Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

This vegetarian chili recipe is a great choice for those trying to reduce their red meat intake. Sweet, spicy, and savory, this easy sweet potato black bean chili is filling, satisfying, and absolutely delicious! Plus, there’s a secret ingredient in this chili recipe that may surprise you – read on to learn what it is, give it a try, then let us know what you think!

Sweet Potato Chili Nutrition Facts

This plant forward chili recipe is packed with all kinds of nutrient-dense ingredients that promote health – veggies, spices, beans, and…cocoa powder? Yep! Keep reading to learn why.


Beans of all varieties contain plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients promote gut health, decrease risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and promote a healthy weight. Check out our Food as Medicine article to learn more about these health benefits. All of the world’s longest lived populations consume beans daily. Beans are incredibly versatile and can be altered to meet any texture, flavor, or health preference.


Sweet potato, green bell pepper, onion, garlic, and tomatoes are the featured vegetables in this vegetarian chili recipe. All of these veggies contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which promote health and decrease disease risk (1, 2).


Chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon add flavor and nutrition to this recipe. Using spices decreases the need for salt, which may help reduce hypertension risk and therefore promote heart health (3). Additionally, these spices contain powerful antioxidants which may help reduce inflammation in the body (4).

Cocoa Powder

Although you probably wouldn’t expect to find cocoa powder in a savory recipe, it actually adds really great flavor depth to this spicy and smoky chili! Cocoa also contains phytochemicals and minerals that promote heart health and reduce inflammation (5).

Equipment Recommendations

We love that this is a one pot chili recipe; we’re all about easy cleanup! An enameled Dutch oven pot works great for this recipe, but a regular stock pot works too. You can also make this chili recipe in a slow cooker or pressure cooker; see instructions for these variations below.

Other helpful pieces of equipment for this recipe include a sharp chef’s knife, a sturdy cutting board, and a can opener.

Culinary Tips

This recipe requires a lot of chopping. Be sure to secure your cutting board, use a sharp knife, and hold your knife properly to ensure knife safety.

Make sure that the oil is hot before adding the veggies. This will help with flavor development.

Toasting the spices before adding the liquid helps build flavor, but be careful not to burn them! Burnt spices add a bitter flavor to dishes.

Ingredient Substitutions 

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: substitute regular olive, canola, or avocado oil.
  • Green Bell Pepper: substitute red, yellow, or orange bell pepper.
  • Sweet Potato: substitute butternut squash. 
  • Red Onion: substitute yellow or white.
  • Garlic: substitute 2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic, 2 teaspoons garlic flakes, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Fire-Roasted Tomatoes: substitute regular diced or crushed tomatoes, but note the flavor won’t be quite the same!
  • Beans: substitute all kidney or all black beans. Pinto beans would be another good substitution. 
  • Water: substitute vegetable or chicken broth.

Recipe Variations

There are many ways that you can adapt this smoky black bean and sweet potato chili recipe to your taste. 

Can’t imagine your chili without meat? Turn this into a sweet potato black bean turkey chili by browning ½ pound of ground turkey before adding the bell pepper, sweet potato, and onion. 

Feel free to turn this into a three bean chili recipe by adding another can of black or kidney beans.

Turn this into a sweet potato black bean quinoa chili by adding ½ cup quinoa with the beans. You may need to add an extra ½ cup of water, depending on how thick you like your chili.

Need a little more heat? Add 2-3 chopped chipotles in adobo along with the spices.

For a slow cooker sweet potato black bean chili, use just 1 cup of water, eliminate the olive oil, and place remaining ingredients in a crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

For a pressure cooker vegetarian chili recipe, turn the Instant Pot to the sauté setting and follow steps 1-3. Add the remaining ingredients, using only 1 cup of water, place the lid on, turn to high pressure, seal, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release, or if you can’t wait that long, manually release after 10 minutes.

Serving Suggestions

Ladle chili in a bowl and top with diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream. If you want a vegan bean chili, simply leave off the cheese and yogurt. 

Storage Tips

This vegetarian sweet potato chili makes great leftovers! The chili thickens and the flavors continue to develop in the fridge, so you are sure to enjoy lunch or dinner the next day even more! To store leftover chili, cool completely, then place in an airtight container. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. This recipe is great for freezing too. Cool completely, place in one large freezer-safe container or individual containers, and freeze for up to 3 months. 

Want more healthy plant forward recipes?

Check out these recipes that are packed with flavor and nutrition!

Vegetarian Tostadas

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

Black Bean Corn Salad

4 Bean Chili

5 from 4 votes
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili with diced sweet potato and beans
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
50 mins

Sweet, spicy, and savory, this easy sweet potato black bean chili is filling, satisfying, and absolutely delicious!

Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Yield: 9 cups
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced ¾” (~2 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, diced (~1 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 28 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed or diced
  • 2- 15 ounce cans low-sodium black &/or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil. 

  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the bell pepper, sweet potato, and onion. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Sauté for approximately 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the sweet potatoes are beginning to soften.

  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

  4. Add tomatoes, beans, and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Toasting the spices before adding the liquid helps build flavor, but be careful not to burn them! Burnt spices add a bitter flavor to dishes.


Crockpot variation: Dump all ingredients in a crockpot, but eliminate the oil and decrease water to 1 cup. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Kiara

    This has become on of my go-to chili recipies! The addition of the cocoa powder is the secret to me. It’s not overpowering and adds nice depth and flavor with the sweet potatoes!

  2. Niamh

    This recipe is so good. You don’t even miss the meat! It will be a winter staple for us.

  3. Sierra

    I have been planning make this recipe for about a week and it did not disappoint! It was quite filling and SO tasty. I love the use of sweet potatoes. I decided to use my instant pot for this recipe and it worked out super well. My chili ending up on the spicer side, but I like spicy, so I didn’t mind. Great recipe! Would definitely recommend to friends and family.

    1. Glad you liked it and made it to your taste and kitchen capabilities! I’m sure a dollop of Greek yogurt or some diced avocado would help tamp down some of that spiciness. 🙂 Enjoy the leftovers; they get better as the flavors meld!

  4. Christa

    I made the crockpot version of this and it is so easy and delicious! I substituted a yellow onion for red and a red bell pepper for green and it turned out great. I only wish I’d had some yogurt on hand to complement the delicious spiciness!

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