Sunday, May 18, 2014

Vegetarian Chili:

You Don't Need Meat To Have A Good Time (That's What She Said)

I'm sorry about that title.

Chili is one of those American staples that seems to make it's way into every nook and cranny of this country. I counted the recipes online and there are 86.3 trillion of them, all different. FYI: I'm just kidding, I didn't really do that. Let's say there's a butt-load of them.

Growing up, I always loved chili day. I especially loved chili day with cornbread. I think it's the sweetness of the cornbread in contrast to the heat of the chili that appeals to my culinary sense of satiety. As an adult, I have made chili an uncountable amount of times. Every time I made it, it was pretty similar to last time I made it yet it was always completely different, if that makes sense. It's one of those dishes that I never really sat down and hammered out a recipe. Then, when I went veg, I just quit making it. Not for any reason other than the fact that I was making so many other things, it never popped onto my "must-make" list until just recently. 

Now that it's made the list, there is an elephant in the room when it comes to vegetarian chili that must be dealt with. Shall we talk about it? Majority vote (me) says yes. I don't quite understand where it was written that once you remove the meat, you had to add corn, zucchini, five different types of beans including garbanzos, etc, etc,   etc. Where in the hell did that translation come from?

To me, chili is going to be simple. Primarily beans, meat, or a combo of the two. Simple. All that extra stuff simply isn't necessary. Prior to going vegetarian, I was always a beans/meat combo fan. Obviously this recipe will have no meat so it's gonna be....umm....beancentric. However, I'm going to add finely chopped mushrooms here to give it that hearty flavor that a good chili needs. I know you don't typically see mushrooms in a chili but if you're gonna take the meat out, you kinda gotta replace it with a little sumpin' sumpin' to help fill in that gap. I'm not ashamed to say, I've become a bit of a mushroom whore over the last few years (please pardon my French). They have managed to take a stronghold in my kitchen. And they reign supreme with the exception their one and only arch-enemy, my wife. 

I know I'm reaching off topic here, but as I write this post, I am reminded of this weird little chick who peddles organic mushrooms at the local farmers markets. I say she's weird because she really is. I calls 'em as I sees 'em. She won't make eye contact with you but she will rattle on, all the while looking at your feet, about how the mushrooms are grown, spewing little factoids about mushrooms that the lay person would not even know about or even care about, for that matter. I think she's the 'Shroom Whisperer. It amazes me how engrossed I am by this person who won't look at me. I reckon it's because I have a strong sense of her passion. She is truly in love with her mushrooms and I can't do anything but admire that. Let it be known, I'm her fan and I'll buy her mushrooms any day of the week. If you can find someone who has such passion about mushrooms, my advice would be to keep them as near to you as you possibly can.  

Vegetarian Chili


  • 4 Tbsp oil, divided (I used peanut oil)
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, finely diced (I used Portobellos but you can use cremini or baby bellas)
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (you can also use 2 cups water with one Knorr vegetable bouillon cube)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsps salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 jalapenos, finely diced (optional)
  • 3 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • chopped onion (for garnish)
  • chopped cilantro (for garnish)


1. Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they begin to brown, approximately 4 minutes. Remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. 

2. Add remaining 2 Tbsp to the same pot over a medium high heat and add the celery, bell pepper and onion. Saute for about 4 minutes until they are soft. Then add the garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes until veggies begin to brown. 

3. Add the mushrooms back to the pot. Then add the next 10 ingredients up to and including the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  

4. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 - 40 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. If it gets to thick, just add water to your desired consistency.

5. Serve with onion and cilantro sprinkled on top. Preferably with a nice corn bread on the side. 

Serves: 4 (at my house, it serves 3)