Instant Pot Chili

The only reason I’m calling this “cowboy chili” is because you can stand a spoon straight up in it. I just assume that’s what cowboys are going for with their chili. Doesn’t spill as easily? You can eat it while riding a horse? I live in the suburbs, and I’ve only ridden a horse once in my life. I do own a lot of denim though.

The goal with any chili is to build a mixture that has just about every taste profile without any of them being too overpowering. Too much bright and acidic from the tomatoes and you’ll miss out on the umami. Too much umami and it’ll taste like a stew. This balance is created through specific ingredients and the order of adding them. Some of the ingredients you might question, but I’ll briefly explain the rationale after the recipes.

I hope you make this recipe and if when you do let me know what you think!

Vegan Cowboy Chili

Grab your lasso, or spoon, and get ready to dig into this plant based chili! The recipe directions go through the steps for creating it in an Instant Pot; however, there are instructions on how to cook on the stove top or in a crock pot.
Servings – 12 bowls


  • Instant Pot (AKA Pressure Cooker)


  • 1/2 pound dried black beans
  • 1/2 pound dried great northern beans
  • 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (rough chopped while dry)
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium onions)
  • 3 Tbl soy sauce (light Pearl River Bridge is what I use)
  • 16 ounces pale ale beer (Pabst is a good one for this)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (Low to no sodium )
  • 3 Tbl avocado oil
  • 1 Tbl cumin
  • 1 Tbl oregano
  • 1 Tbl dried parsley
  • 2 Tbl chili powder
  • 1 Tbl ancho chili powder
  • 3 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
  • 1/2 cup dried bulgar
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro (roughly the top from a bunch)
  • 28 ounces tomato puree (not tomato juice)


  • Soak dried beans overnight for best and most consistent results.
  • Mise en place (get everything ready) a few of the ingredients to avoid burning. Dice onions and mince garlic. Rough chop dried mushrooms. Measure out spices. Measure oil into a pinch bowl or dish. Open tomato paste and tomatoes. Have beer and stock ready.
  • Saute onion and garlic using a tablespoon of water at a time. This replaces the need for additional oil. Cook until it is just past translucent and beginning to brown.
  • Add tomato paste and oil and mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring. Cooking the tomato paste caramelizes the natural sugars and which balances the brightness of the diced tomatoes that will come later. Stirring the oil into the tomato paste encapsulates it. You can omit the oil but it does add mouthfeel and more complexity to the end result.
  • Mix in spices. At this point your pot will be a thick combination of cooked onions, garlic, tomato paste + oil, and spices. This is the foundation of your chili and the more time you give to this step the better your chili will be.
  • Pour in beer and mix to combine. Cook for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Pale ale gives your chili that mild yeasty, wheaty flavor that you normally get after chili has sat in the fridge for a few days. This addition helps you to skip ahead and get the same flavor but on day one!
  • Add in all ingredients except the cilantro and Bulgar and tomato puree. Adding in the tomato for the initial cooking will trip the "Burn" sensor in your Instant Pot and you'll scorch the bottom of your pot. This is why you put all that effort into your initial flavor building.
  • Set instant pot to sealed and cook for 15 minutes on high pressure and do not set to warm. Let the pressure naturally release. It takes anywhere for 15-30 minutes for the pressure to release without setting it to vent.
  • Add in bulgar and cilantro and stir to combine. Add in tomato puree. but don't stir it in. Let it sit on the top of the chili mixture. Set Instant Pot to cook for 5 minutes on high pressure.
  • You're done! The total kitchen time is minimal. If you don't have an instant pot you can follow the same steps but you'll need to cook the beans either ahead, longer in the mix, or used canned beans. You can also use a crock pot for an overnight chili on low temperature.

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