Frugal Winter Recipe: Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread

by Vered DeLeeuw · 8 comments

frugal corn bread
Healthy, nutritious foods do not have to cost a lot, and this vegetarian chili, chock full of nutrients and fiber is a great example. The meaty portobello mushrooms beautifully mimic actual meat, and the combination of spices is fragrant and gives this dish just the right amount of bite. Even though my family eats meat, we actually prefer this vegetarian chili to chili con carne. I serve it with my reduced-fat, reduced-sugar cornbread – it is airy and fluffy and far less oily and sweet than most cornbreads, and that’s how we prefer it.

corn bread chilli recipeI usually prefer simple recipes with few ingredients, but this recipe is great to make on a cold winter day when you’re in the house anyway and don’t have much else to do. If you have kids, let them help! Depending on their ages, many of the tasks needed for this recipe – especially mixing and stirring – can be done by kids starting at around age four.

The total cost for each delicious, healthy, filling serving comes to just under $5.  If you live outside of the Bay Area of California, your costs may be lower (everything is more expensive here). You may lower it further by avoiding organic ingredients.

While not as cheap as a $1 fast food meal, I do consider it affordable, especially since in the long run, eating junk is very costly in terms of medical costs.

Vegetarian Chili

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons Canola oil ($0.15)
1 large yellow onion, chopped ($1.42)
2 red bell peppers, chopped ($4.38)
2 tablespoons minced garlic ($1.70 for entire jar)
2 tablespoons green diced chili peppers (canned) ($1.29 for entire can)
5 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, wiped and cubed ($7)
2 tablespoons chili powder (Assume $1 for all spices)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 (14-1/2-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped ($0.88)
2 (15-oz) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained ($3.78 for organic beans)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce ($0.88)
1 cup vegetable broth ($1.25)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro ($1.89 for entire bunch)


1. In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and chili peppers, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. The mushroom add a lot of volume at first, so you may need to add them in 2 batches, waiting for the first batch to lose some volume before adding the second batch.

3. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Add the tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

5. Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro, cover and allow to rest for about ten minutes.

6. Serve in a bowl on top of long grain white rice, brown rice, or with corn bread.

Total Cost: About $26.87, or $4.47 per serving


Makes 12 servings

1.5 cup cornmeal ($2)
2.5 cups reduced fat (2%) milk ($1.3 for organic milk)
2 cups all-purpose flour ($0.72)
1 tablespoon baking powder ($0.22)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white sugar ($0.21)
2 eggs ($0.73 for organic eggs)
1/3 cup Canola oil ($0.45)

Total: $5.63, or $0.47 per serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 X 13 pan.

2.  In a small bowl, combine corn meal and milk and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

Bon Appetit!

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • bonnie says:

    If this really were a recipe intended to save money, you would use regular cooking onions and ordinary mushrooms, crop up your own garlic (not the expensive jarred kind), and soak your own dried beans the night before. No real difference in taste – just a bit more effort, and a lot more in savings.

  • middleSue says:

    Any kind of stew and chili in the winter, makes for great comfort food.

  • Bargaineering says:

    I love soups and stews during the winter. We love to make this beef, onion, and sweet potato stew every few weeks because not only does the house get filled with delicious smells (like you do with chili) but you also get to each such comforting and warm meals.

  • vered says:

    Thanks everyone – and I appreciate the tips and suggestions. Using a mix would save not just money but work, and as for omitting the salt – I think next time I’ll try halving it and see what it tastes like. We too have been trying to cook more vegetarian dishes and rely less on meat for dinner.

  • indio says:

    Looks delicious, especially since we need some winter comfort food after this snowstorm. You were quite industrious to calculate how much each ingredient cost, even down to the tablespoon.

  • M.B. says:

    Wonderful recipes. My only suggestion is with all those wonderful spices to leave out the salt or at least make it an optional item. My husband is on a low-sodium diet, and it completely changed his life. After years of high blood pressure and many pills, he was on no medication for over a year. His doctor now has him take one very low dose pill each day. We also feel that eating more vegetarian meals is good for our healthy cholesterol levels.

  • Janet says:

    Yum. I love chili, especially this time of year. It’s definitely easy on the budget, too, with the leftovers and all … which get more delicious by the day. 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    Vered, that looks fantastic.

    One tip that might save some readers money is to look for frozen bell pepper strips, they work beautifully in dishes like this and are much cheaper than red, yellow and orange bell peppers most of the year. I keep a couple of bags in my freezer to add to recipes – Kroger sells a blend that also includes sliced onions and you can usually get it for $.88 for a 12 ounce bag.

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