Bean chili gets a spicy, garlicky upgrade with the addition of harissa chili pepper paste. A simple, plant-based lunch or dinner recipe that’s also freezer-friendly.
Now that it’s November, I think we can confidently say chili season is in full effect. (Rejoice!)
Bean chili will always have a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first meals I learned how to cook for myself, and I always come back to it over and over again during the fall and winter seasons. (And sometimes again in spring and summer, because there’s honestly always a chance for chili weather up here in the mountains.)
Usually when I make bean chili, it’s a kitchen-sink scenario. Every veggie left in the fridge is going to make an appearance. That container of leftover quinoa back there? Toss it in. No cooked grain, wilted green, or fresh herb left behind, I say.
There are a few staples, though. Beans, canned tomato, onion, corn. Those have got to be in the mix, if you ask me.
Kitchen-sink recipes are pretty great. They add dimensions upon dimensions of flavor, and also help me reduce food waste, which is a real challenge since it’s just the two of us, and I’m always testing a few different recipes at once.
This bean chili, though, is different. It’s kind of the opposite of a kitchen sink recipe. Instead of tossing everything in, I took as much as possible out. Just the essentials. A bean chili for minimalists, you might say.
So, of course, there’s beans and tomato and onion and corn. But not much else. A couple carrots for some sweetness and texture, and (the not-so secret ingredient I can’t get enough of), a dollop of spicy harissa.
Harissa is a spicy condiment that’s popular in North African cuisine. It’s made from a mix of chili peppers, garlic, spices, and oil. Harissa has tons of flavor on it’s own, so one spoonful is all you need to spice up this entire pot of bean chili. (How’s that for simple?)
One quick note: each brand of harissa is going to taste a little bit different. Some may be spicier, while others have more herbs or prominent smoky flavors. I recommend tasting a little first so you know what you’re working with. Add harissa to the bean chili gradually, and taste as you go to ensure it’s not getting too hot for you.
Did I mention this bean chili is freezer-friendly? Enjoy now or save it for later. You only need eight simple ingredients to make it through peak chili season. What are you waiting for?
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or oil of choice
- ½ cup diced onion (½ medium)
- ½ cup diced carrots (2 medium)
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
- 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups cooked red kidney beans)
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas)
- ½ cup frozen corn kernels
- 2-3 tablespoons harissa (see note)
- Plain yogurt (dairy or dairy-free for vegan variation)
- Fresh herbs (such as baby dill, mint, cilantro, and parsley)
- Fresh bread for serving
- Heat stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in olive oil, onion, and carrots, and cook 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent.
- Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, chickpeas, corn, harissa (see note), and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed, chili thickens, and carrots are tender.
Ladle chili into bowls and top with yogurt and fresh herbs if desired. Serve with freshly-baked bread if desired.
Harissa is a chili paste/sauce that’s popular in North African cuisine. Every brand is a little different, so taste a little and add it to the chili in one-tablespoon increments. Taste to ensure it’s not too spicy before adding more. I tested this recipe with Mina brand harissa.
Freezer-friendly: Store cooked chili in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to six months.
Like what you see? Save this harissa chili recipe on Pinterest or share it with a friend.
What’s the first meal you learned to cook on your own?