Easy Vegan Chili! Healthy Oil Free
Happy Fall, y’all! Fall is finally here and it’s just starting to get a little chilly at night (well, not so much in Phoenix yet, but we’ll get there!). Today we’re sharing our signature chili recipe to turn those chilly nights into CHILI nights.
You know how we like to do our recipes: simple, fast, and tasty. This one is no exception. We’re cooking ours on the stove and it’s still pretty quick but you could make it even faster in the InstantPot if you’re running short on time.
Every cook has their own signature chili recipe. There’s a reason why “Chili Cook-Offs” are a thing! Chili is one of those classic comfort foods that many of us have good memories and feelings about. It’s warm, hearty, and packed full of flavor. It’s a perfect food to tuck into on a cold autumn night. What’s not to love?
Traditionally, meat is the center ingredient in chili, which is funny because it’s the plant-based ingredients that actually give chili its characteristic flavor! A lot of people will tell you that you can’t make chili without meat or some kind of meat substitute. Don’t listen to them!
The first thing we need to do to get this chili rockin’ is to chop up some onions and peppers to saute. The smell of onions and peppers cooking is one of my favorite home scents. Why hasn’t anyone made an onion and pepper-scented candle yet?? I digress…
Dice 3 bell peppers, any color you like (we like red and green), and a large yellow onion. If you don’t feel like chopping, it’s ok! Just use frozen or pre-chopped veggies if you need that shortcut. Get those (along with a few cloves of minced garlic) in a dutch oven (or any large pot) on the stove on high heat. They will release their own liquid as they cook but if they do start to stick, just add a little water or veggie stock and give them a stir.
You really don’t need to saute your veggies in oil; oil doesn’t do much to enhance the flavor of vegetables and the little that it does really isn’t worth the calories and artery-clogging effects. Replacing the oil you use to cook with water or broth is the first (and arguably the best) hack for making the switch to a healthier, whole food plant-based diet.
The next thing we need to do while the onions and peppers are cooking is to make some chili powder. That’s right; we make our own! We don’t use storebought chili powder because making our own is so easy and it tastes so much better.
We like using the dried chili pods that we get from the Latin market. Simply pull off the tops to remove the seeds and throw them in a bullet blender (or Vitamix) and grind them down into a powder. There are many varieties of dried chili pods ranging from mild to super-hot. If you aren’t into hot and spicy foods, that’s not a problem; simply use mild chilis to get all the flavor without the heat. But you know how we roll, so yeah, our chili pods are on the spicier side!
After we grind up the chili pods, we add the other quintessential chili herbs and spices including chipotle powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano. Then, we throw in the surprise ingredients: cocoa powder and cinnamon. Wait, what? “Those don’t go in chili!”, you may say. I know it sounds strange but just a little really does a lot to deepen and enhance the flavor of the other ingredients.
Additionally, we added a little Well Your World Date Powder; the sweetness of the dates brought out the subtle flavors from the cocoa and cinnamon, giving this an incredibly well-rounded depth of flavor. Date powder works well in ANY tomato-based dish, so there’s another little tip!
Add those spices to the onions and peppers along with 3 cans of salt-free diced tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, and about a cup of corn kernels. We like the sweet crunch corn lends but if that feels a little weird to you, just leave it out. Next, add 3 cans of your favorite salt-free beans; we used a can each of pinto, black, and kidney.
You could add anything else you like at this point. Mushrooms? Sure! Diced sweet potato? We hear it’s delicious in chili. As Dillon loves to say, “The sky’s the limit”! Additionally, you can add more liquid if you prefer a soupier chili. We like thick, hearty chili you could eat with either a spoon or a fork (as Dillon does in the video) but make it your own!