The Daily Beet

17 Oct Real Deal Plant-Strong Chili with Beans

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Meet  Benjamin.  He has an incredible story and we are very glad to have him as a featured blogger on Engine 2! Check out his blog and follow his story. 

Today he is sharing a great fall chili recipe!

Real Deal Plant-Strong Chili with Beans

As a meat eater one of my favorite things to eat in the world was Texas chili con carne. You know the meat and chiles without any healthy beans to get in the way! I developed a pretty kick-ass version over the years. It combined some Mexican cooking methods that I learned from J. Wade Williams (a la Rick Bayless) and testing a few recipes from the web. The flavor breakthrough is all about using dried chiles and toasting them for maximum flavor. No chili powder from a jar!

So when I set out to convert that original recipe into a more life-sustaining dish sans the carne I knew I had to get it right. Flavor  is  of the utmost importance. But how do you get a meatless dish to taste like beef? I tried a few times and failed. I was attempting to replace the texture of chuck steak with chunk seitan. It was only mildly succesful. The real issue was not so much the mouthfeel of the seitan as much as it was the lacking in beefy flavor of the chili itself.

U my mami?

This month I finally had a breakthrough. Cook’s Illustrated wrote a piece on vegetarian chili and the tested and discussed the dilemma I have just described to you guys. How to increase that umami flavor in the chili to make it taste more savory or beefy.

I had already been on the hunt for more umami earlier this year developing the recipe. I had experimented with tomato paste and soy sauce. A friend of mine Ian had suggested I check out black garlic. That was a step in the right direction for sure.Armed with my new knowledge of umami I was ready to tackle the recipe once again.

beans in chili?

I had debated adding beans to the chili because real Texas chili has no beans. Or at least I should say chili con carne has no beans. I decided to leave out the seitan add pinto beans and bulgar for the meaty texture (another suggestion from Cook’s). I know the purist will mock me for the beans but I don’t really care. I love beans! They really are my favorite protein source. Every meal with beans leaves me feeling fuller and more satiated for a longer period of time because they take much longer to digest that other veggies. The bulgar adds a great meaty texture to the chili.

The last thing I will say to preface this recipe is that when it comes to chili I am all about the slow cooker. This process is pretty involved. Although it did get simplified a bit by the time you get everything in the pot you are ready to clean up and call it a night. That’s why I love the slow cooker. Once you get the whole pot boiling you just transfer it to the slow cooker and walk away. You come home later or wake up in the morning to the most amazing smell! Its really the only way to do this in my opinion.

Alright. Enough jibber jabber. On with the recipe.

Real Deal Plant-Strong Chili with Beans

5 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
2 large white onions diced about 2# whole or 4 cups diced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes (of fresh if in season) drained and liquid reserved
7 cups of water
2 1/2 cups of dried pinto beans, washed
1/2 oz of dried shiitake mushrooms coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
4 tablespoons of tamari/soy sauce
2/3 cup of coarse bulgar (medium coarse is ok too)
4 cloves of black garlic
3 teaspoons of white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange dried chiles on baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes until fragrant and puffed. Transfer to a plate to cool about 5 minutes. Stem and seed the chiles. If you like your chili hotter leave some seeds or pith. Grind toasted chilies, oregano, and shiitake mushrooms in a spice grinder/mortar and pestal to a fine powder. I have an immersion blender with a small food processor like attachment. That’s what I used and it worked great.

2. Process walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. About 30 seconds. Set aside.

3. Process drained tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic, and tamari until very finely chopped.

4. Heat dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Add onions and cook with lid on stirring occasionally until onions start to brown and are translucent. About 5-8 minutes. Add cumin and chili powder and cook stirring frequently 1 minute. Add beans, tomato puree, walnuts, bulgar, and water. Bring to a full rolling boil.

5. Transfer carefully to slow cooker and cook on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8. Stirring once or twice to ensure beans are submerged in liquid. Add vinegar and taste. Season with salt and pepper and serve with cilantro and green onions as garnish if desired. Depending on your chili heat you may or may not need some hot sauce as well.

*if you are watching your sodium you can reduce or eliminate the soy sauce/tamari.

