Squashing Chili Standards

Wow, how is it October over already?!

With the turn of a new month that means the experimentation for the best vegan chili must come to an end. This challenge has not only cleared my sinuses but helped me understand the heart of a good chili.

Before I took on this challenge, chili was just an excuse to empty my pantry with a sprinkle of chili powder. Now, I understand the difference between bases, stocks and found a method to accomplish that ideal umami flavor every bowl. Sure it takes a little more effort, but homemade stocks and chili pastes are worth the effort.

I began this challenge on the premise of 5 rules for an ideal chili. After my testing, it is time to rewrite the rules so that you can create the best fail-proof vegan chili every time.

4 Rules for the Best Vegan Chili

  1. Stock is boss. Homemade vegetable stock will add umami that is usually missing in a store bought veg stock. Check out the two stock recipes I stand by here and here. In a rush? Fortify your store bought stock with dried shitake mushrooms, miso and toasted walnuts. Allow to boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. strain and use.

  2. Chile paste or bust. Making your own chile paste allows for your to control the heat and flavor profiles of your chili. Chili paste allows for depth of flavor in your chili, as the various chilis hit your tastebuds you will get heat, smoke and char that can mimic the “meaty“ profiles of traditional chili.

  3. Beans, beans the magical fruit. Beans add body, creaminess and texture to your chili. This enhances the heartiness of the dish without interfering with flavor. Make sure your beans are sturdy and never overcooked. *If using canned beans make sure to add them in last so that they do not break down.

  4. Minimal tomato. Tomatoes add a slight sweetness to your chili base, enhancing the flavors of the chilies. However, I suggest stick to the paste, canned diced tomatoes can add too much water to your base interfering with the umami of your stock.


Without further ado below is the fourth and final vegan chili of this October Chili Challenge. I have combined my favorite components of the previous chilis - like rich chocolate, thick chile forward base and meaty jackfruit - into a full bodied and hearty chili.

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Butternut Squash and Jackfruit Chili

Yields 6-8 servings

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  • 6 ancho chilies, rehydrated

  • 2 monita chilies, rehydrated

  • 2 jalapenos

  • 6 oz tomato paste

  • 1 large yellow onion, small dice

  • 1 cup carrots, small dice

  • 1 cup celery, small dice

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cup butternut squash, about 1 large squash, ½ inch dice

  • 1 green bell pepper, ½ inch dice

  • 2 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • ½ tsp ground ginger

  • 1 can jackfruit

  • 2 cans beans, I used black beans and red kidney beans

  • 3 oz dark chocolate

  • 5 cups Brown Stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Place jalapenos on a sheet tray and roast for 15 minutes, until tender and starting to slit out of the skin.

2. Soak dried chilies in boiling water, for 30 minutes, until rehydrated and pliable.

3. Drain and rinse jackfruit, place into a small bowl and shred into bite size pieces. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika and salt. Place onto a sheet tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until slightly browned.

4. In a large soup pot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil and add diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic and salt. Sauté until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.

5. Add cumin, oregano, paprika and ginger. Allow to toast for about 2 minutes until fragrant.

6. Add diced butternut squash and bell pepper. Reduce heat to medium, to avoid burning,  allow to sauté for 10 minutes.

7. In a medium bowl or blender add tomato paste, jalepenos, chiles and ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth, adding more water if needed.

8. Add the chile mixture to the soup pot stirring to combine.

9. Add 4-5 cups of brown stock. Allow mix to cook on low until butternut squash is cooked through 10- 15 minutes.

10. Add in roasted jackfruit, drained beans and dark chocolate. Stir to combine.

11. Simmer for at least 10- 20 minutes for flavors to melt together.

12. Serve it up! Top it with diced avocado, red onion and cilantro.  





The Heat is On

It’s that time of the week again… chili number 3 coming in hot.

Rocky Mountain Style chili was the inspiration to this hearty, bean filled chili. Traditionally Rocky Mountain Chili uses chocolate and coffee to deepen the flavor of their chili. The sweet and bitter flavors work to balance the fat from the beef (traditionally) and heat from the chiles.

