Anger Burger

Dear Vegetarians,

Posted by Sunday on Feb 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I want to make vegetarian chili, but I have a lot of don’t-wants.

Don’t want:

  • Just vegetable soup with big chunks of vegetables in a tomatoey chili-seasoned broth.
  • Just bean soup in a tomatoey chili-seasoned broth.
  • Brothiness of any kind.
  • Lentils.
  • Grains.
  • Chunks of identifiable tofu.

I want comfort food.  I want medium thick, finely textured, rich, brown chili that I can heap with a mountain of cheddar and chopped onions.  And I want my dad to be able to eat it with me.  So riddle me this: why are all the vegatarian chili recipes in the world just vegetable soup recipes with some chili seasonings?  I suspect that the answer lies in something like textured vegetable protein, which I have never cooked with before.

Someone help a sister out, here.


February 2nd, 2012 | Drama!

33 Responses to Dear Vegetarians,

  1. Jen says:

    I just use lots of beans (black, kidney and garbanzo) and let it cook for a long time. I also occasionally add corn if I have it. And I use lots of onion and bell pepper that I chop up really fine. But if it’s cooked for a long time, the beans start to break down and give it that meatiness, sort of. That probably doesn’t help much. I’ve never cooked with TVP before either.

    • Jen says:

      Or tempeh crumbles. I’ve never tried it but I will next time. If tempeh is either chopped fine or crumbled, I bet it would add some heft to the chili.

  2. Meghan says:

    It’s totally TVP, but the good news is that TVP is pretty easy to use, and reasonably easy to find–almost any health foods/natural foods place will probably have it, and a lot of larger supermarkets, too. (Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand I’ve ever seen, so if the place carries their products, you’ve got a decent shot.)

    Basically, though, take a cup (or more, depending on how much texture you want) TVP, mix it with a cup of boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and then continue with your standard meat-chili recipe, treating the TVP like you would ground beef. You can brown the TVP or not, but know that if you do, you need to do so in some oil, and you need to stir it all the goddamn time, because otherwise it will stick to your pan and make you cry.

    I would also suggest against using any sort of broth–crushed tomatoes make a good base for this sort of thing, in my opinion.

    (Not a vegetarian, just cheap.)

    • Sunday says:

      The problem is that my standard chili recipe cooks down for several hours to break the collagen down, resulting in the velvety thick texture I like my chili to be. Hence the look of genuine confusion on my face when it comes to making a vegetarian version. I appreciate the TVP tips, I’m going to look for Bob’s at the local hippie depot.

  3. twoblueshoes says:

    I’m Australian and Nigella is English, so there’s a good chance neither of us has a clue about chilli, but have you tried her vego chilli recipe? I’ll warn you, there are lentils involved, BUT, there are also kidney beans and red capsicum and it’s definitely not a brothy meal. It’s not super spicy, so you might want to give it more of a kick, but it’s got a few levels of flavour going on, and it’s definitely comforty. Especially with the cornbread and the guac and the cheese and sour cream. It’s out of ‘Feast’ if you’ve got that handy, otherwise there’s a version with slightly wack (slightly American?) measurements here: (from memory, I think the tomatoes and the kidney beans should be two tins each)

  4. Lana says:

    Try the TVP with some beans It’d be super filling and thick and delicious. It’s how I make my lazy chili and it’s fairly thick.
    TVP is super easy, just hydrate it in water (read the packet for that one) and bung it in. It makes really great bolognese as well!

  5. Krista says:

    I have two favorite chili recipes. One has peanut butter in it. The other has espresso.

    I was afraid of making the espresso one at first, until I realized I could just halve the giant recipe. Both taste good with lots of toppings like cheese, crema, avocado, and green onions. But grate chocolate on top of the espresso chili. It is a must.

  6. Jeff says:

    Morningstar Farms makes a frozen soy crumble that works for chili and sloppy joes, it’s not beef, but it’s passably close. The texture is a bit chewier than beef,but in the tradition of soy it takes flavors pretty well.

