This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Brown Sugar & Lime is packing full of beans, spices, and vegetables and develops a deep flavorful profile after sitting in the slow cooker for a few hours.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper pieces and sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds or until the garlic is very fragrant.
Add the chili powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne, stirring to coat the vegetables with the spices, and sauté for 30 seconds more. Pour in 1/2 cup vegetable broth and use your spatula or wooden spoon to deglaze the pan so all the spices sticking to the bottom are released. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture into a medium size slow cooker (mine is 7 quarts) and add in the rinsed beans, fire roasted tomatoes (along with their juices), and remaining vegetable broth. Cover and cook over high for 4-5 hours.
30 minutes before serving, season with 1/2 tsp salt and let cook for 30 more minutes. Turn the heat off and squeeze in the lime juice, and sprinkle in black pepper and lime zest. Taste and add more salt or black pepper, if needed.
Serve warm with optional toppings such as sour cream, avocado, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, hot sauce, chopped chives, chopped cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeño pieces (fresh or pickled).