Gluten free chili is the perfect way to warm up from the inside out on a cold, wintry day. It’s thick, hearty, and full of flavour.
This version is entirely plant based, but check out the section on variations to change it up to suit your tastes!
Is chili gluten free?
If you’re buying your chili pre-made in a can, chances are it might not be gluten free. Wheat flours are often added to commercial products as a thickening agent, which is unfortunate for those of us that can’t eat them.
Is chili seasoning gluten free?
Packaged chili seasonings typically contain spices, such as chili pepper, cayenne, garlic, and onion; however, they are not always gluten free. Wheat products, such as wheat starch or wheat flour, are often added as a thickening agent in order to get that meaty consistency everyone loves when you think of chili.
Spices, on their own, are naturally gluten free, which is why we’re going to whip up our own chili seasoning for this recipe! Purchase good quality spices in sealed jars and you’ll be able to create all kinds of delicious seasonings for different meals, without the risk of eating gluten. It’s a win-win!
Are beans gluten free?
Beans are a staple in chilis. But are they gluten free?
Naturally, yes, they are; however, the situation gets sticky depending on how things are processed. I’ve seen both canned and dried beans (and lentils) labelled as “may contain wheat” due to how they are handled and packaged at the production facility.
This recipe uses canned products, so special care should be taken to check all of your labels to ensure the products you’re using are gluten free.
This chili is entirely plant based and gluten free. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Extra virgin olive oil: if you don’t have olive oil on hand, avocado oil works well, too!
- Onion: a flavourful base for the recipe.
- Bell pepper: yellow and orange peppers are a colorful addition to this dish.
- Chili powder: to bring the heat. Omit or decrease if you want less spice.
- Cayenne pepper: also to bring the heat. Omit if you aren’t a fan of spicy.
- Ground cumin: a staple in chili recipes.
- Salt: whatever you have on hand. Table, sea, or himalayan salt works!
- Pepper: black pepper or freshly ground peppercorns.
- Diced tomatoes: canned, to make things easy.
- Beans: any type you like - kidney, black, or pinto beans. Also, canned to make things easy.
- Lentils: give the chili a really meaty texture, without any meat! Canned, to make things easy. (Hmm, there’s a theme here...)
- Tomato sauce: to bring everything together.
How to make this recipe
This chili is super easy to make - the most difficult part is opening all of the cans!
First, the chopped onions and peppers are sauteed in extra virgin olive oil until soft. Then, spices and minced garlic are added in to amp up the flavour. Once your kitchen smells spicy and delicious, the rest of the ingredients are added in: diced tomatoes, beans, lentils, and tomato sauce. (Make sure you’ve already rinsed and drained the beans and lentils using a colander. It’s an important step you don’t want to miss!)
Let the chili simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes… and voila - a wicked easy dinner that’s delicious and hearty.
One of the greatest things about chili is its versatility. Mix things up by making the following additions, or go rogue and create your own! (Please let me know what you end up creating!)
- Meat lovers: add in 500g / 0.5 lb of cooked ground beef, turkey, or chicken into the chili for an even thicker, literally meatier, texture. If you’re adding meat, you can omit the lentils, if desired.
- Heat lovers: add 1 chopped jalapeno into the mix to really spice things up!
- Sweet lovers: change up the taste by adding in a bit of cinnamon and dark chocolate.
- Veggie lovers: add in some sliced mushrooms or put in cubed butternut squash, while you cook the onions, garlic, and bell peppers.
- Heat lovers: add 1 tablespoon of chili powder (instead of ½ tablespoon), add ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (instead of ¼ teaspoon) and consider adding some jalapenos on top. Spiiiiiiiiiicy!
The best chili toppings
This gluten free chili recipe is delicious on it’s own, but who can turn down a chance to add in extra deliciousness?! Not me. Here’s a few suggestions for toppings to add to your already amazing meal…
- Cheese: goes hand-and-hand with a chili recipe, right? Use dairy-free, if needed.
- Sour cream: a good old dollop never hurt. Use dairy-free, if needed.
- Sliced avocado: adds a creamy texture.
- Lime juice: squeeze a bit of juice from a lime wedge over top. It’ll help cut a bit of the spiciness if you’ve overdone it, or have loved ones that demand a milder version.
- Jalapenos: Didn’t add them during cooking? That’s ok - add them on top now! You won’t regret it.
- Maple syrup: drizzle a bit on top of your bowl to add a hint of sweet flavour to the dish.
What to serve with gluten free chili
The classic choice to serve chili with is cornbread. Make some Easy Gluten Free Cornbread and serve it on the side, or crumbled on top.
Another way to eat this recipe is to throw it right on top of tortilla chips, for a seriously comforting plate of chili cheese nachos. Chips for dinner? Sign me up!
Tips for making the best chili
Go easy on yourself
Making a stellar chili doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavour - eating a delicious, healthy meal can be simple.
This one uses canned beans, diced tomatoes, and lentils to cut down on the cooking time. There’s no shame in using canned products, especially when you’ve ensured they are gluten free and don’t contain a ton of additives.
Let it rest a bit
This chili comes together quickly, but if you really want the flavours to marinate and the sauce to thicken, let it sit on the stove for a bit. Keep the heat off, or on low, and allow the beans, lentils, and tomatoes to hang out for a bit.
Spice up your life
I’m all about making things as easy as possible, but just entertain one idea for one second: grinding your own spices. Yes, I know it’s an extra step, but it’s one that’s so worth it! The fragrance of freshly ground spices is incomparable to the ones sitting on the grocery store shelves!
Can I make this chili in the slow cooker?
I wouldn’t recommend making this recipe in the slow cooker. Since it uses canned beans and lentils, they will become an incredibly mushy mess if left in a slow cooker for several hours. Since this gluten free chili comes together quickly, cooking on the stovetop is my recommendation.
Gluten Free Chili
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes (796mL / 27 oz)
- 1 can beans kidney, black or pinto, rinsed and drained (540mL / 19 oz)
- 1 can lentils rinsed and drained (540mL / 19 oz)
- 1 can tomato sauce 398mL / 14 oz
- In a large skillet, saute pan, or pot, add olive oil and warm over medium-high heat for 30 seconds.
- Add onions and bell pepper and saute until softened, approximately 3-4 minutes. Make sure to occasionally mix so they don't get burned!
- Add spices and garlic to the pan and mix with the onions and bell pepper until everything is coated in spice. Cook for approximately 1 minute until fragrant.
- Pour in the can of diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained beans & lentils, and tomato sauce. Mix well, ensuring nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the ingredients to cook thoroughly and the flavours to mingle. Stir the chili occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
- Serve a heaping bowl along with your favourite toppings!
- Make it meaty: add in 500g / 0.5 lb of cooked ground beef, turkey, or chicken. Omit lentils, if desired.
- Make it spicier: add 1 chopped jalapeno while cooking or increase the chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- Make it sweeter: add in a bit of dark chocolate and cinnamon while cooking.
- Add more veggies: add in some sliced mushrooms or put in cubed butternut squash, while you cook the onions, garlic, and bell peppers.
- Add some toppings: cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, lime juice, jalapenos and maple syrup are all great options!
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.