Once upon a time, back when I’d had limited experience with chili, I’d dismissively lumped it into the “makes me feel hot and bloated” category of foods. Indeed, the chili I’d eaten for most of my life did that. It was usually greasy from too much hamburger, had a few too many onions for my comfort level, and, depending on the chili, was way too spicy for me and made my face feel like it was going to burn off. Albeit, the latter was inevitable for most spicy things I ate, as growing up I had the palette of a British person, but still.
So with joy and rapture, a few years back a friend gave me a recipe for vegan chili. Grease no more! Finally I would have control of the chili that had mastered me for so many long years! Hooray for vegan chili! Mind you, the first thing I did was dump ground chicken in it. I have a bit of a ground chicken obsession. It feels like hamburger, but tastes like chicken. Amazing!
Anyhow, before you start making this masterpiece, dice up a large onion. Also, hack up a green pepper or two. Get a large pot and drizzle olive oil at the bottom of it, about 2-3 tbs worth. Any other oil would likely work fine as well (try chili oil for a kick!). Heat pot, dump in onion along with a glob of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic, I suppose, though I did about 1 tbs) plus 2 tsp cumin. Crank up the heat to medium, and push these around for a few minutes until appropriately sauteed.
After this, plop in whatever meat or meat substitute seems most appealing, about a lb or thereabouts. The recipe recommends TVP veggie ground (Boca Burger or Morningstar). However, as I mentioned before, I highly recommend ground chicken. Ground turkey would make it super American. And there’s always the traditional ground beef option. Or, if you’re super bitter that I don’t care as much for greasy chili, I bet some nice ground bacon would work real nice! Or even better, ground bacon + mock meat, just to confuse everyone!
But whatever, I like my ground chicken.
Also add in the chopped pepper, stir it all up into a nice pile, and let sizzle for 20 minutes.
Next, dump in pretty much everything else and stir until integrated. “Pretty much everything else” includes:
- 1 large + 1 small can diced tomatoes (fresh work quite well too, though there’s that whole “effort in chopping” thing involved there)
- 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or an equivalent amount of beans that you soaked overnight and boiled to magically transform them from hard to soft)
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp chili pepper (more if you like burninating)
I’ve also used chopped celery, and I’m sure plenty of other plants would be happy to participate in the chili festivities as well.
This simmers, covered, for 30-45 minutes. Dump in some extra water at this point as well, enough so you don’t set your kitchen on fire but not so much that you’re inundated with broth. Well, unless you really like broth, in which case water away!
So when you peek into the pot and your face is surrounded with deliciousness, you’ll want to get a cup of frozen corn and dump that in, mixing it up, along with some salt and pepper. I have a bad habit of completely forgetting about that “add frozen corn” step, especially when I am super hungry.
And, to further destroy any pretense that this chili may ever have been classified as “vegan,” I find that a cheese topping is quite delightful. Feta cheese gives a nice tang to the chili. I also highly recommend Mexican farmer’s cheese (those round white cheeses found near tortillas in the refridgerated section of the grocery store usually, or if you can get it fresh from a Hispanic grocery I’d recommend that). It’s super soft and mild and works as a great counterbalance if you added a little more chili then you’d planned on!