This Vegetarian Tofu Chili recipe is a comfort food dish with smoky, deep, rich flavors that will have you and your guests wanting seconds and thirds. Skip the cheese on top, and it’s vegan. Either way, this chili is hearty, healthy and incredibly delicious!
This is a fabulous recipe to serve to a group of guests that might have different diets.
In my house we have two gluten-free eaters, one vegetarian, and then there’s me — I eat everything. 🙂
It’s great to be able to make a one pot meal that can suit so many needs.
And this tofu chili recipe is a perfect delicious example of that.
What’s You'll Need
- tofu - Extra firm tofu is best for this recipe.
- olive oil
- onion - Try to choose onions that are firm, heavy for their size and without bruises.
- garlic - Look for firm heads of garlic without any soft spots or green shoots, which is an indication of old garlic. Raw garlic cloves should be firm without any dark spots.
- chipotle peppers in adobo sauce - Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce are jalapeño chiles that have been dried, smoked and packed in a sauce made of tomatoes and spices. It comes in a can and you should be able to find it in any major grocery stores.
- chili powder
- ground oregano
- ground cumin
- tomato - You can use fresh if you want, though for this recipe canned diced tomatoes are great.
- kidney beans - From a can -- you will be adding the liquid as well.
- black beans - From a can -- or, you can make Mexican Black Beans from Scratch well ahead of time.
- salt - I always cook with Kosher salt. (It’s coarse and salts foods in a subtle way that enhances their flavor without making them taste salty.)
- pepper - Preferable freshly ground.
How to Make Vegetarian Tofu Chili
The cooking process and length of time it’s cooked are what make this recipe so special.
The process. The tofu must first be drained and dried as much as possible. Then it's crumbled into small pieces.
After that, it’s sautéed and browned with onion and garlic. The more moisture that’s removed from it, the more brown and caramelized it will be. This adds a ton of flavor.
Length of time it’s cooked. Once all of the tofu chili ingredients have been added to the, it simmers with a lid for at least thirty minutes to really be sure all of the ingredients have blended together well.
Then, it will continue to simmer without a lid, to thicken the liquid and further deepen the flavors.
- As I mentioned earlier, remove as much liquid as you can from the tofu. The more dry it is, the more easily it will brown/caramelize when you're cooking it. It will however, still be okay without drying it perfectly. Don't fret!
- When you're sautéing the tofu, if the bottom of the pan is becoming too dark/black, turn the heat down a bit, add a little more oil and stir more frequently. If it's a dark brown, that's okay -- in fact, that's perfect. When the tomatoes are added, they will deglaze the pan. We just don't want black, which will add a bitter flavor.
- If you don't want your Vegetarian Tofu Chili to be too spicy, do not include any of the seeds from the chipotles. And to keep it even more mild, only use the adobo sauce.
I hope you love this Vegetarian Tofu Chili as much as my family and I do.
Can you make it ahead?
Yes! Like most one pot meals, this tofu chili will only get better with time. You can make it up to a few days ahead. Reheat it on the stove when you’re ready to serve.
What does tofu taste like?
First, what is tofu made of? Tofu is made from soy milk that’s pressed into blocks in a process that’s very similar to cheese making. It originated in China, and the texture can vary greatly, from very soft to very firm.
The taste. Tofu is actually quite bland, which is believe it or not, what makes it so good in this Vegetarian Tofu Chili. It can taste any way you desire it to. Tofu can easily absorb other flavors that are cooked with it.
The longer the tofu cooks or marinates in other flavors, the more intense the added flavors will be.
More vegetarian chili recipes:
Vegetarian Tofu Chili Recipe
- 1 pound block super firm tofu
- olive oil for the pan
- 2 cups yellow onion, medium dice
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans (including the liquid)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- grated cheese
- diced avocado
- diced red onion
- finely chopped chives
- Prepare the tofu. Unwrap the block of tofu, drain and pat it dry with paper towels. Then add two layers of dry paper towels to a sheet pan. Cut the tofu into a few pieces and place them on the towels to dry out even more. Press down gently on the tops of the tofu pieces with more dry paper towels — you want it as dry as possible. Then crumble the tofu into small pieces and set aside.
