This make-ahead slow cooker black bean butternut chili is perfect nutritious vegan comfort food. Made with protein rich beans and quinoa as well as filling butternut squash. It’s a perfect recipe for your weekly meal prep, and it freezes well!
As I mentioned in my Menu Plan Monday post for the week, this is the week of squash. Creamy butternut squash and five spice soup earlier this week, and a really delicious, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs slow cooker black bean, butternut squash and quinoa chili today. I didn’t plan on all of the squash, but I’m certainly not complaining (I know that I’ll soon be missing winter squash as spring and summer roll around, no matter how many other vegetables there will be to savor!).
This is also a week of intense schoolwork. I have my first Advanced Nutrition II exam this evening, and I’m more than a little nervous about it. It’s a difficult class, taught by a detail-oriented medical school professor, and the level of complexity reminds me quite a bit of my post-bacc chemistry and biochemistry courses. It’s hard not to feel some of the old anxiety rushing back, the fear and the sensation of helplessness I used to experience as I entered a test, totally uncertain about what to expect and whether or not I’d studied the right things.
So it’s a good time for comfort food, for something warming and hearty and uplifting. This spicy, flavorful chili is just that, and it’s also perfect exam fuel. It’s packed with satiating protein, energy-sustaining complex carbs, a healthy dose of iron, and a slew of healthful phytonutrients–I couldn’t ask for a more nutrient dense meal. Better yet, it’s a slow cooker recipe, which means that I was able to whip it up even during a week when preoccupation with schoolwork made it very tempting not to cook. If you don’t have a slow cooker, no worries: I’ve given a stovetop option, too.
Like many of the recipes I’ve been making lately, this one feeds a crowd. It makes about 12 cups by my count, a generous 6-8 servings of food, depending on your appetite. You can cut the recipe in half if your slow cooker is 4 quarts or smaller, or if you make it over the stovetop.
These days, though, I see so much value in batch cooking, no matter how many people one is initially cooking for. Steven and I rarely finish a huge recipe like this in a week; we love leftovers, but after three days or so we start to crave variety. Still, I always freeze what we don’t eat, often in individual portions, and I don’t know what I’d do without these freezer staples during super busy weeks.
As you’ll see, there are ways to jazz this dish up a little, using chopped herbs, green onion, or a dollop of tofu sour cream, which I’ve included the recipe for. It’s really quick and easy to make, and it can work in a variety of soups or stews, or on top of a baked potato. Whether you add toppings or not, you’ll have tons of flavor to savor in this chili. Smoked paprika, chipotle peppers, chili powder, and cumin really bring it to life, and I added just a pinch of cayenne for a little extra heat.
This recipe is destined to become a slow cooker go-to for me. I love all of the texture, the combination of a nutty grain, tender, sweet squash, and chewy black beans. It’s such a satisfying meal, especially for cold months–and also for a day on which you’re feeling just a little anxious or vulnerable or overwhelmed. I have plenty of regrets about my post-bacc, but one thing I don’t regret is having managed to take care of my body, even when I was at my most stressed and unhappy. I didn’t relapse, and I kept myself nourished with good meals, and this kind of self-care is something I’m happy to carry into my RD education.
Hope you’ll let this bowl of vegan goodness take care of you, too. Enjoy the recipe.
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This was so delicious. I love hearty and flavourful food. I had a butternut that I needed to use and found this recipe. I will definitely make it again
This is soo delicious and very easy to make! The spices are on point. It will become a staple in my house. Thank you for sharing.
I’m so glad you like it!
Love!!! Thank you.
Hooray! Glad to hear it.
Truly appreciate the way you made this wonderful recipe. Everything is so nicely described which really helped me to make this at home. Thanks for such a lovely treat.
YUM!! Made this in the crock pot today and it turned out absolutely amazing. I switched it up a little bit and increased the measurements for the cumin and chili powder, added a small can of tomato sauce, and added ground lamb. Such an amazing fall soup.
So glad it turned out well, Caroline!
Have been using this recipe for years now. It’s so good!
This is EVERYTHING. We’ve been using this recipe for about three years now and love that it’s a high yield, healthy, delicious and easily prepared for vegan friends. Thank you so much, this is the cornerstone of our repertoire.
Delighted that it’s become a go-to for you!
What is your method for unfreezing the dish? Do you heat it back up on the stove top or leave it to melt over night?
Love this recipe!! Would it be possible to get the nutritional info for this please? I’m sure the numbers are good, just curious.
I just made this today for dinner and meals during the week. Very easy recipe that turned out delicious. I sauteed the onion and celery before adding to the slow cooker as suggested and used water to cut down on unnecessary sodium. I topped my bowl with a bit of sour cream and sliced avocado. The result was a healthy, creamy, smoky, satisfying chili and I’ll be saving this recipe to use again. Thank you!
I realize this recipe is old now but I just made this chili for the first time and it is amazing. Your spices are on point! Thanks for the great recipe!
I need to fill a large 6-7 qt slow cooker for a marching band dinner this week, does this fill that oval approx 6 qt size or the smaller 4 qt round size?
You are in luck! 6 quart size 🙂
I love the recipe & just finished making it and i can say it is delicious! It has great texture and the aroma is awesome!
This is the most delicious chili I’ve ever had!!
Made this last evening on the stove top. I used white onions, added two minced jalapeno peppers with the garlic, and 1/4 chopped cilantro before serving. We loved it with one exception: the olive oil in the crema overpowered the lovely lime flavor. I added more silken tofu & more lime which fixed the flavor. Next time I will omit the olive oil from the crema. Thank you for the recipe. The combination is lovely.
This looks delicious, Gena! And I hope your test went well, too. Nothing like comfort food to get us through, and this has 3 of my favorite comfort staples in it. 🙂 xo
omg I´ll be making this for sure!! Looks mouth-watering <3 Thank you!
This recipe looks great. I think I will make it and put it over baked sweet potatoes. You mentioned that you typically freeze leftovers; do you have a certain method that works best? Should I be using glass Tupperware or freezer bags?
I tend to use freezer bags. Glass tupperware has been fine every time I’ve tried it, but we have a limited supply and we usually both use them for carrying leftovers to and from class; also, it’s a lot bulkier in the fridge. But really, it’s whatever works for you!
I made this tonight and it was delicious! Super easy to throw together and my husband loved it. Thank you 🙂
Hooray! Thrilled to hear that, Erin 🙂
totally yummy raw food diet treat. Looks very delicious.
What size can of tomatoes please?
14.5 ounces — thanks for asking, Terri!
This is wonderful, thank you so much.
I hope you’ll be adding more slow cooker recipes to the site!
It looks delicious. Love me a slow cooker recipe. Good luck with the exam!
This looks so yummy! I am constantly looking for cozy filling meals right now, so I am definitely going to make this soon! Good luck on your exam! 🙂 🙂
Good luck on your exam, Gena! I’m sure you’ll do well! This chili looks wonderful!
It’s so weird that I’ve never made any soup or chili in my slow cooker 😛 Hahaha!
Totally LOVING those big chunks of butternut squash. Looks so yummy!