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Search for a tasty Vegetarian Chili

I'm making a more traditional chili wtih beef & sausage for a football party, but need to do a vegie version also. In addition to black, chick, pinto & kidney beans, I was thiking tomotaes, cilantro, red. green, yellow & orange peppers (maybe a habanero to spice it up a bit), celery, onions, butternut squash and maybe tofu & mushroom. This is obviously something I've just creating on my own. Any other suggestions?

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  1. There is a terrific recipe in the revised (1997) Joy of Cooking for Wild Caribbean Chili, a vegetarian dish with beans, lots of good spices, orange juice and zest (the secret ingredient) etc. If you don't have a copy, I can dig mine out and look it up.

    1. Yes
      Nix the squash, mushrooms and tofu. Stick to your basic recipe and add more beans. That's all I do for my veggie chili and it's great.


      1. I agree that making your regular recipe with maybe a few more peppers and beans is the best way to go, however I have found that veggie chili frequently needs a little something to cut the acid of the tomotoes since it has less fat and obviously no meat. Two of my favorites are a little bit of brown sugar or a little bit of unsweetened chocolate.

        1. My partner is the chili maker in our household and has learned to make wonderful veggie chilis for me over the years. A few things he has done. No written recipes, but a few things he does:
          Sometimes he uses a meat substitute (sorry, I know this sounds atrocious to some folks). Our go to sub is Gimme Lean sausage. He also sometimes uses soyrizo. He frequently puts corn in the chili, and sometimes puts in roasted tomatillos. Because you miss the wonderful fat of meat, make sure you use a well-flavored fat in its place, adding some in at the end of cooking. He almost always adds cocoa powder and cinnamon to his red chilis, both veggie and meat chilis. On occasion he adds chocolate. He takes his time on all chilis, roasting all of the vegetables, slow simmers, etc., but this seems to be more critical with the veggie chilis.

          I love having some smokiness in my veggie chili. I sometimes love having chopped mushrooms (portabellos) in my chili, sometimes am put off by it.

          1. I would do the regular chili minus the meat (of course) but add wheatberries. I've done this before with excellent results.

            1. Also, if you don't use chipotles in your regular chili, you may want to incorporate these into your veggie. It'll add some dimension to the flavours.


              1. If vegetarian cooking is something you'd like to explore. Or this is not just a one shot thing and you want to develop some recipes that make classic meat containing dishes but without meat you do want to start exploring meat substitutes. There are many websites, no doubt, with really good vegetarian recipes. PETA, Vegetarian Times magazine, the "Vegetarian Epicure" cookbooks, the "Tassajara" and "Greens" restaurant cookbooks, a great old cookbook from the 70's "Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery" by Hooker, the "Moosewood" restaurant cookbooks - check 'em out on out of print book websites. Everyone should have some good vegetarian cookbooks.

                For the vegetarian chili, you don't say whether dairy is OK. Is it? That will make a BIG difference in your choices. Let's face it, you can get away with the plain chili recipe easier by just leaving out the meat if you can top it with plenty of nice melty jack or cheedar and sour cream.

                OK, consider meat a substitute. There are some good ones, generally made from TVP texturized vegetable protein. Morningstar Farms makes a very good ground beef substitute available in some supermarkets. Call around and ask. If they only have the "grillers" (veggie burgers) you can break them up into crumbles and fry in a garlicky oil to mimic the ground beef you would normally use. Boca Burgers and Garden Burgers are all good brands. You could call health food or Wholefoods or Trader Joes and ask them what they have that would work best. If you have time buy a few candidates and taste test them before the big day. If you use this just add at the very end or they will break down in the sauce.

                I agree with the other hounds you do not want to add mushrooms or tofu or other non-classic ingredients. You want to get as close to classic as possible. Frying your veg. first intensifies the flavor. Frying your spices first briefly in a dry pan intensifies their flavor. I add spices for the last 20 minutes because otherwise you lose flavor. Canned kidney beans are just fine. So, just cook for 45 minutes total - longer & it will get kind of muddy.

                Sorry, no exact amounts.

                Spices: Cumin seeds, a good chili powder (buy a new bottle), dried leaf Mexican oregano. Don't overdo, it will taste stronger after sitting.
                Vegetables: mince fine to medium dice so it all comes together to better mimic the classic - no huge chunks.
                Red bell pep., green bell pep., onion, garlic,
                Canned crushed tomatoes in
                Ketchup - for sweetness/acid
                Small amount (1/2 oz.) unsweetened chocolate
                Canned mild (like Ortega brand) minced chili peppers.
                Mild vegetable oil like grapeseed for frying veg.
                Canned kidney beans
                Masa harina or cornmeal (thickener) don't add to boiling pot - can lump. Don't overdo.
                Add salt and fresh ground black pepper at the end.

