As a vegetarian, I’ve tried quite a few versions of veggie chili in my days, and this one is my absolute favorite. It holds such depth and complexity in the flavor, and it makes a super satisfying meal, even to the meat-and-potatoes crowd. It’s easily adaptable for vegans (just a couple ingredients to omit), and this recipe is great for parties because it makes enough to feed a crowd. Freeze half for a quick meal another time — it’ll taste even better than the first time around!
Hearty Vegetarian Chili
(recipe based on Mike’s Black Eye Chili from the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup)
- 1/3 oil (olive, sunflower, or canola work well)
- 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
- 2 large red onions, halved and sliced
- 1/2 cup dried black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
- 1/2 cup dried pinto beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
- 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
- 1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
- 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1/2 cup dried lentils
- 3 cups chopped tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can)
- 1 12-oz. bottle of beer — use whatever kind you like to drink, however, I don’t recommend beers that are very light or very dark. My favorite in this recipe is Yuengling.
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
Spices: alter this according to your tastes.
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne)
- sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- chopped cilantro
- avocado slices
- fresh lime juice
- chopped scallions
Pre-cook any dry beans that you are using. First soak them overnight in salted water. Drain and rinse them. Then cook them in water at a 3:1 ratio of water to beans for about 1 hour. A sprinkling of salt and a splash of oil can be added to the cooking beans, if you so desire. The salt will enhance the flavor, and the oil will help prevent the beans from foaming and boiling over while cooking. Test them to be sure that they are almost done. It’s okay if they’re not completely cooked because they will finish cooking in the chili.
Prep all your vegetables. Measure out all your spices into a small bowl and stir to combine. Heat oil in a large soup or stock pot. Add garlic, onions, and 2 teaspoons of the mixed spices. When the onions have softened slightly (after 3-5 minutes), stir in the wine, and allow the alcohol to burn off. Add the jalapeño pepper, bell peppers, and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beer, honey, lentils, one cup of water, beans, corn, and the rest of the spice mixture and bring to a slow simmer. Stir in the chocolate and cilantro. Taste and add more seasoning, if needed. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Stir the chili occasionally, and add more water if it gets too thick. Remove from heat, and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to properly mix.
Eat this alone or over rice, and add the garnishes as you see fit. If desired, add more heat by using 1 chopped habañero pepper, or by adding more cayenne powder.
Tip: there is no one ingredient that will make or break this recipe. Only two varieties of bell peppers or beans instead of three? No biggie. No beer? Just add more water and increase the spices. Conversely, you can add more of any ingredient that you like. This chili is very adaptable.
Background: I found this recipe in a book called the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup. Somehow I was fortunate enough to get on a mailing list during a chili recipe contest being conducted by Philip Morris around 2000 or 2001, and I was sent this book for free. The book contains 50 of the top recipes that had been submitted by people from all over, including 7 that are vegetarian (see the photo of the index page below). If you come across this book online, don’t hesitate to buy it, or if you want more info about it or a copy of one of the other recipes it contains, contact us at email@example.com.