Bulgur Vegetarian Chili

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Bulgur Vegetarian Chili | @naturallyella

One of the very first recipes I created was a take on this bulgur vegetarian chili. My mother had told me about one of her favorite recipes: a bulgur chili. She had made it a couple decades ago, with chocolate and a few other ingredients, but had since lost the recipe. At first, my attempts at bulgur chili were born out of a desire to recreate her favorite chili. Since then, the recipe has morphed quite a bit. Specifically, the biggest change has been the texture.  I don't like big chunks of anything in my chili. While I've made sweet potato/butternut squash versions, they aren't my favorite. Generally, I keep my chili simple and let the bulgur be the star.


Bulgur Vegetarian Chili

A hearty, vegetarian chili that is the perfect replacement for the meat-based version. Bulgur provides the heft and pairs well with the chili spices. 

  • Author: Erin Alderson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno (seeds removed if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium parsnip (roughly 1/4 pound)
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • Pinch of cloves
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 1/2 to 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15- ounce can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)


  1. Chop the onion, garlic, and jalapeno into large chunks. Place in a food processor and pulse until everything is minced. Drain any liquid that may have formed.
  2. Heat a stockpot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion mixture. Cook until onions are fragrant and transparent, 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the parsnip into large chunks and pulse in the food processor until the pieces are the same size as the bulgur. Transfer to the pot with the onions.
  3. Stir in the bulgur and spices, cooking for 1 to 2 minutes or until you can smell the spices. Add in the tomatoes, chocolate, and 2 1/2 cups of the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, stir in the kidney beans, cover, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Bulgur should be tender. Taste and adjust the salt/seasoning. Add more vegetable broth if a thinner consistency is desired.


Tips and Tricks: This recipe makes quite a bit of chili but the leftovers freeze well. I like to make a double batch, freeze, and eat for a month.

The spices can be played with a bit. I'll add extra as I like a lot of seasoning but the most import thing here is the salt. Add enough that it bolsters the spices. Too little salt and it just tastes like tomato soup.

I like my chili to have a thicker consistency so I typically use less broth. Start with the 2 1/2 cups and check occasionally to make sure the mixture isn't too thick.

Stock up: get the pantry ingredients you will need: bulgur, kidney beans, crushed tomatoes

Nutrition: get the information. 


  • Calories: 437
  • Sugar: 28.5
  • Sodium: 788
  • Fat: 10.1
  • Carbohydrates: 81.8
  • Fiber: 19
  • Protein: 14.3
  • Cholesterol: 0


Vegetarian Chili


One of the main reasons I like this recipe is because it serves as a hearty base. There's no "main" ingredient because the bulgur isn't big on flavor. In contrast, it's all about the texture. Also, the parsnip/chocolate might seem strange at first. But the parsnip helps to offset the heat while the chocolate is more about adding one more layer.

Vegetables: While I don't like large chunks in my chili, I have added sweet potato or butternut squash to this recipe. Add 1/4" cubes with the bulgur and cook until tender. Or, roast ahead of time and toss in with the beans.

Spices: Occasionally I'll add a teaspoon or so of chipotle powder in place of the smoked paprika. As a result, it adds just a bit of smokiness and a slight kick.

Toppings: Less of a variation and more of a must: chopped onions, parsley or cilantro, greek yogurt, cheese, and if I'm making chili for my husband and I, hot sauce.

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34 comments on “Bulgur Vegetarian Chili”

  1. I've always been intrigued but a veggie version of chilli, I like the sound of the dark chocolate twist. Definitely will have to incorporate that in my next chilli xD

  2. This chili looks absolutely amazing. I wish I could have tomatoes because this really looks delicious!


    1. Rae, you could always substitute a high quality "red sauce" (enchilada sauce), just check the ingredient list. Or pureed roasted red peppers!

  3. Love this recipe. Was just thinking I needed to make a vegetarian chili and now I'm definitely leaning towards using bulgur as the base!

  4. This looks and sounds amazing. I love the texture that whole grains like bulgur (and pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa) add to well...anything! I'm looking forward to introducing my German boyfriend to some of your good home cooked chili.Thanks so much!

  5. 5 stars
    I just made this -- it's delicious! It reminds me of mole sauce. And I love the texture. I usually make a chunkier chili and I think I now prefer this kind. Thanks for another great recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    Hello Erin
    I just made this and it was delicious. Actually, I didn't make *this* because it's spring in the southern hemisphere and parsnips are out of season, oh and I didn't have any bulgur. I substituted and made this recipe using cauliflower and carrot with freekeh. It was great and I will definitely be making it again. Thanks.

