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help! cooking vegetarian chili for 500 people

I am in charge of cooking vegetarian chili for 500 at a fundraiser. all the groceries are being donated by a local grocery chain. I need to come up with a recipe, amounts & a shopping list in grocery size ingredients. I have access to a big steam kettle in a professional kitchen.
something like 50 gallons of chili? how does one begin to break that down? any help greatly appreciated!!

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  1. I've never cooked for that many people before, but if I were to, I would first make one batch of chili, measure it out and figure out how many people it will feed. Most likely, they will only have a a few ounces as there will be a lot of other food. After you have figured that out, do the math so you can feed 500 people.

    Hope that helps.

    1. Couple of questions: Are the 500 people vegetarians? How different is a vegetarian chili from a red pasta sauce with chili powder added?

      1. I've got a 10 gallon recipe but it contains pork shoulder and beef. Still interested?

        1. I used to be a chef and have made lots of vegetarian chili, but not on that scale. I e-mailled the Vegetarian Resource Group for some help.

          It terms of organization, get as much done ahead of time as possible. Chop & store vegies, have cooked beans, oils, spices at the ready, etc. You may be able to get some of the vegies, like onions, precut and frozen, and already cooked beans. The big kettle is great, but make sure you have a big ol' spoon or something with which to stir. Have containers for finished product at the ready. And get some help! vGood luck!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Richard 16

            Ahhh....vegetarian chili = chili breans?

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Hi Sam!

              As you probably know chili beans are a general term for beans used for chili. Pinto or kidney beans are common. I've made chili with pintos, kidneys, cattle, cranberry, great northern, and navy beans, and even lentils. Great northern and navy, both white, can make a white chili.

              Kidney aere my least favorite; the skin is, for me, tougher than I like for chili. Pinto, cattle, or cranberry beans, IMO, work best. Lentils are just weird for chili..

              As with im nomad I've added bulghur; people liked it but I didn't like the texture. Seitan works well but it's weird for meat eaters -- it's too close to meat to be able to separate the taste and texture as a separate food distinct from meat, and seitan is lousy meat.

              1. re: Richard 16

                16, thanks. I was just curious because many CHers maintain that chili does not contain beans. So my initial thought was a "chili" with no meat and no beans, which would end up being a spicy sauce. My mom used to make chili with meat and red kidneys. I work at an agricultural research institute where beans are one of our mandate crops. We have thousands of varieties in the gene bank; and I've made chili using many different lines from the experimental fields. As I've mentioned before, for my own chili I use a bit of dried African game meat to impart a bit of flavor.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Some people get weird about their chili. They seem to think that they have the right to define it for everyone. In Texas in competitions not only can there be no beans but no tomato products. (Or so I've seen on TV.) Competitors often grind up their vegetables, because heaven forbid there should pieces of vegetation as an obvious separate ingredient rather than just to flavor the meat.

                  But most of the definitions I've seen include that some chilis contain beans and/or tomato products. IMO It's why the phrase "chili con carne" exists -- the modifier is there to differentiate it from chili that that may have beans. "Vegetarian" chili has the modifier to indicate that there's no meat. "White" chili has the modifier to indicate that it does not have a deep red-brownish color, and likely contains white beans.

                  People that call themselves "purists" may disagree - that "real" chili has no beans or tomato or even discernible vegetables, They are more than welcome to have their own opinions, but (obviously) I take a broader view. The modifiers are crucial for communication, but do not make these variations on chili "not chili". IMO.

          2. The recipe I've been using for years, cut it out of a magazine ages ago, can't remember which one....and it has been the best i've tasted thus far. The ingredients are easy to find, and cheap, as it contains no meat-like soy products.


            1 can diced or whole tomatoes (796ml)
            1/2 cup bulgur
            3 tbsp vegetable oil
            2 large onions chopped
            3 cloves garlic minced
            2 tsp each dried chili powder, cumin and dried oregano
            2 sweet green peppers diced
            1 tsp minced jalapeno peppers
            1 19 oz can of kidney beans
            1 19 oz can of black beans
            1 12 oz can kernel corn
            1/2 cup tomato paste
            hot pepper, salt and pepper to taste
            (i sometimes also toss in some chopped mushrooms)
            options toppings are cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream

            -->drain juice from tomatoes into saucepan, reserve tomatoes. Stir bulgur into juice, bring to boil (i also do this in the micro), reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins, set aside
            -->in meantime, heat oil in large saucepan, add onions and spices and saute until soft.
            -->stir in tomatoes, bulgur mixture, green peppers, jalapeno, beans, corn, tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Add hot pepper sauce and S&P to taste.
            -->cover and simmer 10 mins or more to desired thickness.

            This recipe makes 6 servings, so i'm guessing use that as a base and multiply x 500. Each serving has 392 calories, 9 grams of fat, 67 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams of protein. This is hearty stick to your ribs fare. As I recall, each serving is about 2 cups at least, so when i make it, it half fills my biggest pot.

            Hope that helps !!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              This looks great. I'd stopped making veg chili a long time ago but I really like the looks of this recipe. You've inspired me to give it another go, so thanks, im nomad!

              1. re: kpzoo

                you're welcome! It's one of the best veg ones i've ever had. I sometimes kick up the spice level in it, or toss in a vegetarian bouillion cube to give it a little more flavor. It's a regular stock item in my freezer !!

            2. Made it once - vegetarian chili that is- with a friend who was 'trying out' vegetarian. It was fun -
              We used several kinds of beans pintos, great northern and kidney beans, 1 can each.
              We made the 'stock' using enough olive oil to fry up two medium onions, diced, a 3 tablespoons chili powder, 2 Serrano peppers, strips of 2 sweet red peppers, tsp cumin and a beer. Added a can of diced tomatoes then the beans and cooked for a while. If you use dry beans then they have to be pre-soaked at least. This fed 5 people and I served it over rice. Multiply time 100.

