Slow cooker vegetarian chili with sweet potatoes (stovetop version, too!) - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Slow cooker vegetarian chili with sweet potatoes (stovetop version, too!)

As I type this, my slow cooker has been on for 36 hours straight.  Is that allowed?  I am officially obsessed and I completely understand why you all have been too while I was under a little rock.  Wow!  I made this awesome sweet potato chili the other night, then washed out the insert and put in some beef bones to make beef stock while I slept.  Then the next morning strained the beef stock and made a grass-fed beef brisket with veggies that I turned into a delicious sauce for pasta.  I’m on fire!

Are you gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday?  I love football, so I am always excited for the big day.  What I’d really like to know though, is why does everyone make chili for the Super Bowl?  Or a lot of Tex-Mex food?  I take that back.  My family in NY will be eating sausage and peppers and a baked pasta of some sort.  Maybe it’s just Southern California, but everyone I know is ripening their avocados for guacamole to go on top of their tacos or nachos or what have you.   Just curious since I am one of these people too and I’m not quite sure how I got to be.

I do try and mix it up a little every year, but somehow chili makes it onto the menu in some way.  I have been alternating between Vegetable Chili (my favorite) and Deer Valley Turkey and Black Bean Chili, which I serve alongside a baked potato bar, corn bread and Mexican Chopped Salad which I have a feeling doesn’t resemble anything you’d get in Mexico but sure is the perfect salad to go along with everything else Tex-Mex-y.  I’m in a bit of a conundrum this year with only two days to go until Super Bowl Sunday because I have no menu yet!  There are too many things I would love to make, including this fabulous chili as well as Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos or even this terrific-looking vegetarian tortilla soup recipe I spotted on Foodily.  Alas, I have a mere one slow cooker.

Fear not, good people.  I will share with you how to make this recipe on the stove in case you either do not have a slow cooker (yet) or you only have one slow cooker and you are planning on making my slow cooker chicken tacos.  I like to have a good balance of different food groups even on Super Bowl Sunday so that it’s not just chips and animal protein all day long.  Personally, I think chili is an easy dish to do vegetarian.  All those beans are super high in fiber and protein so they’re really filling and it’s the spices that make everything taste delicious, not the meat.  This chili is really interesting because it includes a bit of sweet potato, one of my most favorite foods.  There’s a touch of cinnamon and cocoa powder which you can’t really taste, but pairs great with the chili powder.  I didn’t add any leafy greens, but in retrospect I think a few chopped leaves of chard, spinach or kale would have been a nice addition at the end.  This Super Bowl I’m rooting for you to eat something healthful!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes
Serves: 6
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil (or skip this if you don’t want to pre-saute vegetables)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds to make it less hot or use half or omit altogether)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt (depending on salt in tomatoes)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 28-ounce container chopped or diced tomatoes with the juice (I prefer to use Pomi from a box or tomatoes in glass jars to avoid the inevitable BPA in canned tomatoes.)
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed (click here to learn how to cook beans from scratch, otherwise Eden Organics doesn't use BPA in their cans)
  • 1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 pound total, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup water (use 2 cups water if cooking this on the stove)
  1. Omit this step if you cannot bear to pre-cook anything when using a slow cooker. I like to sauté my vegetables because I think it adds more flavor, but feel free to dump everything (omit the oil) into the slow cooker and press “start.” Otherwise, heat oil in a large skillet (if not using a slow cooker, sauté in a large pot) over medium heat. Add onion, peppers and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add spices, salt and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. If your tomatoes are unsalted, use 2 teaspoons salt.
  3. Add tomatoes and their liquid and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Pour the onion and pepper mixture into a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Stir in beans, sweet potato and 1 cup water. (If cooking on the stove, add remaining ingredients to the pot plus 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and everything is nice and thick, about 1 hour.)
  5. Cover and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
  6. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with desired toppings such as tortilla chips, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, and sour cream.
I have also served this with cooked quinoa and millet, which was delicious. Also, I think adding some chopped fresh leafy greens about 10 minutes before serving would be very nice, too. Swiss chard, spinach and kale would all work well.


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  1. This chili is a staple in our house but I want to try making in my new Instant Pot which has saute and other functions. Any thoughts on how to adapt? Thank you!!

    • That’s great to hear! My family loves it too! I haven’t made it in the instant pot, so I am going to guess here, but I would start by sautéing the veggies in the machine first. Then I would cook the chili on high pressure for 8 minutes. I just don’t know if you should do a quick release or wait a couple minutes and then release. Let me know if you try it.

  2. I feel guilty for never commenting on this wonderful recipe. I have made this chili so many times, and have doubled it for large groups (stovetop), and had RAVE REVIEWS every time – it is a huge favorite of family and many many friends. I can also say that I have made this way in advance and frozen it … works great IF you don’t add the squash. Just make and freeze the chili, then when you’re ready to serve it, roast the squash and add before serving. This dish is a huge hit with meat eaters, kids, everyone. Thanks Pamela 🙂

    • Ah!! Love your suggestion, thank you!!

  3. Hi Pamela! I make this recipe all the time and I loooove it 🙂 Wondering – does this freeze well?

    • I’m so glad! It freezes really well 🙂

    • It freezes well WITHOUT the sweet potatoes. If you leave them in, they turn to mush.

