Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili has become a lot easier in this world where plant-based proteins are so much more prevalent. This recipe for a vegetarian version of Cincinnati chili also has some added veggies and a little spice for kick!
What You Will ❤️ About Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili
- Affordable! Cincinnati Chili is a really affordable dish to make and it makes a big pot of chili!
- Plant-Based! With the plethora of plant-based proteins now, finding a product like Impossible made it super easy to create a vegetarian version of Cincinnati chili that still TASTED like Cincinnati chili!
- Versatile! You can serve this chili in a bowl, on spaghetti or go all-in and have it on plant-based “hot dogs” for a true coney dog experience!
Ingredients for Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili
If you’re new to Cincinnati Chili – don’t get scared off by the seasonings! This is not your Texas chili. It’s much soupier and has a very different flavor profile!
- Plant-Based Meat Substitute – Replace the ground beef with 1 pound of your favorite brand of plant-based meat substitute.
- Finely diced shredded carrots – I added this for more texture and some actual vegetables. You could also add grated mushrooms for more texture.
- Water – lots of water in this recipe – you actually cook the meat in the water – which is why this is such an affordable dish!
- You could substitute some of the water for a vegetable broth if you like for a little additional flavor.
- Spices – cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, cumin, onion powder, minced garlic, chili powder, black pepper, salt, allspice, bay leaves
- Soy Sauce – you can sub with Worcestershire sauce if needed
- Tomato Paste – you could also substitute tomato sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar – you can sub white vinegar if you need to
- Liquid Smoke – this just adds a touch of smokiness but you can leave it out if you need to
Toppings for Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati Chili is about the chili – but it’s also about the TOPPINGS! If you visit a Cinci chili parlor you’ll see any and all of these toppings:
- finely shredded cheddar cheese – it’s very important to the integrity of the dish that you finely shred your cheese vs. buying the pre-shredded. This is how we do it in Cincinnati! The soft fluffiness of fresh grated makes it taste better! 😉
- The cheese is the only part of this that makes this vegetarian vs. vegan. If you’re vegan – you can definitely sub out the appropriate cheese.
- finely diced onion – you can use white, red or yellow onion – whichever you prefer
- kidney beans – these should be drained and rinsed
- oyster crackers – this is also another staple to this dish. When you walk into any Cincinnati chili parlor – you’ll be greeted with a bowl of oyster crackers and a bottle of hot sauce. It’s how we do it!
- Hot sauce – another necessity for this dish – a few sprinkles of your favorite hot sauce will jazz up all versions of this dish!
How do you make vegetarian Cincinnati chili?
For this recipe, it’s the same as you would for the copycat Cincinnati chili I made earlier this year. It really is SIMPLE!
- Start with water in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add Impossible meat and shredded carrots. The water will cook the meat & veggies. I let that cook for about five minutes and use a meat chopper to break up the plant-based “hamburger”.
- After five minutes, add all your seasonings, stir and let simmer for two hours.
- Remove bay leaf and serve!
How to Serve Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati Chili is typically served three ways: in a bowl, over spaghetti, on hot dogs. Here’s how to serve it:
- Bowl – serve this chili up in a bowl and top with diced onion, shredded cheese and oyster crackers
- Spaghetti – this is the most popular way to serve and you can have it multiple ways here as well:
- 3-way – spaghetti noodles, chili, shredded cheddar cheese
- 4-way – add kidney beans
- 5-way – add diced onion
- Coney Dog – this may not sound vegetarian but grab your favorite plant-based hot dog, pop it in a bun and garnish with finely diced onions, yellow mustard, chili, cheese
- BONUS! Cincinnati Chili Dip – in a baking dish, spread a layer of cream cheese, then a layer of the chili and top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and serve with chips!
Can you make a vegan Cincinnati chili?
Yes definitely! Swap out the cheese for your favorite vegan option.
Can you make vegetarian Cincinnati chili in a slow cooker?
Yes – it’s exactly the same in a slow cooker – just cook it longer! In a slow cooker, Cincinnati chili would just take 2-3 hours on low to be ready to go!
Don’t cook on high as it will probably dry up too quickly.
Does Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili taste like Cincinnati Chili?
Yes! I have to say – it’s all about the seasonings. And if you’re a Cinci-native and really like one brand over another and want an even more authentic taste – you can buy the seasoning packets online very easily!
Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili
- 1 pound plant-based meat substitute (Impossible, Beyond Meat, etc)
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup finely diced shredded carrots
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp allspice
- 3 oz tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 2 bay leaves
- Start with water in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add Impossible meat and shredded carrots. The water will cook the meat & veggies. I let that cook for about five minutes and use a meat chopper to break up the plant-based "hamburger".1 pound plant-based meat substitute, 5 cups water, 1 cup finely diced shredded carrots
- Add remaining ingredients.1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp allspice, 3 oz tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp liquid smoke, 2 bay leaves
- Bring to a boil
- Simmer for 2 hours, stirring and mashing with a meat chopper every 30 min.
- Remove bay leaves
- For a three-way, serve over spaghetti and top with shredded mild cheddar cheese. For a four-way, add drained kidney beans or diced onions – for a five-way add both!
- I used Impossible but any brand of the plant-based meats would be fine.
- Feel free to add veggies – I would recommend finely dicing them before you put into the water. Mushrooms and carrots would be delicious but you could also add tomatoes, cauliflower and peppers.
- Be mindful of the chili powder – I used too much in the first batch and it was SPICY! I backed off the amount in this recipe. (3 tsp to 1 1/2)
- I love the tomato paste in a tube! It’s great for a recipe like this!