Greetings from a winter wonderland. Little icicles line the rooftops and the trees are encased in thick layers of dazzling ice. I’m warm and cozy inside with my family here in central Oklahoma.
We can’t be the only ones who are avoiding the grocery stores today, so I thought I’d share my new favorite vegetarian chili recipe. It’s perfect for watching football games with a crowd, since it’s a hearty meatless option that carnivores will enjoy. Plus, it can be vegan and gluten free if you choose your toppings carefully.
While the ingredients in this chili are super basic, the flavor is anything but. Simple ingredients can taste exceptional when they start off with aromatics like onion, carrot, celery and garlic. I added traditional chili spices and some smoked paprika for an extra-savory, smoky note.
Blending a small portion of the chili makes it look and taste like a chili that has been cooking all morning long, but it only needs about 30 minutes of simmering. That’s a little trick that I learned from my lentil soup, which is another cozy option for cold days. Stay warm out there and if you love this hearty soup, be sure to check out the eight soup recipes in my cookbook!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large can (28 ounces) or 2 small cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes*, with their juices
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar or lime juice, to taste
- Garnishes: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream or crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese, etc.
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika (go easy on the paprika if you're sensitive to spice) and oregano. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the drained black beans and pinto beans, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. Remove the chili from heat.
- For the best texture and flavor, transfer 1 1/2 cups of the chili to a blender and blend until smooth, then pour the blended mixture back into the pot. (Or, you can blend the chili briefly with an immersion blender, or mash the chili with a potato masher until it reaches a thicker, more chili-like consistency.)
- Add the chopped cilantro, stir to blend, and then mix in the vinegar, to taste. Add salt to taste, too—I added 1/4 teaspoon more at this point. Divide the mixture into individual bowls and serve with garnishes of your choice. This chili will keep well in the refrigerator for about 4 days (I haven't tried, but I bet it would freeze well, too).
If you love this recipe: You'll also love my butternut squash chipotle chili and sweet potato chili. You might also enjoy my hearty lentil soup and black bean soup.
*Canned tomatoes note: I recommend Muir Glen brand—they have the best flavor and their cans are BPA-free!