Yes, I realize I am late with this post. If I had been home last week (instead of hitting the slopes in Sun Valley), I would have made this on, say, Wednesday and posted about it in time for you to make it for the Superbowl. But let me ask this – how did chili become the Superbowl dish par excellence? And if the chili is really good, shouldn’t we eat it post-Superbowl and while it is still winter?
Here is the thing about vegetarian chili. It’s just so obvious. This is a food blog written by a vegetarian – of course there is a vegetarian chili recipe, right? Well, I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and a half without ever talking about it. I have nothing against vegetarian chili, actually I quite like it, but to me it’s like having all my recipes feature eggplant and mushrooms because they are “meaty”. Chili, even if it does not contain meat, is “meaty” which is why some carnivores think we vegetarians eat nothing other than chili, eggplant, mushrooms, and salad. And pasta. Sheesh.
I have made my fair share of vegetarian chilis. Some have been good and some have not. I have followed recipes that instructed me to use many different kinds of beans and one that used just kidney beans (which made me realize that I don’t like kidney beans). I’ve added bulghur, tempeh, and TVP and didn’t like any of those additions. My go-to recipe became the one in The New Basics but over time I decided that the chili just ended up being too busy. The list of ingredients is a bit long and, for me, the flavor gets muddied.
Last week, after a day on the slopes in the sunshine (sorry), my lunch of choice was a baked potato with vegetarian chili poured over the top of it. Does that sound weird? It’s not for two reasons. One, if you have never had an Idaho potato in Idaho, it is worth the trip just to eat one. They are huge and they are tasty and those Idahoans know how to bake them perfectly. Two, I know people who eat chili over rice and given the choice between those two starches, I’m suggesting you pick a potato.
The chili in those beautiful mountain lodges was not half bad. The faults were as follows: too salty, too soupy, and not enough spice. I knew that as soon as I got home I had to make a pot and make up the recipe myself. I decided to keep what I liked about that Sun Valley chili (corn, chickpeas, very tomato-y broth) and improvise the rest.
I’m very happy with how my post-Superbowl but still winter chili came out. Most chilis aren’t smoky enough for me, so I worked hard to get that flavor into mine. We like spice in our house so my version was quite spicy, you can make yours more mild easily. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are found in the Mexican foods section of your grocery store. They are an intoxicatingly smoky (and spicy) little pepper best used with caution of you are sensitive to heat. For last night’s verison, I used two of them plus about a teaspoon of the sauce and next time I will only use one (which I have instructed you to do below). Once you have opened the can, you can put the remaining peppers and sauce into an airtight container in the refrigerator where it will keep for a month or more.
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My rule of thumb for chili is that all the vegetables be no larger than the beans. I don’t like big chunks in my chili. I used crushed tomatoes here for that reason but feel free to use diced (or even whole) if you like chunks. I like my chili served with a dollop of plain yogurt but feel free to add any and all topping that you like.
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. coriander
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus ½ tsp. sauce
1 cup water
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles, drained
½ cup frozen corn
Place a large pot over medium heat and then drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in all the spices and stir well to coat the vegetables with the spices. Drop in the red pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Pour in the canned tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Add the chipotle pepper and sauce and turn the heat down to a simmer.
Add all the beans, corn, and the green chiles and cook at a simmer, partially covered, until thickened and all the vegetables are cooked through – about 20 minutes. Like most soups and stews, this can be made in advance and its flavors will deepen. It will also become more spicy so, if you are making it in advance, you might want to add just a bit of heat while you are cooking it and add more when you re-heat if necessary.