That's when I realized that chili is one of the most subjective dishes around. There are seemingly endless variations on what to include (although, according to Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, real chili doesn't include beans). So I decided to make something that was delicious. I failed. After trying a few recipes by others, I finally stumbled on one that was good! Although it wasn't quite what I wanted, I knew it just needed a bit of tinkering to be exactly what I wanted it to be. In my opinion, there are two keys to this recipe. The first is that you saute the spices early on in the recipe; that deepens and rounds out their flavors. The second is the inclusion of bulgur wheat. The texture of the bulgur is very reminiscent of finely ground meat, so it gives the whole dish a very satisfying mouth feel. Keep in mind that this is a THICK chili, so I've got a note below about how to thin it out.
The Best Vegan Chili Ever
2 med. onions, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed/minced
2 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1, 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
Dash balsamic vinegar
1, 15 oz. can kidney beans
1, 15 oz. can black beans
1, 8 oz. can corn
1/2 c. bulgur wheat
1. In a large stock pot, saute onions, carrots, and spices in a bit of oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add the peppers and garlic, saute for another couple of minutes.
3. Add the sauce, water, cocoa, and vinegar, bring to a boil and boil for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the beans, corn, and bulgur, reduce heat.
5. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes or until bulgur is soft, stirring occasionally.
- Bulgur should be available in most well-stocked grocery stores, but you will certainly find it at a store like Whole Foods. You might even be able to find it in bulk there, which would be great if you aren't sure that you'll like the recipe or what you'd do with the leftover bulgur.
- To make this gluten-free, replace quinoa for the bulgur wheat. Cook it in the exact same way.
- To make this a thinner (not THIN, just THINNER!) chili, add the following amounts to what is listed above: 1 T. chili powder, 1/2 T. cumin, a bit more cayenne, and 1 1/2 c. water. This is my preferred way of making this chili.
- You can certainly use frozen corn and/or beans you cook yourself, rather than cans. This time, I used canned corn and kidney beans, but used 2 cups of black beans that I'd cooked in the crock pot earlier this week.
- This is NOT a spicy (i.e., hot) chili. Feel free to kick the heat up with more cayenne and/or chili powder.
- I made cornbread muffins to eat with the chili tonight. Making them into muffins makes it easier to freeze them and use them for instant breakfasts.
- Many chili recipes use only cocoa powder or balsamic (or neither); I put in both and liked it.
- This chili freezes amazingly!