- Cook garlic and onion. Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil (ideally a 5-quart Dutch oven). Place it over medium-low heat and add the onion and garlic. Stirring often, cook until everything is nicely caramelized, about 15 minutes.
- Brown the tofu. Add the dried, crumbled tofu to the pot. Turn the heat to medium and brown the tofu. Stirring often, this should take about 10 minutes. (You can ad a bit more oil at this point if the bottom of the pan is dry.)
- Add and cook chipotles and spices. Add the chipotle peppers in adobo, chili powder, oregano and cumin to the pot and stir. Cook until it’s very aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Add and cook tomatoes and beans. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans (including all of the liquid from the can) and the drained black beans. Turn the heat up a bit and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover and simmer this way for about 30 minutes.Remove the lid and turn the heat up a bit, and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Season and add toppings. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here’s How to Season to Taste.) Add any toppings you like and serve.
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I grew up eating tofu...lots of them. This is going to be a hit in our house. So yummy!
I hope you love it, Angie! 🙂 ~Valentina
Love tofu but never thought of adding Tofu to Chili. Absolutely great, refreshing and healthier version ! Thank you Valentina 🙂
Thanks so much. I hope you love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
Your vegetarian chili looks so hearty, Valentina! I love how tofu takes on the flavors of what you cook it with while adding texture and heft to the dish. So good!
Thanks, Marissa! 🙂 ~Valentina
I'm all about the vegetarian and this chili looks out of this world and I love the options of not as spicy or spicier. I wouldn't have known that! Pinning for later! xo
So happy you like vegetarian dishes, Kim. And thanks for the pin. 🙂 ~Valentina
I could never be a vegetarian but have always prepared a couple of vegetarian meals every week . . . tasty and fun and different ! Love the look of this recipe . . . I have always used a lot of tofu, both firm and silken but your recipe takes me along a new path ! Partly as chipotle chillies, black beans et al are not as often used in Australia. We lean towards Asia whereas you often get ideas from Mexico and south ! This shall be tried . . .
I hope you try it, Eha. Any smoky chile would be delicious in this. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
I love any sort of chili, especially veggie chili and this one with tofu looks incredibly hearty, Valentina! I love avocado on mine too and pretty much allll the garnish, lol. With a snowy/freezing rain situation happening here today a big ol' bowl of this is definitely in order!!
Thanks so much, Dawn. It sounds so cozy to be inside with a bowl of chili with snow outside. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
David @ Spiced
Gosh, cooking for all of those different requirements would be a challenge indeed! But this chili checks off all the boxes. To be honest, I never realized that's how tofu is made. Thanks for sharing! It sounds a lot like cheese...just starting with soy milk instead. A good pot of chili is hard to beat, and this one sounds fantastic!
Thanks, David. Yes, it's is like making cheese. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
John / Kitchen Riffs
I often make veggie chili, but haven't used tofu in it. I should -- as you say, it's wonderful at absorbing other flavors. This look wonderful -- thanks.
Thanks, John. Hope you try it and love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
I love that you crumble the tofu for this. I was trying to imagine it with big chunks, and it just wasn’t making sense. Now it does… Will have to give this a try, as we are both fans of tofu.
Thanks, David! I'm a tofu fan, too. Yes, the crumbled texture of the firm tofu seems to work really well -- especially in soaking up the other flavors. 🙂 ~Valentina
This is fabulous. I’m not a vegetarian, but I love tofu. And it’s so fun to use. I never miss meat if there’s a good protein source like tofu, and I love the avocados as well! Pretty photos!
Thanks so much, Mimi. I'm also a meat eater who loves tofu. 🙂 ~Valentina