With it being so freaking cold out lately, I’ve been on a soup kick. Really, I’ve had homemade lentil vegetable soup for lunch every day this week. We had homemade leek and cauliflower soup for dinner on Monday. And we started this week of soups on Sunday with vegetarian chili. Apparently, I’m also on a meatless/sort of vegan, but not on purpose, kick. I just really love plant-based protein. I feel lighter, more clear, happy when I eat more plant-based protein. You know what I mean? Oh! Also, accidental perk! These soups (lentil vegetable, leek cauliflower, and chili) are all incredibly cheap to make.
So, this is the first time I have made vegetarian chili entirely off-book. Typically, being very carnivorous, I usually make turkey chili in the crockpot. But this week I was feeling particularly inspired and decided to try something out that’s entirely vegan. Admittedly I know very little about being a vegan, per se, but in terms of plant-based protein, I feel like it’s so simple. Eat a large variety of vegetables and legumes are your friend. Boom. (Clearly, no real expert there either)
This chili is super versatile, as I feel chili is in general. But for example, you can adjust all the spices to your liking. You can also use whatever beans you’d like. I stay away from black beans because they hurt my belly. My go-to’s are kidney and northern beans, but truly any will do. I usually just go with what’s in the pantry. Same with tomatoes. If you don’t have diced tomatoes you could use canned tomato sauce, pureed or crushed. Just know your consistency will be different. But the taste won’t change much. You can also use water if you don’t have broth, or whatever broth you want. Just remember that a meat broth will mean it’s not vegan/vegetarian.
Really, it’s all a style choice and when in a pinch you could make this chili work with the beans, some sort of tomato product (totaling the proper ounces) and some veggies and spices. You could omit the corn, add celery, have only a pepper. Etc. You get the point.
In terms of garnishes. The kids used shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, and green onions. Obviously, this makes it not vegan, but being that we’re not vegan that worked fine. I also meant to throw some sliced avocados on the table as an option but forgot. Which is tragic really.
I used nutritional yeast on top and some green onions. I think these complimented the chili perfectly and I love cheese, so that’s saying something. Nutritional yeast btw, even if you’re not looking to omit cheese (something I don’t think I could ever do), is really tasty and is a good source of protein. I’ve also been adding it to my oatmeal kale bowls all week for breakfast. I digress.
So, try this chili out. Don’t over think it. Use a cast iron Dutch oven if you have one, mostly because I heart cast iron. But any large pot will do.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan, just make sure the oil coats the bottom. Throw in some roasted garlic or a clove or two of minced garlic and let it just start to brown. Then add the onion, carrots, and pepper. Cook until they just start to soften.
Add your spices and stir really well. Don’t walk away at this point, you want to keep stirring. Stir for about 2 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, corn, and beans and stir so it’s all combined. Then add the broth, stir and bring to a hefty simmer. Not quite boiling, but it should be moving. Turn heat down just enough to bring to a gentle simmer, and cover for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Now at this point, you have a choice, you can use an immersion blender for a minute or two to change up the consistency. Or you don’t have to. I like to, it thickens it just enough, but the choice is yours. Obviously, if you used pureed, crushed or just sauce, then this step is not necessary. Unless you love your immersion blender like I love mine… but again the choice is yours.
After that serve, garnish and enjoy!