Tex-Mex Chili con Frijoles
This is NOT a Beef Chili substitute. This is a delicious hearty, spicy, savory dish that happens to be vegan-friendly. This is what ALL vegan food should be. Just good food.
Serve this up for friends with tortillas or lettuce wraps and an assortment of toppings. Or pile it up on a potato, fries, or rice. Or, make a little buttery avocado and lime-cilantro-green onion salad for a little crunch and texture up on top. This will cool off the spice just a bit and create a perfect bite.
You don’t have to be vegan to eat a delicious satisfying vegan meal. …a bowl of this chili and a glass of milk = contentment. Nothing else needed.
What makes a good chili…
- Texture – To me it is not chili if there is not a combination of “meaty” stick-to-your-ribs bits and pieces and thick messy red sauce. It must be substantial enough to top a tortilla chip or compliment a soft baked potato.
- Flavor – LOTS! Aromatics – garlic, onion; spices… mmm
- Heat – There should be heat, but it has to be a layered, flavorful heat. Scoville level is optional.
- Add-ins – You can take the flavor profile in countless directions! Beer, a variety of dried chilis, chocolate, cinnamon, ALL make great chilis.
How to achieve this…
- Texture – Broken mashed chickpeas and dried chili paste. Oh my goodness! You can use other veggies too, whatever floats your boat.
- Flavor – Aromatics – garlic, onion; spices… mmm – maybe a little liquid aminos (soy sauce), liquid smoke, or chipotle in adobo to deepen flavors
- Heat – You can use dried powders if you have brands you like, or make your own. I like to make a paste from dried chilis. This brings both flavor and texture.
- Add-ins – Today, the only add-in I am using is nutritional yeast… unfortunate name, great product! It provides a huge B12 boost and a sharp cheesy flavor.
- TIME! and more TIME! Giving these flavors time to blend and develop, makes them better! Allow an hour or two on the stove-top, plus 24 hours in the fridge is optimal! Let the stove and refrigerator do the work for you.
The “beans” vs. “no beans” debate…
To me, if the base ingredient and dominant flavor is chili, it is chili. This bean-filled dish is definitely NOT Chili con Carne (chili with meat). But is is also not simple Frijoles.
So what to call this dish…
Technically, it is Chili con Tomates and Frijoles (chili with tomatoes and beans).
Alternatively, Tex-Mex Vegan Chili. The emphasis is on the flavors, beloved Tex-Mex, chilis and spice.
Or maybe, Chili ala DeeDee, because it was my friend DeeDee’s request for Mexican vegetarian food that inspired this dish.
No more semantics! In any event, this dish is filling and delicious, earns its place on the table, and would do a Vegan Texan proud! …you can choose any name which makes you happy. 🙂
Chili Paste can be made and set aside. And if you have not made your own chili paste before, don’t worry! It is embarrassingly easy! 🙂
First. let’s talk about chilis. You can find dried chilis in all varieties at your local market or a market which specializes in Mexican foods. Each has its own flavor and heat level. Later, this blog will explore this a bit more. But for this recipe, we will use three of my favorites. These are also pretty easy to find and purchase.
Left to right: Arbol, New Mexico, Ancho
Ancho peppers are dried poblanos, and my personal favorite. Bobby Flay always says that an ancho has the taste of “spicy raisins.” I think that the flavor of an ancho is what we most often associate with the flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine. Well, anchos and jalapenos, maybe. Anchos are fruity and intense, but not terribly hot. You can substitute with Mulatos, which are also poblanos.
New Mexico chilis are sweet and earthy, and when added to Ancho to make a paste, bring the dish a new flavor profile. You can substitute with another sweet chili, such as a California Chili.
Now we need some heat. Arbols do not bring fruity, sweet, or smokey flavors, but they pack heat, adding just the right third pepper flavor layer to the dish. Using just one or two in this dish will not make the chili overpoweringly hot. You can substitute with another hot chili, if desired.
If you want smokiness, throw in some chipotle in adobo.
Making Chili Paste
Cut the stems off each dried chili, and remove the seeds. This is easier to do if you use scissors, cut open, and flatten each chili. Do not rub your eyes before thoroughly washing your hands! If you are very sensitive, wear gloves.
Little trash bowl for stems and seeds.
Cutting chilis into smaller pieces will make easier work of pureeing them later.
Place dried chili pieces into a sauce pot with water. Bring to bowl and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until chili is very soft and tender.
