Editor’s note: Did you miss National Chili Day on Feb. 27? Have no fear. This vegan chili is delicious any day of the year. Plus, if you perfect this recipe now, you’ll be a shoo-in at your local Environmentally Friendly Chili Cook Off 2014!
Whether you knew it or not, there’s a good chance you’ve had meatless chili before. Chilis made with beans (for example, black bean and sweet potato chili) are fairly ubiquitous, and most of us have crossed paths with them at some point or another. But tempeh chili? Well, that’s another story.
Unlike fellow soy product, tofu, tempeh remains a somewhat exotic ingredient in American kitchens. This is a shame, because tempeh is versatile, nutritious, and satisfying in ways that some other meat substitutes are not; it has a dense, chewy texture and a nutty taste. And when you grate it on a box grater, it takes on a texture that is not unlike ground beef. Could anything be more perfect for a pot of vegan chili?
This recipe mixes grated tempeh with kidney and pinto beans to create a perfect, hearty chili that’s full of flavor and spice. I like to brown the tempeh before adding my beans and liquid; this adds an extra layer of flavor and makes for a more authentic chili texture. Even if tempeh hasn’t impressed you in the past, I bet it will be hard not to fall in love with this recipe.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
One 8-ounce package tempeh, grated on the largest setting of a box grater, or crumbled finely
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pureed tomato sauce
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup green onions or scallions, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, cook for a few minutes, and then add the tempeh. Cook till the tempeh begins to brown, five to eight minutes. Add the green pepper and celery and cook till they’re tender, another five minutes. Add the garlic. Continue cooking another two minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients, along with half a cup of water. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the chili is fragrant, warm, and the flavors have come together (25 to 30 minutes). Add more water as needed, if the chili becomes too thick. Serve, sprinkled with green onion or scallions.