healthy family-favorite chili with hidden vegetables

Family-Favorite Chili with Hidden Veggies

Meredith 8:21 pm

Everyone in my family loves this healthy, veggie-packed homemade chili.  If you asked my boys, they would say this chili contains only beans and ground beef.  I don’t tell them that each serving also contains a full serving of veggies.  They simply enjoy the rich and meaty flavor of this mostly bean-based chili.  And I like that it is a healthy and nutritious meal packed with protein, fiber, and vegetables.

Why I have hidden the veggies in this family-favorite chili

Normally, I do not “hide” vegetables in my family’s meals.  I believe it is important that my boys learn to like eating vegetables.  However, like many parents, I have heard “what is this?” far too often when serving more grown-up foods, like chili.  So I pick my battles.  The vegetables in this chili are pureed and then added to the chili.  I consider this a win-win-win: the chili is delicious, each bowl contains a whole serving of vegetables, and my boys get a chili they love.

family-favorite healthier chili recipe with hidden veggies

Hidden Vegetable Family-Favorite Chili Recipe

I typically serve this chili our family’s favorite chili toppings: grated extra sharp cheddar cheese and finely chopped red onion.   Because the veggies are hidden in this chili, I always serve it with one of our favorite roasted vegetables and some delicious bread.  My little sous chef likes to eat his meal deconstructed (read more plating food for children and why deconstructed meals work).

5 from 9 votes
healthy family-favorite chili with hidden vegetables
Family-Favorite Chili with Hidden Veggies
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 50 mins

A hearty and delicious chili the whole family will love!  

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: family favorite chili, hidden veggie chili recipe
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 373 kcal
  • 1 large zucchini chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper * chopped
  • 1 large red onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cups pinto beans soaked but not cooked
  • 1 lb ground beef 85% lean
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tbsp cumin ground
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 14-oz can tomatoes * pureed
  1. In a large pot or enameled dutch oven, sauté onion, pepper, and zucchini in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn off head and let cool for 5 minutes
  2. Transfer vegetables to a high speed blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of water and blend until the vegetables are a smooth puree
  3. In the same large pot, cook ground beef over medium high heat until browned, about 5 minutes
  4. Add cumin, paprika, chili powder and salt to ground beef and stir over medium heat for 10 seconds
  5. Add 4 cups of water to browned beef and deglaze the pot (ie scrape all the browned bits off the sides and bottom of the pot)
  6. Add pureed vegetables to beef mixture, using remaining 2 cups of water to rinse remaining puree mixture from the blender
  7. Add soaked pinto beans to vegetable and beef mixture, stirring to combine
  8. Turn heat down to low and cook, covered, for 2 hours
  9. Stir in pureed tomatoes and cook over low heat for an additional 30 minutes
  10. Serve immediately with favorite chili toppings or allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to serve


*Note: I choose to purchase meat raised without antibiotics and organic bell peppers and tomatoes. Read more on pesticides and produce.

Tested and delicious substitutions:

  • Ground turkey can be used in place of ground beef
  • Kidney beans can be used in place of the pinto beans, or replace half for a more colorful chili

Using dried beans: to soak or not to soak

There has been some debate on whether or not to soak beans before cooking them.  Some people claim that beans cooked without soaking have a better texture and are more flavorful.1  Others believe that pre-soaking beans helps reduce gas causing agents (alpha-galactosides) and anti-nutrients (phytic acid).1,2  There isn’t any peer-reviewed research that has reported on the gastrointestinal effects of soaked or non-soaked beans.  However, scientists have shown that our perception of gas production from beans tends to be exaggerated.3

With that said, I soak beans before I cook with them.  The bean soaking process I use is two steps.  First, add boiling water to the beans and soak for two hours.  Second, rinse the beans and soak in cold water overnight.  Yes, this is time consuming.  However, the boiling water step is required if you want to help reduce the alpha-galactosides (what the bacteria in the lower intestine consume to create gas).  To save time, I often pre-soak my beans in bulk and then freeze them in quart size yogurt containers.

Nutrition information (per 1.5 cup serving, 10 servings total):

  • 373 calories
  • 0 g added sugar
  • 11 g fiber
  • 24 g protein
  • 281 mg sodium
  • 7 g fat

Pin recipe for later:

Veggie packed family favorite chili recipe is hearty and easy to make! #healthychilirecipe #kidapproved #healthychili


  1. Don’t soak your dry beans! Now even the cool kids agree.  Los Angeles Times, Sept 2014 (link)
  2. How to soak beans before cooking (and why you would want to).  The Healthy Home Economist, Nov 2017 (link)
  3. Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies, Nutrition Journal, 2011; 10: 128 (link)


  1. We love a hidden vegetable dish and this chilli looks so comforting.

  2. What a great and delicious way to get some extra veggies in every bite!

  3. This looks so hearty and delicious! Love the hidden veggies!

  4. I love hiding veggies in dishes. This chili sounds like a good one!

  5. Love chili and love chili weather is among us!! Sneaky hiding veggies in it!!

  6. This looks so comforting, I love chilli so will definitely try this soon!

  7. Anything that hides vegetables is good with me. My husband would never eat them unless I made him haha

  8. I love chili in the cold winter months. I’ll have to give this one a try!

  9. Love the amount of veggies you packed into this dish! It looks like total comfort food that my family would love!

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