“My chili kicked aaaass.”
That was the text I sent to my friend Fraoigh after informing her that I had successfully constructed the most awesomely kick-ass, junky, nutritionally defunct Nalley’s-style vegetarian chili. And on the first motherfucking try. Thanks, in part, to some of you. Some.
I blame myself. I didn’t make myself terribly clear when asking for non-vegetable vegetarian chili recipes. So many great recipe suggestions! So many good ideas and links filed away for a rainy day. But they all contained vegetable mass, which, you know. I like vegetables. But in my mind it isn’t chili, really. I want gravy. I want a big bowl of brown gravy with some texture thrown in as a mockery of mature, adult food. There were many great suggestions that helped me out, but the award for Most Valuable Suggestion goes to Anger Burger commenter Amanda, who all casually mentions throwing in a can of refried beans for thickness. More on that in a minute.
The bad news is that taking photos of brown slop at night in a kitchen with a single overhead lightsource works out exactly like you think it might: not great.
But you can add a heap of cheery yellow cheddar cheese, and things go a little better.
And cheery yellow cornbread, too, what the hell. As long as we’re only eating yellow and brown foods tonight, let’s get the Coca-Cola and the honey out.
I think there are a few important secrets to this recipe, but the biggest is that you must mix in a can of refried pinto beans. It alone is what transformed a mediocre pot of strangely healthy-tasting tomatoey chili into rich, thick, almost-fatty chili. Up until I added the beans I was even considering adding cream to the pot; something, anything to tell my brain that there was fat in the mix. But the beans, they were the key.
Curiously, I’m not sure about the quantity of whole kidney beans needed. I swung back and forth between thinking it needed a second can (maybe) and no cans at all (also maybe). If using just as a chili sauce, I suppose I’d leave the kidney beans out. If bulking up a pot for hearty eaters, grab the second can. When in doubt, use a single can, as I did.
I’m sure that some people will be more inclined to making this if it has actual detectable pieces of vegetable in it, and that’s great too, I guess. But I’m telling you right now that I went out today and bought wieners and buns so we can have chili dogs for dinner tonight, and no one wants to encounter a chunk of zucchini in their chili dog. No one you want to be friends with, anyway.
Almost-From-a-Can Vegetarian Chili
i definitely think the fake meat portion of this recipe is open for interpretation – if you like Quorn grounds, use those. if you like Morningstar, use those. my friend strongly suggested Fantastic Foods taco filling mix, which is even already seasoned (though you’ll still need to add more). i do advise, however, that whatever you use is finely textured in order to keep the sloppy, saucy spirit of the chili intact. bear in mind that the TVP is dry when added to the soup and thus bulks up double, so you’ll need more than a single cup of frozen, pre-hydrated products like Quorn grounds. they usually come in bags of about 12 ounces, and you’ll probably need the whole bag.
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
¼ cup mild olive oil
1 cup dry TVP (textured vegetable protein, sometimes called TSP, textured soy protein)
1 small (6oz) can tomato paste
1 can (15oz) plain, unseasoned tomato sauce (see note below)
3 cups beef flavored broth (see note below)
1 Tbsp chili powder / seasoning (see note below)
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 – 2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 – 3 fresh jalapenos, diced small (optional)
0 – 2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¾ can refried beans
2 tsp salt, or more to taste)
NOTE: When I say “plain, unseasoned tomato sauce” I mean without Italian-style seasoning, such as oregano or basil. Most “plain” tomato sauce does have onion and/or garlic in it, and that’s just fine. Regarding chili powder: I’m not talking straight powdered chili, here. I’m talking about chili seasoning. I like Frontier Co-Op bulk “chili seasoning blend” which includes a little oregano, cumin and other spices. You can use whatever you like, and build up the flavor one teaspoon at a time until your preferred intensity is achieved. Lastly, there are several brands of fake beef flavor broth, and again I like Frontier Co-Op’s bulk “beef broth” powder because it allows me to control the level of flavoring I want. If you cannot find vegetarian beef flavored broth, try reading the ingredient list on the Au Jus sauce packets in any grocery store – many of them include no actual beef product. Seriously.
- In a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and garlic and saute, stirring all the while until the onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the TVP (or whatever fake meat grounds you prefer), tomato paste, tomato sauce, beef broth, chili seasoning, ancho chili powder, honey, soy sauce, salt and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and allow to barely simmer and reduce for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the 3/4 can of refried beans together with a few ladles full of the hot soup, stirring slowly and carefully so as not to splash hot soup on yourself. Mix until the beans are a thick but smooth slurry that you can pour back into the soup pot. For thicker soup, add the entire can. Taste soup for seasonings and increase the chili powder, ancho chili, salt and honey as needed.
- Add the diced fresh jalapenos, if using (remember: use disposable gloves to chop any spicy chilis so that you don’t give yourself chili eye or nostril later) and the rinsed kidney beans. Allow the soup to simmer on low for a further 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chili is as thick as you’d like.
- Serve with fresh chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. And cornbread with butter and honey. And icy-cold soda.