chocolate is not vegan. But a lot of dark chocolate is. I assume people will read labels if it’s important to them. But I’m glad you mentioned it as it is important. 🙂
Made this again last night. This time I made half a recipe, which still gave us 4 generous servings. I also used half broth and half dark beer, and it was so delicious and awesome. Thanks again for this warming, filling, satisfying vegetarian recipe.
Dark beer sounds like a great addition!
Can this be made in advance and refrigerated or put in freezer
Yes! It keeps for several days in the fridge and freezes well. The quinoa will soak up some of the liquid so you may want to add a splash of water when reheating it. 🙂
Made this for a potluck contribution and got good reviews! And I like it too.
I used locally grown quinoa and dried black beans that I had on hand, and added few squares of a 90% dark chocolate bar rather than chocolate chips..
Makes way more than 4 generous servings.
Thanks for sharing this!
You are so welcome!!
I have always wondered about chocolate in savory dishes. I also find no one say wither the coco is sweetened, semisweet or baking chocolate which is not sweetened.
Please let me know, thanks
The cocoa powder is unsweetened. For the chocolate chips, I use whatever I have on hand, which is usually semisweet. 🙂
I assume you use red kidney beans? The picture looks like pinto or a light colored bean. It probably doesn’t matter, but I want it to come out perfectly 🙂
I’ll often use a couple different kinds of beans when I make chili. Almost always a can of red kidney beans and then usually a can of white kidney beans or pinto beans. Both are delicious!
What about adding mushrooms? Would there be a reason not to add them? Would it add a weird texture? I’m not a fan of quinoa either. I guess I could add more beans?
Mushrooms in chili are great! Most chili recipes are really flexible so you can add more of what you love and leave out what you don’t love. Here are a bunch of other chili recipes that I have. Some have meat in them but many are vegetarian.
What size can of tomato paste? I ended up using a 6oz can. I also added a little water with the quinoa and used zucchini instead of celery. It was delicious and everyone gobbled it up.
The cans I buy are 5.5 ounces so your 6oz can is perfect!
I’m intrigued by this recipe. I’ll have to try it. Even though I love chocolate, I’m glad you explained you don’t taste it but rather it adds depth to it. Sounds good. I’m going to try making it with cacao.
Let me know what you think of it! Adding chocolate to savory dishes is a great way to add depth. If you like any kind of braised meat, a little sprinkle of chocolate at the end really kicks it up, too. 🙂
Could I use cacao powder instead of cocoa?
Absolutely you can!
Oh. My. Lord.
You’re a genius!!!! I loved your blog <3
(Oh, and I'm SO making this!!!!)
You just put the biggest smile on my face! Thank you so much!!
This looks so luscious and tasty and when I first read the title I instantly thought of mole. Pinned, great recipe!
Thank you for the pin! 🙂
Ooooo yes!!!!! Cocoa in chili is like…one of the best!!! The flavor is just so so deep! Love it!
Yes! That’s what I love about it, too. 🙂