It’s been a while since I’ve made a chili other than my standard, go-to Texas Red. Truth be told, that’s my favorite of all chili recipes. It takes time, but it rewards you with a mouth full of spice, subtle sweetness, and that hint of dried fruity flavor that only a variety of freshly dried chiles can give.
But today, we’re not talking about that. Because today, there’s a different sort of chili on the menu. As opposed to the all-beef version that defines the Texas Red, this is a meat-free meal. In place of beef, there are three varieties of beans, chewy, crumbly tempeh, and cubed butternut squash. It’s a hearty, belly-warming soup that’s sure to please.
You see, a number of months back, my stepdaughter Brittany has decided to stop eating meat. She still enjoys seafood from time to time, and definitely loves cheese, but no more beef, lamb or poultry for this girl. At this point, she’s old enough to start considering the ethics surrounding what she eats (honestly, she’s light years ahead of where I was at that age). While her decisions on what she feels she can eat and what she won’t differ from my own (I’m a big proponent of eating sustainably, ethically raised foods as much as we can, but don’t eliminate meat in that process.), that doesn’t mean either of us are in the wrong.
And so, we do our best to support her. It doesn’t mean I make her a completely separate meal from the rest of us. (That’s not in the budget, money or time-wise!) But we’ve talked about meals that all of us like that fit the criteria, and I’ve also pinned a lot of Vegan/Vegetarian and Seafood recipes on Pinterest. Sometimes, she just eats part of a meal that I cook (not unlike the rest of the family – living with picky eaters means often people don’t eat their vegetables!). But other times, I decide to experiment and make something new.
This vegan chili was that “something new”.
I’ve made a bean and pumpkin chili before, but this was decidedly different. I cubed the butternut squash, rather than adding a puree. I used tempeh to add another chewy, crumbly texture. And I also used canned beans, making this a speedier recipe. The result? A big, steamy pot of soul-satisfying soup. It was spicy, but not overly so, and was plenty hearty enough for a main meal that will stick with you for hours. Most of all, it was Brittany-approved!
Whether you abstain from meat, or are just looking for an alternative to your normal chili, this is a great one to keep on hand. It’s simple, and it smells amazing as it simmers on the stove. Besides, there’s nothing better than coming in from a chilly day, when your hands and feet are still half-numb, and shaking off that chill with a spicy, steamy bowl of chili.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz tempeh (if you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure the variety you buy is gluten-free)
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 cup cubed butternut squash (1/2 inch dice)
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 2-3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons chili powder (not ground chiles - you want the kind that is a blend of spices)
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 t ground chipotle chile powder
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 t dried oregano
- ½ t cayenne powder (optional - add if you want more heat)
- 1 15 oz can vegetarian chili beans
- 1 15 oz can adzuki or other red beans, drained
- 1 15 oz can white beans, such as Navy or cannellini, drained
- Salt to taste
- Shredded cheese or non-dairy cheese, for serving, if desired
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Crumble the tempeh and add to the pot. Saute for a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and butternut squash. Saute for 6-7 minutes or until softened. Add the tomato paste, vegetable stock, spices, and beans and stir until combined. Add salt to taste and stir again. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. If it gets too thick, add more stock. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Serve with shredded cheese.