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 with Kidney Beans

Bulgur Vegetarian Chili

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


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. 


  • 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.