Vegetarian Skillet Chili

Friday, February 12, 2021

It’s finally here: the first snow of the season!

It’s just a light dusting really — powdered sugar on a gingerbread village — but enough to inspire cozy cravings for steaming soups, piping hot chilis, warming stews, and mugs of hot cocoa big enough to drown in.

While I fully intend to indulge in all of the above and more, today I want to share one of my favorite back-pocket recipes for cold weeknights when you’re short on time but still want something hearty, healthy, and hot for dinner.

This vegetarian chili is made with basic pantry staples — canned beans and tomatoes, dried spices and herbs, the essential yellow onion — and requires just one pan and one burner. The pickled red onions add pop and brightness that really compliments the richness of the chili, and any leftovers will last in the fridge for up to a week — though they rarely last that long in my house! Toss a tray of cornbread in the oven while the chili simmers and you’ll have a full meal ready in under an hour.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the kettle calling me from the kitchen: it’s the hot cocoa time!

Vegetarian Skillet Chili w/ Quick-Pickled Onions (chili from the brilliant Melissa Clark of New York Times Cooking, onions from the magnificent Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame)



  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
  • 1 generous teaspoon chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried oregano (to taste)
  • 2 15-ounce cans beans, drained (I like to use a mix of kidney, pinto, and black beans here)
  • 1 15-ounce can dice tomatoes with their juices (I usually like to use a 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles, but if you’re craving a more soupy consistency, you can also sub in a 28-ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cilantro, diced avocado, sour cream, etc. (for garnish)


  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Generous 1/2 tablespoon Morton kosher salt, or another brand kosher salt (note: use 1 full tablespoon salt if using Diamond kosher)


  1. Pickle the onions! Mix red wine vinegar, cold water, granulated sugar, and kosher salt until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add thinly sliced red onion; I usually cut my onion in half through the root, then thinly slice perpendicular to that cut, so I end up with thin half-moons of onion, but you cut your onion how you like! Let onions marinate for 30 minutes (while you make the chili) for light pickling, or up to a week in the fridge. Eat on everything — tacos, huevos rancheros, avocado toast, egg salad, you name it.
  2. Prepare the chili! Heat a large skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat, then add the oil.
  3. When the oil is hot, add onion and sauté until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. I like to let my onions get a little caramel color.
  4. Add garlic, chili powder, and oregano. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  5. Add beans and tomatoes and a few pinches of salt and let simmer until the tomatoes break down about 20 minutes.
  6. Taste and add more salt, chili powder, and/or oregano to taste. Serve with the pickled onions and any garnishes you like — I like a little diced avocado and some Cholula if I’m feeling spicy.

Happy eating!




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Helen Grace

Helen Grace

Pursuing the simple joys of butter, flour, and eggs, 52 weeks a year.

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