When tender, remove chilis from water with a slotted spoon. Sometimes there is a bit of dirt and grit which settle to the bottom of the pot. Be careful to not swoosh the water around too much. Some chefs will use the chili broth; I find it a bit bitter and usually discard it.
Place reconstituted chilis into a food processor or blender. I am using a mini because of the small amount. If the amount is too small, the blades may not thoroughly puree the chilis. If needed, you can make extra chili paste and freeze what is leftover for another dish.
Set your chili paste aside. Take a moment to admire the beauty of it. 🙂
That’s it! You are done!
Tex-Mex Vegan Chili con Tomatoes and Beans
Dice, mince, and prep ingredients.
If you are using dried beans, soak them and cook them according to package directions. Save your bean broth! You will need this later.
In a large pot or dutch oven, saute onions until tender.
Add garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook for just a couple of minutes, or until fragrant. Add chili paste.
Add tomatoes and chickpeas. Using a potato masher, break up chickpeas and tomatoes until you get a consistency that you like. Cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes to develop flavor.
Add kidney beans and the rest of your ingredients, including any flavorings you like. Allow to cook for another hour or so. You are looking for developing flavors, not cooking for so long that your chili turns to mush!
Don’t forget your nutritional yeast, if you are adding this. Such a great source of B12!
Also, add broth as needed to loosen chili and create desired consistency.
Cook for an hour or so, until flavors are deepened and better developed. If desired, thicken with masa.
If you can…
Resist the urge to eat this now!
If you refrigerate it overnight, it will be even better tomorrow. The flavors will keep developing. Mmmm
When you – and the chili – are both ready, reheat and serve in bowls, topped with whatever you like!
Tex-Mex Vegan Chili
Start with this base, then make this your own, adding flavors you prefer. This is so easy. You just combine ingredients and let time do the work for you.
- 1 small-medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 t cunim
- 1 t dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- about 3/4-1 c chili paste (see below)
- 28 oz whole or diced canned tomatoes, preferably from a glass jar, bpa-free 🙂
- 3 c cooked chickpeas (garbonzo beans) = about 1 c dried chickpeas soaked overnight and simmered until tender, or 2 15 oz can, thoroughly rinsed
- 1 1/2 c cooked beans, kidney, pinto, or any kind you like = about 3/4 c dried beans soaked overnight and simmered until tender, or 1 15 oz can, thoroughly rinsed
- liquid, as needed – vegetable broth, broth from cooked beans, or water
- 1 1/2 T liquid aminos (soy sauce)
- salt and pepper, to taste; or use umeboshi plum paste, to taste
- optional: add more heat with dried chili flakes, hot sauces, or more chili paste
- optional: 2-3 T nutritional yeast, more if desired
- optional, but recommended: 2 T Masa Harina to thicken
- optional garnishes: avocado slices, green onions, cilantro, parsley, lime wedges
In a large pot or dutch oven, saute onions until tender. Add garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook for just a couple of minutes, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes, broth and chili paste, and chickpeas. Using a potato masher, break up chickpeas and tomatoes until you get a consistency that you like. Cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes to develop flavor.
If needed, add liquid to achieve desired consistency. Check periodically during cooking to see if liquid is needed.
Add kidney beans and the rest of your ingredients, including and flavorings you like. Allow to cook for another hour or so. You are looking for developed flavors, but not cooking for so long that your chili turns to mush!
At the end, add masa if desired, whisking it in to thicken liquid. This produces a great texture!
Serve in bowls and garnish as desired.
For the paste
Note: You can use any peppers you like! I use anchos because I like them; my son prefers new mexico flavors and would add more of them. He might even leave anchos out altogether. To add smokiness, include a little chipotle in adobo.
- 5-6 ancho peppers
- 4 new mexico peppers
- 3-4 arbol pepper, more if you like your chili hot
To make Paste
Cut the stems off each dried chili, and remove the seeds. This is easier to do if you use scissors, cut open, and flatten each chili. Do not rub your eyes before thoroughly washing your hands! If you are very sensitive, wear gloves. Cut chilis into smaller pieces to make them easier to puree. Place dried chili pieces into a sauce pot with water. Bring to bowl and reduce to simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until chili is very soft and tender. When tender, remove chilis from water with a slotted spoon. Place reconstituted chilis into a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
For this Vegan Chili recipe, start with 3/4 to 1 cup of your paste. Add more, if desired.
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