Do you smell that? That’s the smell of fall — the crisp scent of leaves turning color, the sweet, musty end of summer, and the wafting of warm spices bubbling away on the stove. Chili is pure comfort on a cold day, and this recipe is no exception. Classic, no-frills, and absolutely satisfying.
Even without the meat, this chili packs plenty of flavor. I wouldn’t call this a copycat recipe, but I was strongly influenced by the vegetarian chili at the Whole Foods hot bar, which I’ve been kind of addicted to. Turns out, making it from scratch is a whole lot cheaper (go figure, the WF hot bar isn’t known for being budget friendly) and I can have it ready in about the same amount of time it would take me to get in my car and go there. Okay, maybe not quite… but it’s close, and afterward I’m rewarded with a pot of chili big enough to feed a small army. Or me, when I’m really, really hangry.
Chili is pretty much the ultimate in leftovers. It freezes well, reheats flawlessly, and actually gets better as the flavors sit and mingle. My mother used to fill her sixteen quart stock pot right to the brim whenever she made a batch of chili, and we’d have delicious, hearty dinners for months.
Since I’m going to be gone for a few days, this seemed like the perfect thing to make a big batch of and leave in the fridge for The Husband while I’m away. (The man is a fantastic cook, but I swear, I once left him on his own for a weekend and came home to find he had survived solely on ice cream and tortilla chips the entire time.)
He likes his chili piled high on a potato, then topped off with plenty of cheddar cheese. Me? I like mine with all the toppings I can get — red onion, cheese, cilantro, bell pepper, avocado, plain greek yogurt (which I like to use in place of sour cream, since I always have it on hand anyway), you name it — with a side of tortilla chips to scoop it all up. I wouldn’t say no to a helping of this jalapeno cheddar cornbread with caramelized onions to go along with, either.
What are your favorite chili add-ons? Are you a purist, or do you like lots of toppings like I do? Let me know in the comments below. (I asked this same question on facebook recently, and one of you said, “macaroni and cheese” — to which I say, you, sir, are a genius.)
- 3-4 TBSP olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into half rounds
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 jalapenos, seeds and veins removed, finely diced
- 1 TBSP dried oregano
- 2½ tsp. chili powder
- 1½ tsp. cumin
- ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. finely ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder*
- 1 cup frozen sweet corn
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Salt, to taste
- Toppings of choice: cilantro, sour cream (or plain greek yogurt), red onion, avocado, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, etc.
- In a large soup pot or dutch oven (big enough to hold at least 6 quarts), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion has just started to soften. Add the garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeno, and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the oregano, chili powder, cumin, paprika, black pepper, bay leaves, and a big pinch of salt, and cook for another 1-2 minutes to toast the spices.
- Add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, all of the beans, and the unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer, covered, for 45-50 minutes.
- Remove the lid, and stir in the sweet corn and cilantro, if using. Season with salt to taste, and if you prefer your chili on the spicy side, adjust the level of heat by adding cayenne pepper, more chili powder, or your favorite hot sauce.
- Serve as is, or with your favorite toppings. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for several months.