Beans for the People

Just about every new year, we make a big pot of chili. The tradition is based around a group of our friends that has been hosing a little multi-day reunion at the end of the year and cooking chili to feed the masses since about 2001.

Chili is one of those foods that constantly has people arguing over the best recipe to use – should you include tomatoes or not, what should be the balance between sweet and savory, how long should it cook, and so on. Pretty much any chili purist is going to insist that it can’t be vegetarian, but that’s just silly. Anyway, we never use a set recipe and it seems like the kind of dish that benefits from some improvisation and tasting as you go. Here is a general approach to our chili, rather than an outright recipe.

Guide to Vegetarian Chili

You might want to consider the following ingredients:

three kinds of dried beans (black, kidney, and pinto), soaked overnight
a couple big cans of peeled whole tomatoes
sweet onion
ample cloves of garlic
red and green bell peppers
fresh cilantro
homemade seitan
jalapeno pepper
a bottle of beer
a splash of tequila
olive oil
brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper

First, we chopped the onions and sauteed them in olive oil, along with the crushed garlic. Use a big pot, even for the intro steps and you can just dump everything else in as needed.

Once the onions were translucent, we added pretty much everything else: the beans, bell peppers (chopped), tomatoes (whole), seitan (chopped) jalepenos (diced), cilantro (chopped), a bottle of beer, a couple ounces of tequila, and all of the seasonings. After that, we turned down the heat and let the whole mess simmer for about an hour and a half.

Add the spices a little at a time and taste as you go. If you go gradually, it’s pretty difficult to mess this dish up (unless you burn it, which we almost did this year). As for what kind of beer to use – pick one you like. Switch in other veggies in place of (or in addition to) the peppers. You can switch in soy grounds in place of the seitan, but of course it may be difficult to make those at home and they can be a little pricey.

We served it hot off the stove and let guests top their bowls with sour cream, shredded cheddar, sliced avocado, and chopped scallions. We served about ten and have probably another ten servings worth of leftovers.

Have vegetarian chili suggestions? Drop ’em in the comments.


One Comment on “Beans for the People”

  1. DJM says:

    One of the things that I like best about chili is the infinite variety of “secret ingredients” that people use. Years ago, I read “The Silver Palate” cookbook chili recipe for some ideas. They added dijon mustard. I’ve been adding it ever since. And I’ve recently been adding a tablespoon of powdered baking chocolate.

    My dad always adds some prepared horseradish to his batches. I made some chili yesterday and went with all three “secrets”. It turned out to be one of my better batches.

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