By Caroline Cook
If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier, then this chili, from Janet Taylor’s The Green Southwest Cookbook, is for you! It is extremely flavorful, very customizable, and very good for you.
I had the privilege of testing many recipes from The Green Southwest Cookbook before it was released. This chili was one of the ones I tested, and my husband and I liked it so much that we now make it quite regularly in the cooler months. This chili introduced me to chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and to smoked paprika, which I now use all the time in a variety of dishes. The smoky flavor of both is wonderful.
However, the first time I made this, I misread the ingredients and used 1 can of chipotle chiles instead of 1 chile, which was at least 10 times more than called for! That was one hot pot of chili! My husband gamely ate his whole bowl with a burning mouth, and the next day we diluted the chili with more beans and tomatoes. After that my heat tolerance in foods has gone way up! You be the judge of how spicy you like your chili. It is safe to use 2–4 chipotles if you like more heat.
This also introduced me to tempeh (a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia) and mushroom broth. Tempeh’s texture is somewhat crumbly and bean-like, and the mushroom broth gives it such a savory flavor that you won’t miss the meat!
Do not be intimidated by the long ingredient list — once you have everything on hand you will be able to easily make this chili again and again. The flavors are just wonderful. A few tips on some of the ingredients: Trader Joe’s carries tempeh, found in the refrigerated section. You can find nutritional yeast in the vitamin/supplement section at Whole Foods, and they also carry mushroom broth and kombu. Canned chipotles in adobo sauce are in the Mexican foods section of many grocery stores.
For a simpler, non-vegan variation that we also make, replace the tempeh and mushroom broth with ground turkey, adding all the spices directly to the turkey, using one pot. White kidney beans go well with the turkey.
Chile Lovers’ Spicy Vegan Chili
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
3 1/2 cups mushroom broth, divided
3 tablespoons tamari sauce, divided
2 teaspoons hickory liquid smoke, divided
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided*
1 package (8 ounces) tempeh, grated with large holes of grater
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
1 poblano chile, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, run through garlic press
1 cup dark beer (Negra Modelo or Bass Ale)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked bittersweet or sweet paprika
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, don’t drain 1 can (15 ounces) pinto or kidney beans, don’t drain
1 piece of kombu, optional (helps digestion, reduces gas, adds nutrients)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
1–2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon honey or evaporated cane juice
2 teaspoons Key lime juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, optional, but what a flavor
*Vegan Worcestershire sauce is available at health food stores
To release the perfume in the cumin and coriander, toast them together in a small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant, while shaking the pan to prevent them from burning. Remove from skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, add the oregano and toast until the scent of oregano fills the air. Transfer toasted seeds and herbs to grinder or mortar; grind and set aside.
In a large skillet mix 2 cups of mushroom broth, 1 tablespoon of the tamari sauce, 1 teaspoon of the liquid smoke, 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire sauce, and the grated tempeh. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the tempeh has absorbed all of the broth. Move the tempeh to one side of the skillet, and add 2 teaspoons of oil. Allow the oil to heat; then toss the tempeh in the oil and sauté until it starts sticking to the skillet. Deglaze the skillet with the remaining mushroom broth. Scrape the pieces of the tempeh from the skillet. Remove from burner and set aside.
While the tempeh is cooking, cook the onion and poblano chile in a dry 5-quart saucepan over medium heat until the onion is crispy tender. Add the garlic and sauté until the mixture starts sticking to the pan. Stir in the beer to deglaze the pot; then add the chili powder, the ground seeds and herbs mix, the paprika, the black and pinto or kidney beans, tomatoes, kombu, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, and the remaining tamari sauce, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce. When tempeh is done, transfer it to the chili mixture. Cover and simmer over medium-low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, simmer for about 30 minutes more or until the desired thickness, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, honey or evaporated cane juice, and lime juice; then stir in the nutritional yeast if you are using it. It will add a rich flavor and thicken the chili somewhat. Pass extra nutritional yeast for diners to add.