Some vegetarian chilis are watered down, rather non-cohesive, and lack that savory heft of meat chili.
This vegetarian chili is everything but.
I was on the search for a veggie chili that could stand up to its meaty counterparts, and I found it. It's loaded with nutritious ingredients that deliver on both flavor and texture, like lentils, soy chorizo, and creamy beans. By the way, I absolutely love lentils and had never thought to put them in a chili until now. It adds an earthy, chewy depth I'm officially hooked on.
On a side note, one trick I use to make my chilis delightfully thick is to stir in refried beans. I didn't use that method here, but I still wanted to pass it along in case you want a foolproof short cut in time for Super Bowl Sunday.... It works every time, whether in beef, turkey, or veggie chilis.
Enjoy getting creative with this chili -- use the basic method but feel free to adjust the spice level, toppings, and even bean types, to what you enjoy the most. After all, the fun of cooking is in the flexibility, and the joy of eating is in the comfort of having exactly what you crave the most.
Pumped-Up Vegetarian Chili: serves 8-10
4 dried de-arbol chiles
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 large red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
28 oz. diced tomatoes in juice
4 T. tomato paste
4 cups water
2 T. cornstarch
1-2 jalepeno chiles
8 oz. dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 package of soy chorizo (I prefer Trader Joe's brand)
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. ground cumin
optional: fresh chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese for topping
Heat a large pot over medium heat, then add the chiles and walnuts and toast until fragrant and the chiles have gently puffed. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove tops and inside seeds from the chiles. Add the chiles, oregano, and walnuts to a spice grinder and grind finely. Meanwhile, heat 1/8 cup oil in the pot, then add the red onion and cook until soft and golden, then add the garlic and stir, 1 minute. Push the onions and garlic to one side of the pot. Add the final 1/8 cup oil to the empty space, then pour the spice mixture into the oil, allowing the flavors to bloom in the oil, 1 minute, then stir together with the onions and garlic. Add the bell pepper and saute 2-3 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 T. cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the water to make a slurry. Pour this, as well as the remaining 3.5 cups of water, into the pot. Add the jalepenos and lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the lentils are soft but still have a slight bite to the edges, about 35-40 minutes. Add in the corn, chickpeas, canellini beans, soy chorizo, soy sauce, and cumin. Stir to incorporate and cover to bring back to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve with toppings of choice.