Let’s be honest, this chili tradition had me at chocolate…

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For my vegan version, we brought in the “meaty” flavor through the stock. Using the rich brown stock from last week that brings an earthiness to the other ingredients. This chili is packed with beans, crumbled tempeh and veggies brought together with a unique blend of chiles, chocolate and coffee grounds.

Don’t let the ingredients turn you away, let this chili transport you to a campfire in the Rockies.


Vegan Rocky Mountain Chili

Yields 6-8 servings  

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  • 1 yellow onion, small dice

  • 1 bunch of celery, small dice

  • 2 carrots, small diced

  • 1 red or green bell pepper, small diced

  • 2 tbsp cumin

  • 1 tbsp miso

  • 1 tbsp paprika

  • 1 tbsp coffee

  • 2 oz 75% dark chocolate, rough chopped

  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained

  • 1 oz brick tempeh

  • ¼ cup tamari

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tbsp chili powder

  • 4 cups Brown Stock (recipe from last week)

For the chili paste:

  • 3 guajillo chiles, dried

  • 2 ancho chiles

  • 1-3 jalepeno (depending on desired spice)

  • 3 morita

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 3 oz tomato paste

  • 3 cloves garlic

  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.     In a plastic bag, crumble the tempeh into bite sized pieces. Marinate with tamari and maple syrup for at least 30 minutes.

2.     Once marinated place on to a sheet tray and bake for 20 minutes until tempeh has developed some color.

3.     In a medium bowl, combine the dried chilies and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes – 1 hour to soften.

4.     Meanwhile, roast jalapeños until tender and starting to burst about 20 minutes.

 

5.     While those components are working, start small dicing your vegetables.

6.     In a large soup pot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil. When the oil is shimmering add your diced vegetables with a generous pinch of salt.

7.     Cook down until tender and onions are translucent.

8.     Add cumin, miso, paprika and coffee. Allow to toast for 2 minutes.

9.     Reduce to low heat, add rinsed beans, baked tempeh and 4 cups of brown stock.

 

10.  Drain, remove stems and seeds of chiles.

11.  In a medium bowl combine all chile paste ingredients. Using an immersion blender or blender, blend until smooth.

12.  Add chile mixture to your soup base.

13.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

14.  Lastly add chocolate and allow to melt into the chili.

15.  Serve immediately or save for later!

Ancho Average Chili

Next up on the chili challenge is decoding a classic Texas Chili.

We all know everything is bigger in Texas… but did you know how seriously they take their chili? Chili is Texas’ State Dish, also known as the Bowl of Red, gained its popularity out of necessity for all of the Cowboys looking for a hearty, warm dish after a day of labor. In order to keep tradition alive, the regulations on what can be called a Texas Red Chili is a strict rule book.

Regulations:

  1. Diced beef.

  2. Beef stock.

  3. Chili paste for the base.

  4. Thickened with Masa (corn flour).

  5. No tomatoes, no beans, no vegetables.

Well clearly turning this dish vegan, violates some MAJOR qualifications. But what fun are rules if you can’t break them?!

In this vegan version I changed it up a little.

1.     Diced beef. —> Tempeh and mushroom mix.

2.     Beef stock. —> Brown stock.

3.     Chili paste for the base.

4.     Thickened with Masa (corn flour).

5.     No tomatoes, no beans, no vegetables. —> Well, honestly this rule needed to change anyway.   

I will admit this chili does not have the coat-your-mouth fattiness of a traditional Texas Chili, but the flavor and texture profiles are spot on. With a mix of spicy and lightly smoked chilies the base of the chili has a great depth of flavor with a heat that slowly rises to the surface. The sauce is thickened just enough to coat the diced tempeh, soaking up the flavors of the chili for that slow cooked meaty feel.