  7. What an amazing dish. I have made it two days back with the same recipy which you have shared It was delicious , divine and mind blowing. What a texture it had I tried it first time, thanks to you only.

  8. 5 stars
    I've made this recipe twice now and am making it again this weekend for my football watching friends. It is absolutely divine.

  9. 5 stars
    I LOVED this recipe. The bulgur gave it such a nice hearty outcome. This is my second week in a row making it and some of my kids even tried it this week although I subbed in black beans for them b/c they love them. Great recipe to double and freeze like you said. So good with cilantro and pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top! Thanks so much!!

  10. Thank you for a great recipe! I'm adding this to my "go-to" collection. The combination of the chili and chocolate is what makes this recipe! After reading your notes, I decieded to add sweet potato for a bit more substance. I also did a fine dice (by hand) rather than food process everything--chalk it up to laziness, but I didn't want to clean my food processor. Hah! Thanks again--such a great alternative to the traditional veggie chili recipes out there.

  11. 5 stars
    This recipe looks amazing, I'm really really interested in how the chocolate mixes with the spices, and I've never had Bulgur before so this will be a first. I love that you recommended to put greek yogurt on your chili, I do that too but all of my friends think its weird, and I'm like you guys are missing out!

  12. 5 stars
    Made this over the weekend as a daddy-daughter cooking exercise, this chili was amazing. I'm trying to get my kids on the health kick early on as opposed to feeding them mcdonalds, so I love blogs like this where I can get heart healthy food recipes to try all the time!

  13. Made this last night and it turned out great! My husband, who was skeptical of the bulger, said it was a great meat substitute, and my six year old requested it for her lunch today. I made a few adjustments based on what I had in the house - swapped carrots for parsnip, omitted the smoked paprika, and just did 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate. Will definitely make it again - thank you!

  14. This is so delicious! Made it tonight and both my boyfriend and I loved it! Weill definitely cook it again soon and am already looking forward to leftover-lunch tomorrow 🙂

  15. Hi - you used to have a vegan chilli up on here too, but the link redirects to this recipe now! I really loved that recipe, is there any chance you could fix the link?

  16. Made this for my lunches this week and it came out great. I did make some adjustments to suite my needs. I used closer to 2 cups of water since I like a thicker consistency, added some tvp (yves orginal), omitted the parsnip and used 2 tsp of chili powder since I don't like it too spicy.

    Made 3 LARGE portions at 560 calories each. Very tasty and filling.

  17. I made this today, even though it's the wrong time of year for chili, and I am so impressed by your recipe! It is delicious! After becoming vegetarian, I've struggled to replace my meat recipe & have tried several recipes, including my old recipe, just substituting veggie crumbles. This is, by far, the best results I've gotten! Thanks so much for the recipe and tips. I may use your tip to increase the spice a bit, but it's a great chili as it's written. I didn't have access to parsnips, so I used a carrot. Thanks again for your recipe. I know I will really enjoy it this fall and winter.

  18. On the home straight with this recipe right now.. looks amazing and a couple of sneaky tastes confirms that! fantastic meal for a vegan! Best tip... adding more salt..really brought out the flavours...
    Went double on the tinned toms... reckon that was a good idea too.

  19. Second time making this and it is definitely a hit! Added butternut squash and omitted the parsnip. Thanks so much!

  20. If i wanted to replace the chocolate pieces with cocoa powder, how much do you think might be the right amount?

    This looks delicious, I love the addition of bulgur!

  21. A great recipe. Cook a couple of days in advance and the flavours for a real taste bud treat!

  22. 5 stars
    This recipe is so good! I added an extra can of beans and would maybe add a 3rd next time because we love beans, but the flavor is amazing and texture is really good. I also added a couple squeezes of lemon at the end to up the acidity level.

  23. 5 stars
    This recipe is super easy and the chilli is delicious! Even my meat eating husband enjoyed it and said he would certainly have it again - and impressing him with a vegan meal is no mean feat!

  24. 5 stars
    How does this taste so much like ground beef chili?! Thank you for sharing this incredible and easy recipe! Even the meat eaters in my family prefer this to a meat chili!


Welcome to my little internet nook. On this site you'll find over a thousand vegetarian recipes, pantry knowledge, and more. I'm ever obsessed with food from gardening, cooking, and preserving. I hope you'll find endless inspiration on these pages and visit often. 

Virtual hugs, Erin (aka: e.l.l.a.)

a few good grain recipes

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