VCU Massey Cancer Center


Recipe corner: winter chili recipes

During the cold weather, chili is a go-to dish to help keep you warm. While many recipes include meat, vegetarian chili is a delicious way to add vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help reduce disease risk and promote good health. Chilies made with dried beans provide protein and fiber to help keep you full. While dried beans are naturally low in sodium, canned beans are often high. Reduce the sodium 40% by draining and rinsing canned beans prior to adding them to your recipe.

Vegetable chili can be lower in fat and calories than some made with meat, but beware of high calorie add-ons. Shredded cheese and sour cream are high fat toppings. Keep those calories in check by using smaller amounts, or substitute with reduced fat or 2% fat products. Feel free to load up on chopped tomatoes, onions or salsa.

Many people like chips on the side for a little crunch. One cup of potato or tortilla chips-both fried chips-have about 135 calories. Watch portions, or try baked chips, whole grain crackers, baked tortillas or a piece of crusty bread, instead.

Never tried meatless chili before? Here’s your chance with the white bean chili or colorful vegetable chili recipes. Both are vegan, but you might not miss the meat as they share many of the same flavorful herbs and spices found in typical meat-based chili: cumin, garlic, chili powder and red pepper.

White bean chili

Makes about 8, 1-cup servings 


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (4 ounces) can mild chopped green chilies
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (about 15.5 ounces each) navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, chilies, garlic, cumin, oregano, sugar, cloves, red pepper, chili powder and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 more minutes, stirring to break up the tomatoes.

Add broth and bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add navy and cannellini beans and simmer until desired thickness is reached.

Approximate nutrients per 1 cup serving:  275 calories, 18 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 46 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams fiber, 395 milligrams sodium, 176 milligrams calcium.

Inspired by a recipe from Alex Caspero RD at Delish Knowledge,

Vegetable chili

Makes about 5, 1-cup, servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounce package of fresh, sliced mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh zucchini, chopped (or other vegetables like yellow squash, green peppers, red peppers, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8 ounce) can no salt added corn, undrained
  • 8 ounces low sodium vegetable juice
  • 1 (8 ounce) can no salt added tomato sauce

Heat a large skillet or wok to medium high heat. Add olive oil. Once heated, add chopped onion and cook until tender. Stir in chopped mushrooms and cook until browned. Next, add squash, and cook about 5 minutes longer, stirring to ensure even cooking.

Add chili powder, ground red pepper, ground cumin and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to mix well.

Finally pour in beans, corn, vegetable juice and tomato sauce.

Simmer, uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until desired thickness is reached.

Nutrients per 1 cup serving: 165 calories, 8 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 8 gram fiber, 197 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe from Whitney Voorhees, R.D.


Recipes prepared by Mary-Jo Sawyer, R.D., registered dietitian in the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic at VCU Health.