Check it out for yourself. (And if you’re really into breaking the rules, spoon it over quinoa or cauliflower rice)

Vegan Texas Chili

Yield 6-8 servings  

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  • Dried chile: 3 Ancho chile, 2 Monita chile, 4 guajillo chile

  • Fresh chile: 2-3 fresno chile (depending on desired spice), 1 jalapeno

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 6 oz tomato paste

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1 yellow onion, small diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, small diced

  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 2 8 oz packages of Tempeh, ½ inch dice

  • ¼ cup tamari

  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)

  • 6 portobella mushroom caps, 1 inch dice

  • 3 tbsp Masa flour or corn flour

  • 4-5 cups of Brown Stock (recipe below)

  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar

 

1.     Dice the tempeh into ½ inch pieces. Transfer to a plastic bag and add tamari, ½ tsp cumin and honey. Shake to combine and set aside to marinade for at least 1 hour.

2.     To start the chili paste, toss fresh fresnos and jalapeno in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until just roasted and starting to pop.

3.     In a medium bowl, place dried chiles and cover with hot water. Allow to sit for 25-30 minutes until softened.

 

4.     While the chiles are soaking, in a large soup pot heat 3 tbsp olive oil. Add diced onion and pepper, saute until onions are translucent. Add 1 tsp cumin and paprika, allowing to toast for 1 minute. Remove and set aside.

5.     In the same pot, add tbsp olive oil and sear diced portobella mushrooms, season with salt. Cook until tender and lightly browned, approx. 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6.     Next, sear the marinated tempeh. Place an even layer of the tempeh down to ensure that each piece can brown. This may take two or three rounds.

7.     Remove the tempeh and add to the cooked mushrooms.

 

8.     Back to the paste, remove the stems and seeds of the softened and roasted chiles.

9.     In a medium bowl (or blender if using), add cleaned chiles, ¼ cup water, garlic and tomato paste.

10.  Using an immersion blender, blend the chile mix until it is a smooth paste. Set aside.

 

11.  In the same soup pot over medium heat, whisk together 1 cup of brown stock and 3 tbsp of masa. Allow the mix to come to a shallow boil. The sauce will appear thickened and should coat the back of a spoon.

12.  Add the cooked onion mix, chile paste, mushrooms, tempeh and white vinegar. Cover with 4 cups of brown stock, until the ingredients are just covered. Add up to 1 cup more of stock if needed.

13.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Reduce the chili to a simmer and allow to cook for at least 1 hour. The longer the chili is allowed to simmer the better the flavor.

14.  To serve it up, garnish with scallion, avocado, parsley or (dairy free) sour cream.

 

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Brown Stock

Yields 8 cups

  • 2 yellow onions, rough chop

  • 1 carrot, rough chop

  • 1 parsnip, rough chop

  • 1 cup dried shitake mushroom

  • 4 cloves garlic, whole

  • 1 bay leaf

  • ½ bunch parsley

  • ¾ walnuts, toasted

  • ¾ cup French lentils, uncooked

  • 2 tbsp miso  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.     Rough chop vegetables, toss in olive oil, salt and miso paste.

2.     Transfer to a sheet tray and roast for 45-60 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and starting to caramelize.

3.     In a large soup pot, add roasted vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a bowl, cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours.

4.     Once the stock liquid is a dark brown color, remove from heat.

5.     Strain the liquid and throw out solids. Store in fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 4 months.





Chili Out

Hello fall! Although I will always miss those heated days, it is time to sit down, cozy on up with your favorite blanket and dive into some warming meals.  

No no, we are not discussing pumpkin spiced foods today, we are looking into something more chil-i.

A friend of my recently decided to start eating a plant based diet. While enjoying the way he feels and exploring new foods that he would have avoided in his carnivore days, he doesn’t feel vegans have mastered the art of chili. From his experience the vegan community has nailed many interpreted dishes. Veggie burgers are layered with texture, flavor and a fattiness that is present in beef patties. Vegan pastry and cakes are now just as indulgent as their buttered-up counterparts. Even vegan barbecue has made strides in locking in the slow-cooked and smoked flavor.  