  7. jenfisha! says:

    My old standby is a page ripped from an old Sassy magazine – it’s really nothing special, but even when you omit the ground beef, it’s soo thick and tasty. The recipe is at home, where, alas, I am not, but basically it’s…

    1 big white onion, chopped
    1 big green pepper chopped
    however much minced garlic you want
    sautee this stuff w/ olive oil in yr pot ’till done
    stir in like, 2 tbsns curry powder and 4 tbsns chili powder
    add 2 cans drained beans (i sometimes mix kidney + black)
    add in the big can chopped ‘matos w/ it’s sauce
    cook a long time, then add jalapeno + cilantro if you want.

    Then we heap it w/ sour cream, cheddar cheese, raw chopped onion, cilantro + apple cider vinegar. On top of corn bread with butter, of course.

  8. M says:

    Do what Jeff says! (Since that is what I was going to tell you to do, but he beat me to it.)

  9. Amanda says:

    Try using refried beans, or puree some whole beans. It thickens the chili and it’s definately not so brothy. Oh, and add a Guiness. Always a good addition.

  10. Ashley says:

    I’ll second Jeff’s suggestion; inexplicably TVP makes me vom but the Morningstar crumbles are pretty decent, even though they are basically fancied-up TVP.

  11. Rachael says:

    I am confidently thirding the Morningstar crumbles. I was a vegetarian for ten years and no one else in my family was, and they all happily ate chili with the crumbles in it. The crumbles make the chili have that familiar substantial mouth-feel and, like Jeff says, they take the chili flavors really well. Also, my secret ingredient in chili: a can of cheap beer. Adds a nice depth of flavor without being overpowering.

  12. Toni says:

    I normally hate veggie chili and while this might not be exactly what you are looking for, I loved it. I normally hate veggie chili because of all the things you mentioned, but this was great. Here’s the recipe:
    Disclaimer: I don’t measure when I cook, these are just estimates. This is not a thick chili but could be depending on the amount of stock used.

    2 orange bell peppers
    4 small zucchini
    3 small onion
    2 (15 oz) cans of fire roasted tomatoes (with liquid)
    1 (15 oz) can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 (15 oz) can of red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 (15 oz) can of great northern beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 box of vegetable stock ( I don’t know the size)
    zest of lime
    juice from one lime
    chili powder
    2 tbsp tomato paste
    minced garlic

    I sauteed the onions and garlic with a little salt. I then mixed everything in a big pot and simmered about an hour. I adjusted to spices as it cooked to my preferences.

    It was really good with cornbread.

  13. diane says:

    I made a really good vegan chili a couple years ago. I wish I had kept the link! But in addition to the typical beans/onion/tomato/peppers/garlic & chili powder, it had a little cinnamon (which was nice) and bulgur for texture. You said no grains, so maybe a good stand in would be mushrooms? I’ve finely chopped mushrooms and sauteed them down for spaghetti sauce, and my husband didn’t notice it wasn’t meat. Another idea for richness is beer – I always add a bottle of dark beer to chili instead of broth or tomato juice.

    I think you should just wing it. Good luck!

    • Sunday says:

      Yeah, I’m intrigued by the bulgur option that you (and the following commenter) suggest, it’s a better possibility than the barley chili suggestions I’d been reading. I’m all for mushrooms, too, and I know already that I’ll be using porcini mushroom powder to make up thte bulk of the meaty flavor. And beer! I forgot about beer, thank you.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Try adding bulgur to thicken it up. I used to make chili like this when I was a vegetarian and remember it being great.

  15. Brook says:

    Wishing you luck in finding a gem like the guacamole house.

    Here’s my favourite pantry-clearing vegetarian chili, cobbled together from many recipes over the years. I’m cutting and pasting, so apologies if the formatting’s not great.

