This sweet potato black bean chili recipe is easy to make and full of flavor! A hearty vegetarian chili that’s like a warm hug in a bowl.
Sweet potatoes and black beans are a classic combination that I have always loved for enchiladas and burritos.
They go great with strongly-flavored spices, making them ideal for Mexican and Tex-Mex-inspired recipes like this vegetarian chili.
Now, I understand that for some people chili with beans is blasphemy, but even the International Chili Society (yes, there’s such a thing) permits beans in their Homestyle Chili cook offs.
Personally, I fall into the “it’s not chili without beans” category, but I have not yet decided on what the best bean to use in chili is.
Usually, I opt for kidney beans, like in this vegetarian chili recipe, but black beans, pinto beans, and cannellini beans are also good options.
Do you need to drain black beans for chili? Yes, it’s a good idea to drain and rinse black beans when cooking chili so that the liquid doesn’t turn your chili a dark, dingy color.
Beyond the beans this vegan chili recipe is pretty straightforward: sweet potato to replace the carne, onion, garlic and bell pepper, canned tomatoes, and the classic chili spice mix.
It’s a rather simple, uncomplicated recipe that’s hearty and full of that traditional chili flavor!
Ingredients you’ll need:
The ingredients for this sweet potato black bean chili are economical and readily available. This recipe also makes great use of shelf-stable ingredients so be sure to add it to your list of vegan pantry recipes.
Sweet potato: Just one medium-large sweet potato is sufficient for this recipe.
Black beans: One 14-oz can or if you want to cook the beans from dry, you’ll need half a cup. Be sure to drain and rinse the canned beans so that your chili doesn’t come out a weird color.
Canned tomatoes: I used whole tomatoes that I crushed with my hands while adding them to the pot. You can simplify this by using canned diced tomatoes or fire-roasted tomatoes.
Bell peppers: Any color of bell pepper is fine. I used a combination of red, green and yellow peppers just because they look nice.
Onion and garlic: These are always necessary for the flavor base.
Tomato paste: Tomato paste adds umami and a touch of sweetness since canned tomatoes can sometimes be quite acidic. It also helps to thicken the broth a bit.
Vegetable stock: I use prepared stock but you can also use a stock cube and water.
Spices: This recipe calls for chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Sometimes I add in chipotle powder, which is very good for extra smokiness and spice. Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking.
Soy sauce: Soy sauce adds an element of umami as well as salt.
Cocoa powder: This unusual ingredient adds richness and also helps to darken the broth. It doesn’t make the chili taste like chocolate!
Olive oil: To fry the onion and peppers.
How to make sweet potato black bean chili
Making sweet potato black bean chili is just like making any kind of chili - maybe even easier since there is no “browning the meat” involved.
Preparation: Peel and dice your sweet potato. The cooking time of you chili will depend on how large or small you cut it. I like it fairly small but not tiny.
Also peel and dice an onion and a couple cloves of garlic.
Dice up your bell pepper. Again, I like the bell pepper in rather small squares so that they blend into the chili for flavor rather that large chunks.
Drain and rinse the canned black beans.
Fry: In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil and fry the onion until beginning to soften then add the garlic and fry for an additional 30 seconds or so.
Add the diced bell peppers and fry until soft - about 5 - 7 minutes.
Spice: Add the spices and tomato paste, except the cocoa powder, and fry, stirring frequently for about a minute, or until the tomato paste darkens in color.
Simmer: Add the canned tomatoes and their juices. If using whole tomatoes, crush them with your hands while adding them to the pot.
Also add the sweet potato, vegetable stock, drained and rinsed black beans and cocoa powder.
Raise the heat to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Simmer, stirring from time to time, until the sweet potatoes are soft - about 20 minutes, depending on how large you diced them.
If too much liquid is simmering off, add another splash of vegetable stock or water to keep the sweet potatoes submerged.
Season: Add the soy sauce and taste. If you don’t think it’s seasoned enough you can add a pinch of salt as well.
I like a rather thick chili with lots of veggies rather than a soupy chili. You can adjust the consistency of the chili to your liking by either simmering off excess liquid or adding another splash of stock of water if you prefer it more soupy.
Garnish: You can serve this sweet potato black bean chili as-is or you can add your favourite garnished: cilantro, green onion, avocado, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, corn chips, tortilla chips, fresh or pickled jalapeños, etc.
Variations and substitutions
Chili is one of those recipe that is endlessly adaptable. Use what you have on hand or what you like to make this recipe your own!
Protein: I have previously made this recipe by substituting the sweet potato for a leftover vegan burger that I smashed up with a fork. You can use your favorite vegan meat substitute or TVP, like in my vegetarian chili recipe.
Vegetables: Lots of different vegetables are great additions to any vegan chili: add more spice with some fresh, minced chili pepper, corn, celery, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms, etc. Instead of sweet potato try diced squash or pumpkin. If you love pumpkin I have an excellent pumpkin chili recipe too!
Beans: This recipe calls for black beans but you can easily substitute pinto, kidney or cannellini beans if you prefer.
Yes, it’s a good idea to drain and rinse black beans for chili so that your chili doesn’t have an unpleasant color from the bean water.
Any bean you like! While kidney beans are typical, you can also use black beans, pinto beans or cannellini beans.
Yes, chili with beans can be frozen for up to six months. First allow the chili to completely cool in the refrigerator in an airtight container before transferring it to the freezer.
Store vegetarian chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
Yes, for the Instant Pot start by sauteeing the onion, garlic and bell peppers. Then sautee the tomato paste and spices before adding the remaining ingredients. Close the Instant Pot and cook on high for 8 minutes. For the slow cooker, Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours or until sweet potatoes are soft.
How to store sweet potato black bean chili
Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to four days.
For long-term storage, transfer the cooled chili to the freezer for up to six months. To avoid freezer burn, ensure to use an airtight container and remove as much of the air as possible.
To reheat vegetarian chili, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge if frozen, then the chili can be reheated in the microwave or in a pot over medium heat on the stove.
What to serve with vegetarian chili
All the regular chili side dishes go great with this sweet potato black bean chili as well.
For garnishes try: vegan sour cream, diced avocado, chopped cilantro or green onion, corn chips, diced or pickled red onion, pickles jalapeños, or vegan cheese, etc.
For chili side dishes try: vegan cornbread, Spanish rice, green salad, baked potatoes, breadsticks, nachos or tortilla chips, guacamole or pico de gallo, or vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups (220 grams) diced bell pepper, any color or a mix
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 medium-large (16 oz / 450 grams) sweet potato peeled and diced into approx. ½ inch / 1.25 cm cubes
- 1 can (15 oz / 425 grams) black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 2 cups (500 ml) vegetable stock
- 1 can (15 oz / 425 grams) whole or diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Salt to taste if necessary
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until beginning to soften - about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and bell peppers and continue frying until the bell peppers are soft - about 4 - 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano and paprika and fry, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes or until the tomato paste darkens slightly.
- Add the sweet potato, black beans, cocoa powder, vegetable stock and tomatoes with their juices. If using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your hands as you add them.
- Raise the heat to bring the chili to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low to keep it simmering.
- Simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender - about 20 - 30 minutes, depending on how big you diced them. If the liquid seems to be reducing too much, add another splash of vegetable stock or water.
- Add the soy sauce and taste your chili. You can add a pinch of salt to bring together the flavors more if you think it’s necessary.