But vegan chili has remained bland and uninspired. Sticking to the basics of veg and beans, vegan chili has become no more than a vegetable soup. Nothing of the hearty, stick-to-your-bones, fuel that chili was initially intended to do.

After this discussion, my friend challenged me to the ultimate chili cook off… to create 4 flavor packed, indulgent and mouth-watering chilies that even a cowboy would approve of.

Challenge accepted.

As I began to wrap my brain around the task I realized I actually haven’t made many chilis (meat or vegetarian) and certainly not one beyond canned beans and diced squash swimming in canned tomatoes. So I went to the drawing board to research what makes a great chili and the traditional variations of chili in the United States. Don’t worry, I will just summarize what I found…

TOP 5 CHILI REQUIREMENTS:

1. Rich dynamic flavor. A chili needs to incorporate sweet, bitter, spicy flavors rounded out with a fresh element.

2. Your traditional “beefy flavor,” which for vegan purposes we are going to attribute to umami.

3. Luscious beans, that add a creamy element to the chili without breaking apart.

4. Traditionally, a deep red sauce.

5. The chilies. No use for “chili powder” here. Unique, homemade blends of dried and roasted chilies are needed to achieve the perfect chili base that adds heat and depth of flavor.

5 TRADITIONAL CHILIS:

1. Chili Verde – a base of fresh peppers and tomatillos paired with white beans and shredded chicken or pork.

2. Texas Chili – deep red sauce with hearty pieces of red meat. NO beans and vegetables are best unseen.

3. Rocky Mountain Chili- deep red sauce with notes of chocolate and coffee, packed with meat and beans.

4. Cincinnati Chili- ground beef in a tomato based sauce, mixed with beans atop a bed of spaghetti. Always found loaded up with diced onion, cheddar cheese, sour cream and oyster crackers.

5. Vegetarian Chili- red tomato based sauce, various mixture of beans and large diced vegetables.

To boil it down, I am on a mission to recreate 4 traditional chilis into delicious vegan versions that can stand on their own. Every Monday for the month of October we are going to “chili out” as I post photos and recipes for the 4 variations.

First up, we have a Chili Verde with Jackfruit and White Beans. This classily lighter chili, packs a punch of fresh chilies paired with hearty pieces of jackfruit and beans to achieve a meaty mouth feel.

Let me know what you think!

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Chili Verde

Jackfruit + Cannellini Bean Chili

Yields 10 - 12 servings

4 poblano peppers

2- 3 jalapenos, depending on heat levels

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10 tomatillos

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups white onion, about 1 ½ onions small diced

3 cups celery, ½ head of celery small diced

1 ½ cups carrots, 4 carrots small diced

1 green pepper, medium diced

2 cans Green Jackfruit

2 cans cannellini beans

1 tbsp ground cumin

½ tsp dried oregano

Tbsp yellow miso

Salt

7 cups of Vegetable Stock (recipe below) 

Optional garnish:

Unsweetened coconut yogurt

Lime wedge

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Avocado

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Toss poblano peppers, garlic, tomatillos and jalapenos with olive oil and salt. Depending on your desired heat level, remove the seeds from the jalapeno before roasting. Place vegetables on sheet trays and roast for 20-25 minutes until soft and slightly charred.  

  2. While the peppers and tomatillos are roasting, small dice onions, celery and carrots. In a large soup pot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil. Add diced vegetables and a heavy pinch of salt. Allow vegetables to sweat until translucent and tender, about 10-15 minutes.

  3. Add diced green pepper, ground cumin, oregano and miso allowing it to cook for another 5 minutes until cumin is fragrant. * If using store bought stock use 2 tbsp miso. Reduce heat to avoid burning.

  4. Remove peppers and tomatillos from the oven.  Remove stem and seeds from poblano peppers and jalapenos (if you have not already done so). Blend ingredients together, in a bowl using an immersion blender or blender.

  5. Add the tomatillo paste to the sautéed vegetables and 6 ½ cups of stock, stirring to incorporate. Keep heat low as you prepare the jackfruit and beans.  