Hope you enjoy it. Remember that these stews always taste better a day or two after making them.

Enjoy in health!


typed first draft with many, many revisions.
dried Guajillo chiles
grinding the chiles, shiitake, and oregano
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Benjamin has an amazing story. He says "This diet is incredible simple in structure and concept. Its very difficult to execute. We are surrounded by incredibly convenient really unhealthy food. When you make a decision to eat real food and limit your fat intake you will quickly realize that for the most part its a D.I.Y. endeavor." Learn more about him at his website: http://eatfoodasmuchasyoulikeallplants.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html

  • Rebecca Anahid Mankey
    Posted at 11:19h, 17 October

    Benjamin you Rock! Thank you for sharing and inspiring us all.

  • Jennifer Edwards
    Posted at 14:04h, 17 October

    Three questions:
    1) How much does a batch make? (I have a small ‘single person’ crock pot and may have to scale down).
    2) How much oregano?
    3) When you talk about processing garlic in step 3, does that include both types of garlic (regular and black)?

    Thanks…I have a chili cook off to attend in a few weeks, and I’m excited to give this a shot!

    • Benjamin B. Orphan Eksouzian
      Posted at 17:14h, 17 October

      The batch is pretty big. I would say 6-8 servings.4 tsp mexican oregano. just regular garlic. I add the black garlic in step 4. Clearly I need to proof these better! Thanks for the great questions and attention to detail. I will update it now. I hope you win! 🙂

      • Jennifer Edwards
        Posted at 17:36h, 18 October

        🙂 thank you! I will keep you posted.
        ps I’m (part) Armenian too so of course this will turn out great! 😉

  • Karen Thomas Pfeiffer
    Posted at 15:17h, 17 October

    I’m definitely trying your recipe. Thank you, Benjamin!

  • perchefkris
    Posted at 16:08h, 17 October

    Appreciate the recipe, Benjamin. Keep on with your healthy lifestyle. WTG! 🙂

  • Dinah
    Posted at 16:49h, 17 October

    Looks amazing! Thank You! However, I don’t see Cumin in the ingredient list, although it’s listed in the step-by-step, so . . . . help?

  • Karen
    Posted at 23:54h, 17 October

    This looks A-Mazing!! My dilemma – my husband has a gluten allergy so bulgar is a no-no. Anything else you might recommend in its place? Quinoa would totally change the flavor, I think. Buckwheat? I don’t use it enough to know. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks so much and congratulations!!

  • Sherle
    Posted at 13:31h, 19 October

    I see you are supposed to grind the oregano with the chilies and mushrooms. What kind of Oregano and how much?
    Thanks, can’t wait to try it. We could live on chili!

  • Sue
    Posted at 19:11h, 19 October

    Where can I get black garlic? I have never heard of it before.

  • Jackie F
    Posted at 15:00h, 21 October

    Benjamin, thanks so much for doing all the work and passing this on! We just made it, it’s in the slow cooker now and we’re so excited to see how it turns out. I read the comments to fill in some gaps – 4 tsp Mexican oregano and 1 TBL cumin, right? I also noticed you mentioned jalapeño in step #3 – is that just 1 jalapeño, de-seeded I’m guessing? Also, you listed 3 TBL of tomato paste in the ingredients but I didn’t see when to put it in? I’m thinking it may not matter too much? Lastly, the black garlic you listed lower in the list of ingredients – is that in addition to 4 cloves of regular garlic? And in what step is it added?

    Appreciate your help on these items. Thanks again for passing this on and best of luck to you!

  • Alli
    Posted at 19:47h, 22 October

    Benjamin, I’m making your chili tonight! Sans black garlic though… Do we sell this at Whole Foods or do I need to hit up an Asian market?

    Karen, I asked Ben the same question and he suggested coarse cornmeal (polenta) for a GF option.

  • Suzie
    Posted at 07:32h, 28 December

    How much chili powder? and I zoomed in on the original recipe and saw broth listed. Do you recommend broth? And is that what you sauté the onions in?? Thanks!

  • pj
    Posted at 15:38h, 18 January

    I don’t use nuts… walnuts… how would it effect the taste without walnuts??

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