    Vegetarian Chili

    2 T canola, olive, or grapeseed oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 medium carrots, chopped
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    1 red pepper, chopped
    10-oz pkg frozen corn
    1 cup TVP, reconstituted (optional, but adds great texture)
    14-oz can black beans (Goya or Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans are great. Since I’ve moved back to Canada, I’ve been making my own from Lisa Fain’s Homesick Texan cookbook, which works out even better – no TJ’s here)
    14-oz can kidney or large pink beans, drained
    14-oz can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 pkg Goya sazon with coriander and annatto (has MSG, but adds great flavour and colour)
    1 T ground ancho or guajillo peppers
    2 T good chili powder (I like Penzey’s)
    1 t ground coriander
    1/2 t oregano
    1 t dark cocoa
    2 T bitter orange juice (or equal mix fresh orange, grapefruit, & lemon juices) or cider vinegar
    vegetable stock or water to cover
    salt & pepper, to taste
    hot sauce, to taste
    chili toppings of your choice

    Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, cooking until translucent. Add the carrots and celery, cooking until slightly softened, 3-to-4 minutes. Stir in the corn and reconstituted textured vegetable protein, if using.

    Add the garlic – cook until fragrant, but not brown. Stir in the sazon (if using), ground ancho or guajillo pepper, chili powder, oregano, and cocoa, stirring until fragrant. Add the bitter orange juice or cider vinegar.

    Stir in the beans and tomatoes. Add enough vegetable stock or water to cover by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to bring it down to a simmer. Cook for 35-to-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chili is slightly thinner than your desired thickness (it will thicken up as it cools).

    Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve with your favourite chili toppings. As with all stews, it’s even better the next day, but you’ll likely have to add a little water to thin it out. It freezes beautifully.

    • Sunday says:

      This sounds super tasty! Though, I worry that it is too interesting, if you can believe I just wrote that. I mean, for this round of chili I’m going to attempt. I’ll save it for fancy chili, which will be next time.

  16. Sarah says:

    Quorn, is waaaaaaaay better than morningstar farm crumbles. Hands down. Try this recipe: It uses chia seeds as a thickener. Also tastes awesome with sweet potatoes!

  17. Sunday says:

    Oh my god, you guys! I wish I could invite you all over for chili, I really do. Too many good suggestions for one batch, clearly.

    One trend I’m noticing is people still suggesting recipes with a lot of vegetables in them, or made primarily of beans; again, I’m basically looking for Nalley’s chili. But not made with imported rat meat.

  18. Lynn D. says:


  19. Abigail says:

    The Grit. Athens, Georgia. Amazing vegetarian chili. They have a cookbook.

  20. Vita says:

    It’s limited veggie soup. Use some masa in water to ‘chili’ it up.
    I used tofu last time, and I browned it with the onions and chili powder, as if it were beef, and it became mostly unrecognizable as tofu. Super firm, or some shit.

    But it’s the masa/water that helps thicken it and give it authentic Mexican-icity.

  21. Scott says:

    Yes, TVP. Or Quorn, or Boca crumbles if you can’t find that. But the key, in my opinion, is a whole bucketload of chopped onions and peppers, and TONS of reconstituted dried anchos and guajillos whirled up in the blender with a beer. Also, whisk in some cornmeal about an hour before serving, and let it get all melded in there. Mmmmm.

  22. Veronica says:

    Crockpot! I’ve only made a few batches of chili thus far in my life, experimenting each time, and the crockpot does wonders for thickening up the goodness.

  23. Scott says:

    OH OH OH! Also, just wanted to add (as an omnivore who likes vegetarian things) that Trader Joe’s carries a pretty incredible and relatively cheap Soy Chorizo that is lacking some of the fabulous fatty goodness of the real thing, but tastes pretty freakin’ great, and would probably be seriously fabulous in a pot of veggie chili.

  24. B. says:

    This is embarrassing but this is the recipe that got me though my second undergrad:

  25. K says:

    Field Roast Chipotle grainmeatsausages!!

  26. alexis says:

    I make this chili when I have run out of fresh ingredients and/or time:
    cook in order:
    olive oil
    1 onion
    1 ea red, green, yellow bell pepper
    a can each of red and black beans
    a can of tomatoes, chopped in the can
    frozen corn
    I put a cup of cooked bulgur in it to fill it out, but tvp or minced mushrooms might do the trick for a grain-free version

    good luck!

  27. eileen says:

    We make vegetarian chili all the time! Here are some secrets:
    – TVP! Yes.
    – Puree the beans with the broth they cooked in before adding to the chili
    – Or puree the finished chili partially w a stick blender

    I have a jillion veg chili entries on my blog if you want to go poke around. Here’s a summer version:

    And a version with roasted butternut squash in it:

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