Freezing leftover vegetarian chili is a great way to save time and avoid food waste. With some simple preparation, vegetarian chili can be frozen and reheated for meals later on. Here’s what you need to know about freezing vegetarian chili.
Can You Freeze Vegetarian Chili?
Yes, you can safely freeze vegetarian chili. The vegetables, beans, tomatoes, and chili peppers used in vegetarian chili freeze well. Freezing allows you to store the chili for longer periods while preserving the flavor and texture.
Most types of vegetarian chili can be frozen, including chili made with beans, lentils, soy crumbles, or other vegetarian protein sources. Just avoid freezing rice in chili, as the rice can turn mushy when thawed.
How to Prepare Vegetarian Chili for Freezing
Follow these tips for best results freezing vegetarian chili:
- Make sure the chili is completely cooled before freezing. Transfer hot chili directly into the freezer can cause unsafe temperature fluctuations.
- Portion the chili into sealable freezer bags or airtight containers, leaving 1-inch headspace to allow for expansion. Containers with divisions can be great for portioning individual servings.
- Exclude any toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips. These don’t freeze well.
- Flatten freezer bags to remove excess air. You can also use a freezer vacuum sealer for an extra airtight seal.
- Label the containers with the contents and date before freezing.
How Long Does Vegetarian Chili Last in the Freezer?
Properly stored vegetarian chili will maintain optimal quality frozen for:
- 3-4 months in a regular freezer at 0°F (-18°C)
- 6-12 months in a deep freezer at -4°F (-20°C) or below
The chili will still be safe to eat beyond this timeframe, but the flavor and texture may start to degrade. For best results, eat frozen chili within a year.
Can You Freeze Canned Vegetarian Chili?
Canned vegetarian chili can also be frozen, although it may affect the texture. Canned chili has already been cooked once, so freezing it again can make the vegetables mushy. For best quality, it’s better to freeze homemade vegetarian chili.
If freezing canned chili, store it in an airtight container and use within 2-3 months for optimal flavor and texture.
Tips for Freezing Vegetarian Chili
Follow these extra tips for successfully freezing and storing vegetarian chili:
- Allow chili to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Don’t thaw at room temperature.
- Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding extra vegetable broth or water if needed to thin.
- Add any toppings like cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips after reheating.
- Avoid refreezing thawed chili more than once, as this diminishes the quality.
- Store chili in serving portions so you can thaw only what you need.
- Properly seal bags and containers to prevent freezer burn.
- Use oldest chili first when accessing the freezer to rotate inventory.
What Not to Freeze in Vegetarian Chili
Some ingredients don’t hold up well to freezing. Avoid freezing these items in your vegetarian chili:
|Ingredient||Why It Doesn’t Freeze Well|
|Rice||Becomes mushy in texture|
|Pasta||Also turns mushy and soggy|
|Dairy products||Can curdle and separate|
|Sour cream||Loses texture|
|Shredded cheese||Doesn’t reheat smoothly|
|Fried toppings||Soggy texture after thawing|
|Tortilla chips||Soften and lose crunch|
For best results, add these ingredients as garnishes after reheating the thawed chili.
What Kinds of Vegetarian Chili Freeze Well?
Most types of veggie chili freeze perfectly, including:
- Three Bean Chili – Kidney, pinto, and black beans hold up well.
- Lentil Chili – Retains texture nicely.
- White Bean Chili – Cannellini or great northern beans stay intact.
- Vegetable Chili – If made without rice, pasta, or dairy.
- Black Bean Chili – A freezer-friendly favorite.
- Pumpkin Chili – The pumpkin puree freezes well.
- Sweet Potato Chili – If sweet potatoes are cubed, not mashed.
- Tempeh Chili
- Seitan Chili
- Tofu Chili – For firmer texture, freeze pressed tofu.
How to Thaw and Reheat Frozen Vegetarian Chili
Thaw and reheat frozen vegetarian chili using these methods for best results:
There are two recommended ways to safely thaw frozen chili:
- Refrigerator Thawing: Place frozen chili in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours until completely thawed. Keep thawed chili refrigerated and use within 3-4 days.
- Cold Water Thawing: Seal chili in a bag and submerge in cold water, changing water every 30 minutes. This method can thaw chili in 1-2 hours. Cook immediately after thawing.
Avoid thawing chili at room temperature or in hot water, as this allows for bacterial growth in the outer layers while the inner portion remains frozen.
You can reheat thawed vegetarian chili using these methods:
- On the stovetop over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
- In the slow cooker on low for 2-3 hours, until simmering.
- In the microwave, reheating individual portions in 30 second intervals until hot.
- In a 300°F oven in a covered baking dish for 15-20 minutes.
Bring chili to 165°F as measured by a food thermometer for food safety. If needed, add extra broth or water while reheating to thin chili to original consistency.
Recipe Ideas for Freezer-Friendly Vegetarian Chili
These vegetarian chili recipes freeze exceptionally well:
1. Three Bean Chili
This classic freezes beautifully thanks to the sturdy beans. Dress it up with toppings after thawing.
2. Pumpkin Black Bean Chili
The black beans and pumpkin hold up to freezing. Top with avocado and cilantro.
3. Sweet Potato and Lentil Chili
Frozen cubed sweet potato and protein-packed lentils make this chili freezer perfect. Garnish with Greek yogurt.
4. Vegetarian Chili with Soy Crumbles
Soy crumbles retain their meaty texture after freezing. Serve over rice after reheating.
5. White Bean and Kamut Chili
This fiber-filled chili freezes well thanks to the great northern beans and kamut berries. Sprinkle with shredded cheese to serve.
With some simple preparation steps, most any type of homemade vegetarian chili can be frozen for convenient meals later on. Allow it to cool fully before portioning into airtight freezer bags or containers. Thaw in the fridge or with cold water before gently reheating on the stovetop or in the oven. With a well-stocked freezer, you can enjoy hearty bowls of vegetarian chili year-round.