Vegan Chocolate Chili

Chocolate in chili? 

The first time I mentioned it to my 6 year old, he grinned and his eyes just about burst out of his head from a combination of disbelief and excitement. You would've thought I told him Santa was coming for dinner.

Truth be told, there's only one tablespoon of chocolate in the whole pot — but he didn't know that. Needless to say, he gobbled up his entire bowl that night without one ounce of the usual mealtime drama. 

It was a chocolate chili miracle! 

So yes, I'll admit, I make a point to shamelessly announce the beloved ingredient every time this chili is being served. Better yet, I let my son add the chocolate to the pot. It's so funny to watch him — he thinks he's pulling one over on us, putting 'candy' in our dinner. 

Not a vegan? Check out the carnivore's version here.

This is a crowd-pleasing chili, because it's not too hot or spicy. I find it easier to make a mild batch like this and then offer toppings for everyone to create their own meal, just how they like it. I've set up a chili bar (like this one) several times and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. And I can tell you, it makes hosting super easy — especially if you make the chili the day before and just reheat it in a crock pot. 

Recipe notes:

You want to use pure cacao powder (or cocoa powder) that is unsweetened. The cacao powder I use is from my local health food store, and I use it in lots of different recipes besides this one. Organic cacao powder is full of antioxidants and magnesium, making this kind of chocolate guilt-free. 

You have some wiggle room with the ingredients in this recipe so don't worry about exact measurements so much. Don't like black beans? Use Aduki or Pinto. As for the beans and tomatoes — it's not going to matter if you use two small cans (15 oz) or one large can (between 28 to 30 oz). Just keep the volume as close as possible to what's called for in the ingredients list. The pepper? I like to use one large green bell pepper, but I've also used yellow, red, and orange. You can even use 2 small and mix the colors. Experiment and use what inspires you. I would just try to keep the spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and cacao powder) the same as in the recipe. That's where you can really get off track and ruin a whole pot of chili — trust me!

The exact chili powder that you use will effect the taste of your chili. Some blends are hotter than others. For a while there, I couldn't figure out why my chili kept turning out too hot, even when I stopped using cayenne. Turns out it was the chili powder! The one I prefer is Simply Organic brand chili powder. They sell it in both my local grocery store and health food store, which makes things easy when shopping. 

For this recipe you could also use a piece of dark chocolate that is roughly the size of a tablespoon. However, be sure to purchase chocolate that is free of dairy (milk), soy, peanuts and tree nuts. Soy lecithin is very commonly used in chocolate, especially in cheaper varieties. My local health food store seems to offer the greatest variety of allergy-free chocolate bars for just a few dollars a piece. They even sell individually wrapped bite-sized pieces that would be a perfect substitute for the cacao powder.

Oh and one last thing: Chili is even better the next day so make this ahead of time whenever possible — your patience will be rewarded!

Vegan Chocolate Chili

*This recipe can easily be made 8SAFE if you follow the original recipe and only use processed ingredients that are free of gluten & the top eight food allergens.

The 8SAFE processed ingredients that I used in this recipe: SIMPLY ORGANIC Chili Powder, NAVITAS NATURALS Cacao PowderMUIR GLEN ORGANICS diced tomatoes, EDEN ORGANIC Kidney Beans and Black Beans.


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 large (or 2 small) bell pepper, diced

  • 2 Tbsp chili powder

  • 2 Tbsp cumin

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 Tbsp cacao powder

  • 2 (16 oz) cans of diced tomatoes

  • 2 (16 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed well

  • 2 (16 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed well

  • 2 cups water (or vegetable broth)


In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and a few big pinches of salt and sauté until onion is translucent.

Add the spices and cook until onions and peppers are coated and spices are fragrant (about 10-15 seconds), scraping off any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan (there's tons of flavor in there!).

Add tomatoes, beans, and water.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour.

Remove the lid and cook another 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts getting too thick, or sticking to the bottom of the pot, stir in about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out, and continue cooking until the chili thickens to your desired consistency.

Remove from heat and salt to taste.



Always use safe handling practices when preparing an 8SAFE recipe:

  • Wash hands with soap and water (hand sanitizer does not remove allergens).

  • Wipe down all surfaces; use clean equipment; and

  • Avoid cross contamination of ingredients not called for in the recipe. Be mindful that allergens can become airborne in flour or powdered form. Preparing 8SAFE recipes before ‘regular’ recipes will help prevent cross contamination. Do not share equipment among recipes (For example: If you cook regular pasta alongside 8SAFE pasta, use a dedicated spoon for each. Do not use one spoon to stir both pots.)

  • Clean your grill thoroughly beforehand (or use a clean grill pan or tin foil on the grill) when preparing an 8SAFE recipe.

  • Dedicate individual serving utensils for each dish. Allow food sensitive guests to serve themselves first to reduce risk of cross contamination from serving utensils.

  • When in doubt, snap a photo of the ingredient list of any processed items you use for an 8SAFE recipe. You can then share the information with your guests to confirm that it’s safe. 

While I do my best to keep 8SAFE product suggestions up to date, please keep in mind that manufacturers change their ingredients and formulas from time to time (it's also human nature to make a mistake now and then, and I'm no exception). So be sure to double check all products to be free of gluten and the top eight food allergens before preparing an 8SAFE recipe.