The Starving Artist Cheap-Oh Veggie Chili

There are purists out there who may insist that chili be prepared this way or that. Some argue that beans have no place in chili, while others insist the opposite is true. In Cincinnati, they serve it over spaghetti noodles and call it Cincinnati Chili. The origins of the dish may be disputed, but it is more likely than not that chili originated in the American Southwest under Spanish and Native American influence. Like stews, it was developed out of necessity. It was a dish in which you could cast a variety of cheap ingredients to get the most out of them and perhaps hide the rotten or rancid flavor with a whole lot of spice. The spicier the stew, the more palatable. That’s a cooking hack that got people by in the days before refrigeration.

I am not a purist — starving artists can’t afford to be when it comes to food. Since chili is just stew, anything goes. The beauty of chili, like stews and soups, is that you are pretty much free to put anything you want in them. I like to throw a handful of raisins into my chili to add some sweetness to the spice, but if that ain’t your bag, then bag it. Feel free to experiment until you have created your own signature chili dish.

Another great thing about making a big batch of chili is that is will feed you for days. You can stretch it out by serving it with rice, potatoes or other starches. You can certainly add meat to your chili and make it con carne. Veggie chili is cheaper to make and a vegetarian or vegan diet is better for you anyway, but that’s your choice, of course. I like to make chili  tofu dogs and it’s also good over scrambled eggs. Starving Artists have great imaginations, so use the creativity you already possess and discover new ways to serve chili.

Vegan & Gluten Free

This recipe is vegan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t top it off with cheese or sour cream and you can certainly top it off with vegan versions of both. This recipe is also gluten free. If you don’t like raisins and don’t want them in your chili? Leave them out. Like more chili powder? Then add some. You are free to be the chili you want to be.

Store brands are the cheapest and just as good as more expensive name brand items.

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: Serves six people


  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I cook with olive oil, alot, feel free to substitute)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 Tbs oregeno
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Veggies from your garden?
You can chop your vegetables as you like. I prefer them on the chunky side.

Putting it All Together in a Pot

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet for about one minute then add the chopped carrots. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and bell peppers and sauté until they begin to soften about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two. Don’t burn the garlic!
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and oregano, mix in with the vegetables.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes, garbanzo beans and kidney beans (no need to strain) and stir together. Heat over medium for 25 minutes. Add water to thin out if necessary.
  6. Add raisins and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. OPTIONAL: Top with dairy or nondairy cheese or sour cream (if you’re feeling rich).

Ideas for Leftovers

This recipe should keep you in chili for a few days. If you’d really like to get more bang for your buck then serve your chili over rice or potatoes. Serve some over spaghetti like they do in Cincinnati. I do. Any pasta is fine actually. Mixing a bit of veggie chili into mac and cheese also kicks it up a tatch to paraphrase Emeril Lagasse.

Serving chili with starches is a good way to fill up, warm up, carb up and stretch out your chili servings for longer. If you don’t feel like eating chili everyday for a week, then freeze half of it.

I reuse plastic takeout containers to freeze leftovers.

One of my favorite things to do with chili, once my reserves get low, is to put a little bit on a veggie dog or I use it to make a veggie chili slinger which makes for a tasty and cheap Starving Artist breakfast (see below).

Veggie Slinger

This recipe will yield about six servings of veggie chili. Of course this depends on your interpretation of how much is in a serving. At a minimum you should get 4-5 meals out of this. I usually get more. One way I like to eat leftover chili is for breakfast or brunch as a Veggie Slinger. The Slinger is a late-night diner staple throughout the Midwest and St. Louis likes to stake claim on its invention. The Slinger version I am familiar with consists of hash browns topped with two hamburger patties, two slices of American cheese, toped with two fried eggs then covered with chili con carne. My version is a little different and a whole lot healthier. It’s also vegan and gluten free, although you should check the ingredients on the package of the veggie patties you use.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 baking potato
  • 2 veggie sausage or hamburger patties
  • 1 scoop of veggie chili
  • Vegan or dairy cheese optional


Scrub the potato and chop into chunks. Place in a pot and add water to cover potatoes in about two inches and bring to a boil. Add a little salt if you like. Once water is boiling, let those taters cook for about 8 minutes then grab some oven mitts and dump them into a strainer or colander, then into a mixing bowl. Mash them up with a potato masher.

Heat up some olive oil in a skillet, add the potatoes and flatten them out with a spatula, add a little salt and pepper and olive oil to the upside, flip them when bottom starts getting nice a crispy. You can fry the eggs in the same pan if it’s big enough.

Heat up some Cheap-Oh Starving Artist chili in a separate pot. Scoop the hash browns on to a plate, put the two fried eggs on top and then ladle the chili over that mess. Pretty fantastic. Coffee and toast optional. A great way to start the day and it will give you a lot of energy to ride your bike.

About the Nutrition Table

I got the nutrition information included below from the labels on the cans of garbanzo and kidney beans and diced tomatoes. The other ingredients, being fresh vegetables, are very nutritious but I don’t have the breakdown for them. They are low in fat and high in fiber and vitamin A (carrots), vitamin C (zucchini, bell peppers) and vitamin B, iron and potassium (raisins).


Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 8 oz
Calories 45
Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value *
Fat 1 g 2%
Saturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 3 g 1%
Sugar 1 g
Fiber 1 g 4%
Protein 3 g 6%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 157 mg 7%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Recommended Reading

Credit where credit is due: I rarely if ever follow a recipe exactly as written. That said, I feel I should mention that the recipe above is an evolved, or tweaked, version of one I found in this book. There are also exactly 1,000 more good veggie recipe contained therein. Enjoy!

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