Take your chili game up a (healthy-ish) notch with this veggie packed, no bean twist! Flexitarian-style Whole30 Chili is brimming with a rainbow of colorful vegetables and just enough beef to please even the most carnivorous chili-lover in your life. Loaded with nutrient dense real foods, make this chili for game day, meal prep, or any hungry crowd.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Whole30 is that your plate is full of slabs of meat with maybe some greens to keep things “fresh”. This is so not true, but the myth lives on.
The reality for our family is that we eat way more vegetables than meat on a Whole30 – dinner salads, breakfast veggie hash, and soups packed with plant-based goodies keep our tummies full and our brain tuned up in a way that mostly meat could never do. A Whole30 program is restrictive, but the plant-based vegetable world is up for grabs at all times, and it’s seriously diverse – which means we experiment more than ever when grains and legumes don’t touch our plates.
This Whole30 chili is a prime example. A pound of ground beef meets 2 pounds (!!) of vegetables to create a rich and hearty stew. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals and the flavor is only enhanced by all those extra vegetables. If you have picky eaters, this chili is a terrific way to squeeze in that extra serving of the edible rainbow that they’d never eat on their own (ask me how I know!).
How to Make Beef Chili (the Whole30 & Flexitarian Way)
Hey now, flexitarian? That’s a big word. But it’s the perfect description for this rich and hearty Whole30 chili that also happens to be packed with a ton of vegetables. Just look at all those veggies down there!
I love a classic no bean chili with chunks of ground beef swimming in tomatoes and spices…but my body likes me so much more when I add scads of nutrient-dense fresh vegetables, a la flexitarian style (which basically boils down to lots of veggies and other plant based ingredients with some meat – here’s a primer if it’s new to you!).
- This recipe calls for mis-en-place because it moves pretty quickly once you get started. Dice an onion, celery, red bell pepper, green been pepper, and sweet potato into 1/2″ pieces, then mince a few cloves of garlic and a jalapeno – if you like your chili with an extra kick, keep the seeds; if you don’t, chuck ’em.
- Portion out the chili spices – 2-4 tablespoons chili powder (we typically use three), cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers, toss to coat in the fat, and cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions start to turn translucent – 9-10 minutes.
- Add the beef (or your choice of ground meat – anything goes here!). Break the beef up with a wooden spoon and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
- Add the garlic, jalapeno, chili spices, and tomato paste. Sautee and stir continuously until the tomato paste is worked into the vegetables and the spices are very fragrant – about a minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and beef broth, as well as the diced sweet potatoes. Give everything a good stir.
- Increase the heat to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 35-45 minutes.
- The chili is ready when the flavors have melded (you’ll need to do a taste test) and the texture is thick. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt if needed.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with your favorite toppings: avocado, diced red onion, cilantro, and maybe a dollop of sour cream (vegan sour cream if you’re strictly Whole30 or paleo). This chili is very rich, so I keep the toppings pretty light.
Must-Know Tips for Making No Bean Whole30 Beef Chili
- Dice the vegetables to 1/2″ for best texture.
- Properly toast the spices, instead of throwing them in with the liquids. This really enhances the finished flavor.
- Feel free to swap out the beef for your favorite ground meat – turkey and pork are both fine substitutes, as well as venison or bison if you can source either. If using turkey, see if you can source dark meat ground turkey – it has more fat and will improve the flavor.
- Keep the jalapeno seeds or double the jalapeños for a very spicy chili.
- Similarly, adjust the heat level by using more or less chili powder. I recommend at least two tablespoons and you can scale up to four.
- Chili needs to simmer at least 30 minutes, preferably 45 – the liquid will evaporate as it simmers, creating that thick, rich chili texture you know and love. More importantly, this simmering time really allows the flavors to develop. For an even more complex flavor, simmer for up to 2 hours. When doing so, be sure to partially cover the dutch oven, leaving a small crack for steam to escape, otherwise the liquids will evaporate too quickly and you’ll end up with sad, scalded chili.
More Hearty, Vegetable Packed Dinner Recipes
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Whole30 No Bean Chili
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, diced to 1/2"
- 2 stalks celery, diced to 1/2"
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced to 1/2"
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced to 1/2"
- 1 large sweet potato, (about 12 oz), diced to 1/2"
- 1 lb ground beef, use 80/20 for best results, up to 90/10
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2-4 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes, see notes
- 2 c beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- Diced avocado
- Chopped red onion
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced jalapenos
- Sliced green onions
- Heat a 6-quart dutch oven over medium high heat. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion, celery, and bell peppers and toss to coat in the fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and the onions turn translucent, 7-9 minutes.
- Add ground beef and cook, stirring with a wood spoon to break into pieces, until the beef is no longer pink, 3-4 minutes.
- Add jalapeno, garlic, tomato paste, spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika) and salt. Stir continuously with a wood spoon until the tomato paste is worked into the vegetables and the spices are toasted and very fragrant, 2 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, beef broth and diced sweet potato, then stir all ingredients together. Top with a bay leaf. Increase heat to high to bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 35-45 minutes until the chili is thick and the flavors have melded. Stir occasionally to prevent scalding. Taste for flavor and seasoning - simmer an additional 10 minutes if flavors have not fully developed, and/or adjust with additional salt as necessary.
- Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite garnishes. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- We always prefer fire-roasted tomatoes for best flavor, and specifically the Muir Glen brand.
- If you cannot find crushed tomatoes, substitute with one can diced tomatoes blended until smooth.
- Swap out the beef for your favorite ground meat, including turkey, pork, venison, or bison. If using turkey, try to source dark meat ground turkey, as it has more fat and will improve the flavor.
- Keep the jalapeno seeds or double the jalapeños for a very spicy chili.
- Further adjust the heat level by using more or less chili powder. I recommend at least two tablespoons and you can scale up to four.
- Chili needs to simmer at least 30 minutes, preferably 45 for best flavor and texture. For an even more complex flavor, simmer for up to 2 hours. When doing so, partially cover the dutch oven, leaving a small crack for steam to escape, to prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly.