Vegetarian chili

When making a vegetarian chili, how many aluminium cans do you open? Five, six, more? Making a meal from cans doesn’t appeal to me, but when fresh foods are not available, canned foods are an alternative. And when you are short on time, cans are convenient.

Nonetheless, if you are trying to minimise your exposure to the bisphenol chemical (BPA), you should lower your intake of canned goods. Even the new BPA-free cans are not chemical-free. They also contain a different type of bisphenol known as bisphenol-S or BPS.

With packaged foods and liquids, glass jars and bottles are your best option. The next best choice would be aseptic cartons or Tetra Pak containers. However, Tetra Paks require a complex recycling process in specialised facilities. Before putting them in your recycling bin, find out if your community recycles them.

Keeping the above in mind, I made this vegetarian chili without canned beans or canned tomatoes. Instead, I added fresh chopped tomatoes and one bottle of tomato purée. The beer and maple syrup were also bottled.

As for the beans, the ones in glass containers or Tetra Paks are not available in the supermarkets where I live. And so, I opted for the fresher version: Dried beans that I had pre-soaked, boiled and kept in storage in my freezer. The only ingredient that came from a metal container was the tomato paste.

All to say that not using aluminium cans requires more planning, but the process is simple and the outcome is a more flavourful and healthy meal.

The chili recipe is below.

Vegetarian chili
Vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili

Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 big cooking onion, chopped fine
  • 2-3 big garlic cloves, pressed or chopped fine
  • 1 big red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeno (red or green), seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon (tbsp) chili powder
  • 2 tbsps paprika (hot or mild)
  • 1 tbsp dry oregano
  • 1 tbsp powdered cumin
  • ½ teaspoon (tsp) cinnamon
  • 2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped * (see note below)
  • 1 bottle (660 ml) tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup
  • 2 cups of beer (preferably a dark stout) or veggie stock/broth
  • 1-2 cups of water, or more as preferred
  • 4 to 5 cups cooked beans, I used a mix of black, Borlotti & red kidney, pre-soaked and boiled in water ** -or- 3 X 400 gram cans/containers, drained and rinsed well
  • 1 cup dry green lentils
  • Sea salt & ground pepper to taste

* If you can’t find ripe tomatoes, then substitute with an equal amount of jarred or canned whole tomatoes with their juices.

** If using dry beans, soak them in a bowl filled with water for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Strain and rinse well. Transfer the soaked beans into a pot of salted boiling water on stovetop. Partially cover and allow to boil gently on medium-low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender. Strain, rinse and measure what you need. Freeze leftovers beans in containers for future use.


Prepare and measure all ingredients.

In a big deep pot, heat up the olive oil. Reduce heat to medium-high and sauté onions and garlic for 2 minutes. Add red pepper and jalapeño and sauté for 3 minutes.

Add the spices (chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, cinnamon) and keep sautéing for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add a little water if ingredients stick to bottom.

Add the chopped tomatoes and purée and mix. Add the tomato paste, maple syrup, beer (or stock/broth) and mix.

Stir in 1 cup of water (can add more later) and add the beans and green lentils. Mix and bring to the boil and reduce heat. Allow to simmer with lid half on for 30 to 45 minutes stirring regularly.

Take off heat and let the chili settle with lid on for 15 minutes. The chili will thicken so you can add another cup or more of water to get a desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in bowls as is or with whole grain rice and /or crusty bread.

Tastes even better the next day and freezes well.


Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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