      • Thanks for your feedback!

  4. Hi Pamela! On the stovetop can I add cauliflower to this? Would you add it to the onions and peppers at the beginning? Thank you!

    • Sure! Yes, add it at the beginning. 🙂

  5. Can I double this in the slow cooker? Or if I’m doubling should I do stovetop and reheat tomorrow for Super Bowl?

    • Ooops! Got to your comment post-Super Bowl, sorry! You can double this in the slow cooker. You can also make it the day before and reheat it on the stove or in the slow cooker and keep it on the warm setting for the day.

  6. Hi Pamela! I still want to make this in the slow cooker, but would like to use dried beans. Should I still soak and pre-cook the beans before adding? Thank you!

    • Technically you don’t have to, but soaking ahead of time does make them more digestible. Do whatever you have time for. I have made unsoaked dried beans in the slow cooker for 6 1/2 – 7 hours on LOW.

  7. Hi Pamela,

    Have you tried this in the Instant Pot? I think it would work as is. Thoughts? You and your recipes rock!



    • I haven’t, but I gave someone else some suggestions below. Let me know if you try it!

  8. How would you adapt this for an electric pressure cooker? Thinking I could saute the veggies in the multicooker (I have a Fagor) then use the slow cooker function, but interested in trying out the pressure as well.

    • I am going to guess here, but I would do what you said by sautéing the veggies in the machine first. Then I would cook the chili on high pressure for 8 minutes. I just don’t know if you should do a quick release or wait a couple minutes and then release. Have you made any similar recipes in your Fagor before?

      • I have not tried recipes with pre cooked or canned beans in the Fagor yet (only dry beans). I was usure if the canned beans would stay intact and also fully cook the sweet potatoes with my adapation. With our recent addition of child #3, adapting meals to the multicooker has been so helpful during these sleep deprived days 🙂 Thank you so much for your suggestions!

        • Yes, that’s why I suggested such a quick cooking time. CONGRATS on #3!!!!!

  9. Hi Pamela! Id love to make this tomorrow for Superbowl! Can i make in the slow cooker today and reheat tomorrow? Or is it better day of?

    • So sorry I didn’t see this until now. Chili reheats great! You can also make it early in the day and keep it on the warm setting on your slow cooker.

  10. I am thinking of making this for a super bowl party. Have you ever added chicken or ground turkey to this recipe? If not what do you think/recommend? Since it will be first time making it I wasn’t sure about messing with the the recipe. I also thought about adding corn…..

    • I actually have been testing a turkey version, so I know the flavors would be totally compatible. I would brown 1 pound of ground turkey, preferably dark meat, and leave everything else the same or remove a little of the sweet potato and beans, about 1/2 cup of each. Taste for seasoning before serving and add little extra salt or spices as you see fit. But you won’t mess it up. 🙂

      • Thanks so much! So would you still use the crock pot with the browned turkey for same length of time or make the stove top version?

        • Yes, crock pot with turkey for same length of time. You can make the stovetop version, but it’s so much easier in the crock pot!

  11. this is so terrific. i added a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to mine & also topped this with the “cashew moment” from Gwyneth’s “Its All Good” cookbook. absolutely delicious and so full of flavor.

    thank you always.

    • I am totally obsessed with chipotle peppers!!! I’m sure your additions made this chili absolutely delicious!!

  12. I made this tonight and it is AMAZING! John said that he could it all day every day! Thank you, Pamela!

    • Really??!! How awesome! So healthy for all of you. 🙂

  13. Hi Pamela! I made this yesterday and the family went crazy for it. I was cutting up the bell peppers and Lauren informed me that she hates peppers. Then she said “Is this one of Pamela’s recipes?” When I told her it was she said “Well, then it’s okay.” 🙂

    • How adorable is she? Great to hear your family enjoyed this, Cathy!

  14. Just made this (stovetop), LOVE it!! My husband couldn’t stop eating it!! Thank you for your amazingly healthful and delicious and easy to follow recipes!!!

    • You’re welcome, Lillian. I’m happy it was a success for you!

  15. I am also addicted to my slow cooker!!! With more snow expected this weekend, this sounds perfect!!

    • Stay warm! xo

  16. Although I am neither a chili fanatic nor a slow cooker convert, your recipe sounded so interesting. I made it the old-fashioned way – stovetop – and it was FABULOUS! Loved the combination of ingredients and spices. Many thanks for broadening my culinary horizons!

    • I love a person who takes a risk! 😉

  17. Just finished our chili dinner. Made the stovetop version and it was fantastic! Added some cooked chopped chicken we had leftover. It was a hit! So glad I discovered your website…have tried a few of your recipes and all have been great! Thank you!!

    • Thank you so much for letting me know! Glad you found me 🙂

  18. Hi Pamela, I’m making a list of the ingredients and see on the picture you have red onion chopped but it is not listed in the ingredients…



    • I appreciate your bringing that to my attention! 1 red onion

  19. Totally making this for the Superbowl tomorrow! I am just curious, did you use a half or one whole red onion for the chili?

    • I used 1 whole red onion, chopped. So sorry for the typo, thanks for catching that!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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