Three Bean Barley Chili

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Chili is supposed to be a wintertime meal, a perfect dish for those long, dark evenings when you’re all cozy on the couch with a hot steaming bowl of this velvety goodness … Well, I’ve never been a fan of limiting deliciousness, so why not give it a try in the summer?

I first read about the idea of adding a hearty grain to a vegan chili recipe in Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run. In the book, Scott admits to never having liked chili before until he tried a chili recipe with grains. According to Scott, they can give a vegan chili that heartiness that meat chilis have. He provides a recipe that he calls Minnesota Winter Chili and suggests using bulgur wheat along with beans and other ingredients.

I’ve had my own chili recipe for a few years when I was still eating meat. It always came out perfect but was too time-consuming since you have to simmer meat chili for hours to let all of the ingredients blend together. I was intrigued to try substituting a grain for meat…

It took a few attempts to make it just right, but finally I have it!

vegan three bean chili

Meet my Three Bean Barley Chili – perfectly hearty, filling, smoky, spicy, but never so heavy that you have to take a nap after having a couple bowls! Hooray to the power of plants!

Three Bean Barley Chili

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Three Bean Barley Chili

This chili is smoky, spicy, filling, and very satisfying! Feel free to use any combination of cooked or canned beans: black, kidney or cannellini work well in this recipe. You can also try another type of whole grain, preferably the kind that takes at least 30 min to cook.


  • 2 cups cooked beans (I used a mix of pinto beans, speckled butter beans, and black eyed peas)
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced (optional)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 heaping Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp vegan BBQ sauce (see this recipe)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth or water, plus more to cover the bottom of the pan - here's an easy way to make veggie broth at home
  • Seasonings:
  • 1 dried smoked chipotle pepper
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • salt, pepper to taste


  1. Heat a big saucepan over medium heat. Add a couple Tbsp of vegetable broth or water to the bottom of the pan. When the broth/water start bubbling, add onions, celery, carrots, and parsnip. Sautee for 5-7 min until the vegetables are soft, adding more broth/water if necessary.
  2. In a separate saucepan, bring the rest of the broth/water to a boil.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for salt and pepper) to the big pot with the celery-carrot mix. Stir well, cover with the boiling broth/water until the vegetables are just covered.
  4. Let simmer for 25-35 min, adding more broth/water if the chili starts getting too thick. Add salt and pepper towards the end.
  5. Fish out the chipotle pepper and discard if you prefer a milder chili. If you like it spicy, cut off 1/2 of the chipotle and mash really well, then add back to the pot. Want it fiery spicy? Mash up and use the whole thing!

Do you have a favorite vegan chili recipe? Please share with us in comments!


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About Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Being vegan eventually opened her eyes on the issues of animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and feminism. Alina hopes that her blog will help its readers on their path to making this world a better place.

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