7 Things to Use In Chili Instead of Meat (Vegan & Vegetarian Ideas)

Legend has it that in the 1700s, immigrants from the Canary Islands brought over a recipe for chili when they settled in San Antonio, Texas.

Back then, historians can agree that early American pioneers and cowboys sure loved their chili. And while the dish commonly comes equipped with meat in the form of “chili con carne”, it’s a dish that can easily be transformed into a hearty vegan or vegetarian meal in no time!

You just need the right ingredients.

Thankfully, it’s not hard to find a decent meat alternative for chili.

In this quick guide, you’ll discover seven different ingredients you can use to replace meat in your chili. 

And, if you want some more tips, check out our article: Vegan Chili: 12 Answers You Need to Know!

Let’s begin!

Here’s What You Can Use in Chili Instead of Meat:

  1. Textured Vegetable Protein
  2. Beyond Meat’s Plant-Based Ground Beef
  3. Tempeh 
  4. Firm Tofu
  5. Quinoa
  6. Chopped Mushrooms
  7. Lentils

1. Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Crumbles)

First up on my list is something that goes by the name of textured vegetable protein, TVP, soy crumbles, or soy curls.

There are a dozen different names for this unique meat substitute and it is one of the best meat alternatives in chili.

Bob’s Red Mill makes one of the best TVPs on the market.

Textured vegetable protein is made from soybean residue that’s left over after the fat is removed from processing soybean oil. This residue is essentially the protein, fiber, and a bit of starch from soybeans.

It’s a great meat replacement for chili (or any other vegan dish). Plus, it’s precooked which means all you have to do is rehydrate the TVP so it’s ready to eat. This is done by soaking it in boiling water.

You can find textured vegetable protein—or soybean protein—in pretty much any natural food section of larger grocery stores. Or, you can buy some online if you don’t have any in your local grocery store.

2. Beyond Meat’s Plant-Based Ground Beef

Next up is another incredible invention: Beyond Meat’s Plant-Based Ground Beef.

I know, it’s not a 100% natural, raw, food ingredient like most of the items on this list. However, there’s a reason this one is here at number two. It could arguably be at number one on the list. The reason?

It will fool more meat-eaters than any other meat alternative for chili.

Beyond Meat is brilliant at what they do. The problem with most faux meat products is that they just don’t come anywhere close to the real texture of meat. But, Beyond Meat is above and beyond the competition in this department. 

Their vegan ground beef is one of the best replacements for real beef in chili. The texture is almost the exact same as real ground beef, making it an impressive meat replacement for chili.

This stuff is versatile enough that it can be used to replace beef in any vegan recipe like tacos, burritos, spaghetti, lasagna, and more.

You can get it at most major grocery stores or buy it online if it’s not available locally.

3. Tempeh

Another great item to use in chili instead of meat is tempeh. Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian faux meat that can be used in a wide variety of vegan dishes.

The best way to use tempeh in chili is by using a box grater to crumble up your tempeh block. It’s best to saute the tempeh in a little bit of oil first before adding it to your chili.

4. Firm Tofu 

Next up, we have our final faux meat option for chili. 

If you’re in a pinch and can’t find the three options above (textured vegetable protein, Beyond Meat’s Plant-Based Ground Beef, or tempeh)… then your next best bet is to go with firm tofu.

Before you put your phone away and head to the store, it’s crucial you don’t buy regular tofu or soft tofu. You need to use firm tofu!

In fact, it’s best to use extra firm tofu (if you can find it) as it will hold up best in a chili recipe. If you try to use soft tofu, it will fall apart in the cooking process. You should always try to avoid softer tofu if you’re adding it to chili. 

Smoke tofu tends to do well in chili also!

5. Quinoa 

Okay, now it’s time to get into some whole ingredients.

If you’re looking for the closest thing to ground beef that’s not ground beef in the whole foods world, it’s quinoa.

Quinoa’s grainy texture gives it a nice ground meat replica that’s both delicious in chili (and super healthy). It’s one of the top go-tos for meatless chili.

Plus, adding quinoa in is a great way to thicken your vegan chili.

6. Chopped Mushrooms

The next best whole ingredient that’s closest to real meat in chili is chopped mushrooms.

To be honest, mushrooms should be in your recipe anyways because they’re that delicious in chili. But, if you want to add in a meatless alternative to meat, then mushrooms are a great option.

Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your mushrooms. You don’t need to just stick to button mushrooms. Try some oyster mushrooms, portobellos, or shiitakes. Better yet, do a combination of a few types if you really want to ramp up the meaty texture to your vegan or vegetarian chili.

7. Lentils

Next up, we have another popular texture-based whole food you can use in your chili: lentils.

Lentils have long been a friend to vegans and vegetarians alike. And, for someone looking to craft a big pot of chili without having to use some meat, they’re a solid option for adding more texture, more protein, and more deliciousness. Plus, they’re very healthy for you!

Just remember, if you’re going to use lentils—add a bit more water or broth since they’ll soak up a lot of the liquid in your chili.

For more tips on making the perfect vegan chili, make sure to check out our other articles on the topic: How to Thicken Vegan Chili and Vegan Chili: 12 Answers You Need to Know!






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