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.  





Monthly Myth Buster

Vegan Misconceptions

#5 “Being vegan is too expensive.”

It’s true, vegan eateries, juice shops, organic grocery stores and even processed vegan items can leave you wallet thin. But think about it, most of these manufactures are not sourcing ingredients from GMO farms to obtain the cheapest produce, nor are they filling products with artificial ingredients to prolong shelf-life. So while we may never see a $1 menu at a vegan café, it is safe to say that in many cases the quality of the product you’re ordering is a step above a Big Mac.

With that being said, a vegan diet can actually be a very affordable option (once you step away from the prepared food aisles and juice shops). Here are my best tips for how to make a vegan lifestyle affordable when grocery shopping.

  1. Think less processed. The further you stay away from processed, manufactured or prepared foods the less strain you put on your wallet. This means you will have to be more creative in the kitchen but isn’t it about time you finally used your oven?
  2. Fill your pantry with dried beans, lentils and grains. These staples are packed with nutrients and are usually available in the bulk section which allows you to get more for less. Plus, these dry ingredients will last in your pantry for a long time. Beans, grains and legumes are a perfect addition to many dishes + they can be blended into dips and spreads.
  3. Buy produce in season and at farmer’s markets. Buying large quantities of produce, preferably organic, can also have you fearing the cashier. But there are a few ways to buy your kale in peace. First, buy from your local farmer's market. Not only will you get amazing quality, it is often cheaper than grocery store prices. No markets? No problem, look for produce that is in season in your area. These items are usually cheaper since they had a shorter distance to travel before ending up in your store.
  4. For condiments, versatility is key. These little seemingly harmless purchases can really break the bank if you aren’t careful. Grab condiments that compliment what’s in your fridge so that it can be used with your staple items. For example, Dijon mustard is great on its own or in salad dressings, marinades, soups or dips
  5. Utilize the bulk section. When purchasing expensive items like nuts, specialty flours, grains or dried fruit head to the bulk section and purchase the amount you need for a recipe so that you do not have wasted products in your pantry that will go to waste.
  6. Buy specialty items on sale. I am a huge fan of superfoods, protein powders and power bars but sometimes the prices are outrageous! The reality is people have been vegan for years without these highly marketed foods products, stick to the basics and splurge on a sale.

Need more ideas for wallet friendly meals? Check out Plant Based on a Budget.