              1. http://www.ellenskitchen.com/bigpots/...

                That site might help you determine the amount of ingredients you will need. The base recipe is for 100 people, but it's easy to multiple that. Good Luck!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gio

                  I've eaten a ton of vegetarian chili. One ingredient that I strangely like is choped up black olives (just slice don't make them too small)- the lame grocery store variety. Make sure the chili has lots of color I'd def throw in some corn and have a bowl of shredded cheese, diced jalapeƱos and diced onion on the side for customizing.

                2. is the veg chili all that will be served, or will there be salad, bread, etc too?

                  should be about 30 gallons of chili (1 cup serving/person)-- but if it will be served over rice or with other sides you can decrease the serving size down to 10 or 12 oz./person. i have a good 7-bean vegan chili recipe, but it calls for soaking and cooking the beans from scratch. if that's something you want i'll post it for you, but if you're looking for a quicker recipe i wouldn't recommend it.

                  1. A cup is 8 fl oz.
                    128 ounces in a gallon, equivalent to 16 cups.

                    31.25 gallons (4,000 ounces ) = 500 one-cup (8 oz) servings.
                    46.88 gallons (~6,000 ounces) = 500 one-and-a-half cup (12 oz) servings

                    Don't forget to measure when you serve or these numbers don't mean anything. If you are need really need all 500 servings make extra to deal with inexact measurements.

                    Vshu, above, has the right idea for figuring out proportions. Make a regular sized batch, ingredients carefully measured, figure out how many portions it makes, and multiply to get the amount of each ingredient you need. I would also recommend having extra of certain items on hand, just in case you need to make seasoning alterations - tomato paste and spices come to mind.

                    If the sponsoring store has it I recommend using texturized vegetable protein (aka textured vegetable protein or textured soy protein, aka TVP or TSP). It gives it better, well, texture. Little dehydrated pieces of protein, once cooked they are akin to ground beef, making it something much more satisfying than just beans in sauce. They look like blond Grape-Nuts. (You can also find a similar product already hydrated and seasoned, usually with the cold tofu, but they come in tiny packets and I wouldn't bother with those.)

                    It is easy to cook, mostly just needing to soak up the cooking juices. A couple of things to be aware of: Because of their light color, as opposed to actual ground beef, the dish can end up with a sort of sickly pale color. Extra tomato paste in the sauce helps, as does paprika or chipotle puree.

                    You also need to make the sauce extra flavorful if using TVP because it has no flavor on it's own and if the sauce is not flavorful they can end up a little bland. (I have actually never had this problem with chili, but I use TVP in other applications where I have had that difficulty and you may as well learn from my errors.)

                    Really it is very easy to work with. Pick up a little and try a batch before hand, as I am assume you are doing not matter what ingredients you choose. (My parents use TVP for their chili now as well. So much healthier than ground beef, my whole family has used this stuff in chili for years.)

                    Don't forget you will need a way to store and transport the finished product, as well as a way to quickly cool and reheat if you are not making it on-site and keeping it hot until it is served. If you need advice on these aspects I am sure people here can help with that as well.

                    1. Here's another idea that's not typically in chili but tastes great - smoked paprika -- just a bit. I don't know if the store carries it though. If they do try a sample bowl.

                      1. Face it FGF... you need a LOT of stuff to make this happen. Goodly luck!

                        1. foiegrasfan,
                          I checked your member profile (I know where Sooke is, BTW) and as long as you're not anywhere near Texas you should be able to get away with almost anything as chili, as long as it tastes good.
                          I was going to suggest cornbread to go along with it, but cornmeal may not be that easy to find in your part of the world.

                          1. i have never made chili for 500, but i have made it for 200. here are my hot tips for you based on my experience.
                            1. chili powder is NOT something you can just multiply and think it will work! it will be unbearably spicy if you do. i do not know why this is true, but i am telling you, do not make the mistake that other hapless cooks have made in that department. everything else multiplies fine. same thing with salt.
                            2. if you are using beef, can you brown it on a flattop or a rondeau? it will be a hige PITA to brown beef in the steam kettle - i don't think it will really work at all.
                            3. everything takes a lot longer - like, it will take longer to bring it to a simmer, etc. you need to allow for a lot of slush time if you have never cooked in this quantity before. you can't imagine all of the things that take you 2 minutes at home that take forever in big quantities.
                            4. unless the chili is the only food being served, you should know that people will eat a lot less than you think - like, do NOT multiply a recipe for 5 times 100, because you will never get rid of all of it.
                            5. have fun!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pigtails

                              Some really good points here.
                              1. Spices don't work out the same in large quantities the same as you would expect sometimes. I stand by having extra on hand, because you don't want to have to run to the store in the middle, but I would also suggest adding in parts because you can never reduce the amount. Same thing with salt, but as you cook otherwise you already know this.
                              4. This might also be true. Sometimes you run out of unexpected things in at huge events and then the things you were sure would go just don't. Again, it depends on if you are really portioning out 500 dishes, or if this is just a ballpark and it is okay if you run out a little early.

                            2. My favorite Veggie Chili recipe comes from the "Horn of the Moon Cookbook" by Ginny Callan. I have made it for up to 30 people at a time and just adjusted all the ingredients. The one thing I found was that I had to use a little more of the spices in the recipe when I multiplied it. I also substituted canned beans for dried to save time. Good luck.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lenox637

                                Horn of the Moon is my favorite Veggie Chili recipe as well. Unfortunately my book is in another city. Any chance you might post the ingredients here?

                              2. I made Green's( restaurant in SF) black bean chili yesterday. It rocks!!

                                Since you're on Vancouver Island, maybe Rebar can help you out???