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Vegan Tofu Chili

Once you make this amazing Tofu Chili it will never leave your meal rotation! It is hearty, super delicious, and so nutritious. I’ve made so many types of chili in my life, but this tofu chili has fast become my favorite. It reminds me of the turkey chili of my childhood. The secret: air fried tofu. The tofu is meaty yet light, and it blends perfectly with the tender beans and thick tomato broth. You won’t believe the texture and taste of this perfect chili!

Vegan Tofu Chili

My favorite way to cook tofu

My favorite way to cook tofu is in the air fryer. The air fryer dries out the tofu and transforms its texture. The star of this chili––the thing that sets it apart from other vegan chili recipes––is the “ground” tofu. I hand crumble the tofu, then toss it with olive oil and a variety of spices like nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. The seasoned tofu is cooked in the air fryer until it is dry, meaty, and even crispy. The result: the most flavorful and meaty tofu. A perfect wholesome replacement for ground meat in recipes. 

Vegan Tofu Chili

Tofu Chili Basics

The ground tofu is the star of the show, but the other ingredients are important too. 

The base: This recipe starts with a base of sautéed onions, garlic, jalapeño, and red bell pepper. Red bell pepper adds a subtle sweetness and extra flavor to the chili. Tomatoes are a must. I use both diced tomatoes (acid and sweetness) and tomato paste for extra umami (savoriness). 

The beans: Chili should have at least 3 types of beans. I most often use a mix of chickpeas, cannellini beans, and kidney beans. The different texture only adds to the appeal of this tofu chili. 

The tofu: Air fry the tofu while the chili is cooking, then stir it in before serving. The air fryer concentrates the texture and flavor of the spiced tofu. Add that to the chili, and it becomes a lovely flavor bomb in every bite. 

Vegan Tofu Chili

This tofu chili is

  • Crazy delicious
  • Packed with plant-based protein and fiber 
  • A great source of calcium, iron, and magnesium
  • Easy to make
  • Perfect for meal prep––it even freezes well
  • Made with everyday ingredients

Notes on this recipe:

  • You do not need an air fryer to make ground tofu, however, it does make the process of meati-fying the tofu a lot quicker and more reliable. You can also make delicious ground tofu in the oven. Where the air fryer takes 15 minutes the oven takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on your type of tofu. 
  • No need to press the tofu if you are air frying it. All of that excess liquid will evaporate. However, if you are making the tofu in the oven you should press it for 20 minutes before seasoning. 

To press tofu: Place it in between two paper towels or wrap it in a clean tea towel. Place the tofu in a shallow bowl or baking dish and place something heavy on top (like a cast iron skillet or books). Let that sit for at least 20 minutes as the heavy object presses liquid from the tofu.  

  • This tofu chili can be frozen too! The texture of the tofu will change a bit as it absorbs more liquid. If you prefer the tofu to be as meaty as possible, consider making fresh ground tofu when you plan on thawing the rest of the chili. 

Vegan Tofu Chili

If you like tofu chili, try these other recipes too!

Green Chili Chik’n Enchiliadas

Better Than Chipotle Burrito Bowl

Instant Pot Mexican Rice

Loaded Nachos

4.88 from 25 votes

Hearty Tofu Chili

Once you make this amazing Tofu Chili it will never leave your rotation! It is hearty, super delicious, and so nutritious. 
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4


  • air fryer


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional to remove the seeds)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 14- oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cans of beans, 1 each of chickpeas, kidney and cannellini beans
  • 2-3 cups water, + more to thin if necessary
  • 1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon vegan vegetable bouillon paste, or 1-2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • Rice or cornbread for serving

Ground Tofu

  • 1 package of firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin


  • In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat 2 tbsp of olive or over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions, garlic, and peppers, and a pinch of salt.
  • Saute until the onions turn slightly translucent.
  • Add the chili powder and cumin, and stir. Allow it to toast for 30 seconds.
  • Then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, water, and bouillon paste.
  • Bring the tofu chili to a boil then reduce it to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes with the lid ajar or off. If it is too thick for your liking add a little more water.
  • Stir in the ground tofu.
  • Season to taste with more spices and/or salt.
  • Serve over rice with fresh cilantro and lime to garnish.

Ground Tofu

  • Break the tofu into very small pieces.
  • Add it to a mixing bowl, then add the oil and spices.
  • Stir well, making sure all of the tofu is well coated.
  • Transfer it to an air fryer or baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Air fryer: Fry the tofu at 375° for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook longer if you want it even crispier.
  • Oven: Roast the tofu at 375° for 30 minutes. Stirring after 20 minutes. Cook longer if you want it meatier or more dried out.
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!


About Jenne

I’m a Georgia Peach living in Los Angeles (by way of NYC), with an insatiable love of sweet potatoes, travel, animals, and cooking. On Sweet Potato Soul you’ll discover hundreds of delicious and easy-to-make vegan recipes.

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  1. I love this chili recipe, the tofu is absolutely delicious and I’m so happy to have another way to use tofu! You don’t miss no meat in this chili. Thank you for creating this recipe and sharing with the world!

  2. Made a double batch for a potluck yesterday and it was incredible! Just the right amount of heat, and the tofu came out so much like ground beef in taste and texture! Will be a staple for me now

  3. Had to try it! But I don’t like tofu. :-(. . . . So I made the pea crumble /protein from Trader Jome’s and added 1/2 of the cooked product to the seasoning mixture that was specified for the tofu. Air fryer dried it and it is the perfect crumble. Thanks!

  4. This tofu chili was super flavourful and tasty! Love an easy recipe that’s super impressive. Thank you!

  5. Love this recipe! I’ve made it numerous times!! But tonight I grabbed tomato sauce instead of paste. What should I do?

  6. This is **seriously** good! I added more veggies than what was in the recipe (2 bell peppers, 2 carrots, 8 oz container of mushrooms and 1 cup corn) And I just used the whole can of tomato paste as I didn’t want any leftovers. (I never seem to use it up!) This was my first time using nutritional yeast – but I had been wanting to try it and was looking for a good recipe to try it in. I tasted the dry nutritional yeast – and I thought it was OK – but the combination of all of the flavors in this recipe are so good that I probably won’t make any other kind of chili ever again! (My assumption is the nutritional yeast bolstered the flavors in this recipe.) I also did not have an air fryer – so I used the oven – and this method worked really well. I couldn’t believe how the tofu changed into a much meatier version of itself. I was unsure if the tofu would reconstitute after adding to the chili but I made this at about 2PM yesterday afternoon and didn’t eat until about 7:30 and the tofu retained its newly minted texture.

  7. I tried this yesterday and can I say this was the BEST! I added more soy sauce to the tofu . I could eat that entire basket alone ! My family tired it and didn’t know it wasn’t meat !

  8. The smell of the tofu before cooking it was heavenly. I know it’s going to taste just as good as it smells. I’m cooking a chili from a food delivery service and decided to try Jenné’s tofu version instead. This for sure will be my go to way of making a “meaty” tofu.