  6. De- can and rinse jackfruit. Pull the jackfruit apart into ½ inch pieces, it should resemble pulled chicken. Toss in olive oil, salt, 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder. Transfer to a sheet tray and roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The jackfruit should have some browned edges and should feel dry.

  7.  De-can and rinse off the cannellini beans and toss into the chili base. Add all of the roasted jackfruit to the base. Bring mixture up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Season to taste.

  8. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, and serve. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, coconut yogurt, lime and avocado.

  9. This chili can be made ahead and stored up to 4-5 days in the fridge, or portioned and frozen for up to 4 months.

  

Vegetable stock

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Vegan Umami Broth 

4 tbsp yellow miso

2 yellow onions, peeled and rough chopped

½ head celery, rough chopped

4 carrots, rough chopped

2 cups dried shitake mushrooms

½ bunch parsley

1/2 head of garlic

3 tbsp Olive oil

¼ cup tamari

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. In a small bowl whisk olive oil and miso together to be a thick paste. Add a splash of water to thin so that it is thick but pliable.

  2. Combine all prepped vegetables in a bowl tossing with the miso paste to coat. Transfer to a sheet tray and laying everything evenly in one layer, you may need two trays.

  3. Allow to roast at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Stirring occasionally to avoid burning. You want your vegetables to be browned, tender and fragrant.  

  4. In a large soup pot, place all of the roasted vegetables. Add in a ½ bunch of parsley and a ¼ cup tamari. Cover with 8-10 cups of water.

  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered. Allow broth to simmer for 1 hour.

  6. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pot. Discard vegetable solids. Store liquid for 3-4 days in the fridge or freeze for 3-4 months.

Decoding Sunchokes

It is time to change up your go-to potato side dish and welcome this nutrient dense tuber to your plate. Decadent, earthy and nutty sunchokes will elevate your taste buds while providing necessary micronutrients that you may be missing.

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Sunchokes are a tuber, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, from the sunflower family. It is made up of fiber, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. Sunchokes contain high amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, including inulin. Inulin is a soluble fiber that doubles as a prebiotic, improving overall gut health, immune function and regulating cholesterol.

These delicious tubers contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamin E acting as free-radical fighting antioxidants. The B Vitamins Thiamine and Niacin are also found in sunchokes. Thaimine aids the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach improving protein digestion, while niacin improves the appearance and health for your eyes, hair and skin.  

In addition to a high vitamin content, sunchokes contain electrolytes and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, iron and copper. Sunchokes provide 9% of your daily value (DV) of potassium, which improves blood pressure by reversing the effects of sodium. As well as, copper (11% DV) and iron (28% DV) which promotes red blood cell formation improving oxygen distribution throughout the body.

Not only are sunchokes nutrient superstars they are versatile in the kitchen. Whether you roast, steam, mash or enjoy raw this unique tuber is sure to impress.

Try out this easy Roasted Sunchoke and Macadamia Nut Gremolata, with the help of Mauna Loa’s Roasted Macadamia Nuts. The buttery, decadent flavor from the nuts are a perfect pairing for this veggie dish.


Roasted Sunchokes with Macadamia Nut Gremolata

Serves 4

 

Gremolata

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  • ½ cup Mauna Loa Roasted Chopped Macadamia Nuts
  • 2 lemons, zested and chopped
  • 2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Vegetables

  • 1 lb sun chokes
  • 1/8 tsp ground thyme
  • Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut sun chokes into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces. In a medium bowl, toss with olive oil, ground thyme and salt.
  3. Place on a lined sheet tray and roast in the oven for 30- 40 minutes. Until tender and slightly caramelized.
  4. While the sun chokes are roasting, in a medium bowl combine the chopped macadamia nuts, parsley, zest and garlic in a bowl. Stream in olive oil and finish with salt to taste. Set aside.
  5. Once sun chokes are cooked, place in a serving dish or plate and top with the gremolata.