                Condiments: Mexican hot sauce and Tabasco, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (classy touch), sliced scallions, thin sliced or minced fresh jalapeno peppers, canned chopped green chilis, minced fresh cilantro (don't add to the pot - some people don't like it), lime slices, sour cream, grated monterey jack and cheddar, saltine crackers.

                1. If you like olives they make a great addition to veg chili. Really, it's delicious. If you're not an olive lover I'm sure this sounds dreadful, but if you are it's great.

                  Haven't tried this recipe yet but there's a sweet potato & black bean chili with peanuts recipe in The New American Plate cookbook that looks very good. It's on my short list but I haven't gotten to it yet.

                  1. I like to use rehydrated TVP or Yves Ground Round. Normally I don't care for this kind of stuff but its a great ground meat replacement in veg chili (and veg moussaka for that matter).A wee bit of chipotle pepper is a must for smoky spice (I just use the canned chipotle in adobo & freeze the remaining...lasts a long time). Also add corn towards the end of cooking. Aside from chile powder/Cumin & other standard seasonings I also add ground coriander. Works much better for a "stew" like recipe than cilantro which I prefer to use as a garnish.

                    1. What is it that distinguishes a vegetarian chili from any other vegetable stew?

                      In it's simplest form, a meat chili derives almost all of its flavor from mild chile peppers, cumin, and (Mexican) oregano, and hot peppers to taste. The main contribution from the meat is texture.

                      TVP would be the most obvious substitute for the meat texture. Corn and bell peppers (not over cooked) also provide textural contrasts to beans. Chick peas can also be a bit firmer than other beans.


                      1. I have been using a recipe for a few years that I originally found in Bon Appetit. It is a black bean, yellow pepper and cumin chili...it is very simple to make and incorporates chipotle peppers. This recipe has great flavor and is easy to make. Your guests won't miss the meat at all. You can find the recipe on www.epicurious.com

                        1. I think I got this from the Greens' cookbook. For texture use wheat bulgar. If i recall it was one part wheat bulgar (small grade like you use in couscous) and one part tomato juice. Boil the tomato juice and add to the bulgar. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Then you add it to the soup and finish cooking.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: oranj

                            That's actually from the first Moosewood cookbook- one of my favorite chili recipes (the black bean chili recipe from the first Greens cookbook running a close second).

                          2. I regularly make the following chili with sweet potatoes and pinto beans. I very much prefer it to a veg chili that tries to replace the meat with some other meat-like substance or texture. Spice it up or down to taste.

                            2 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
                            2 medium onions, chopped
                            2 tbsp. Mexican chili powder
                            1 tsp. ground cumin
                            1 cup vegetable (or beef or chicken) broth
                            2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
                            1 can (28-oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
                            2 cans (19-oz/540 mL each) pinto (or other) beans, drained
                            1 tsp. salt
                            1 tsp. crumbled dried oregano
                            1/4 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
                            1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

                            Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the onions are soft - about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and the cumin and cook for another minute or so. Add the broth and the cubed sweet potatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost tender - about 10 minutes.

                            Add the tomatoes with all the juice from the can, the beans, salt, oregano, and cayenne. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then let simmer until the potatoes are completely tender - about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh cilantro.

                            Serve with rice or corn bread and sprinkled with shredded cheese, if you like.

                            Makes 6 servings.

                            1. Heresy, I know, but my carnivore husband simply loves this one: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: librarian

                                Thanks for this link - we had a guest who is a vegetarian visit us at Christmas and I made this - he loved it! The only change I made was the addition of about a pound of mushrooms ground finely in the cuisinart - it added a meat like texture.

                              2. I agree with whoever said to simplify.

                                At most, stick to onions, beans, peppers and tvp (with the tomatoes, of course).

                                My mother makes great veg chili and her "secret" ingredient to both thicken and mellow it is a can of veg baked beans.

                                1. baked/smoked/flavored tofu (available at health food stores & some supermarkets) is great in vegitarian chili.

                                  my basic recipe:

                                  sautee chopped onions, green & red pepper, jalpeno, carrot, celery, in olive oil. when they begin to get a little soft, sprinkle with cumin, chile powder, ground chipoltle, add a few cloves chopped garlic & the tofu and sautee a little more (stirring). next add precoooked black & kidney beans and some good canned tomatoes, S&P and let simmer for a time. meanwhile, drain a can of corn and sautee it in o.oil over very high heat until the kernels are brown & nutty, then add to the chile, along with some red wine vinear and let it simmer more. when it's a good consistency, add a few handfuls of chopped scallions. serve with whole plain yogurt.