A few days ago, a friend posted an inquiry on Facebook seeking crock pot recipes. I instantly thought of my totally vegan chili recipe, which I always simmer for hours in my crock pot. I thought about what I typically put in the chili and concluded that it’s the tomatoes and spices that make it chili; the beans and vegetables could really be anything. Thus, a new fresh formula—now housed under Square Meals—was born.
This formula is inspired by the spice blend in my mother’s meat chili, a dish I absolutely loved growing up. She now makes her chili vegan, too, often getting creative with her vegetables. She used sweet potatoes in her last batch, which I happened to be in Michigan to taste. Boy was it yummy!
Making this formula work for you will depend on how spicy or sweet (or both) you like your chili, so you’ll see some flexibility in how you prepare it. Consider beans and/or lentils that are on sale, that work well together, and of course, that you enjoy. Call on vegetables that are in season and whenever possible, organic.
A well-stocked spice cabinet should ensure that you’re ready to make this chili at any time. By “any time,” I mean just before you go to bed or leave for work, as it cooks slowly over many hours. It is quite often my go-to dinner when I’m craving something warm and filling and I’m low on veggies, since beans are really the star here.
A note about canned tomatoes: I recently read that canned tomatoes are among one of the most dangerous foods that one can purchase. The high acid level in the tomatoes causes them to eat away at the can’s interior, exposing them to dangerous BPA. As always, starting with fresh is a little more work, but better for you.
Canned beans, on the other hand, I’m okay with, so long as the can contains beans ONLY…no added sodium, spices, or fats.
Finally, rather than cheese or sour cream, I sometimes top this chili with crumbled homemade vegan cornbread, broken tortilla chips, cilantro, green onions, or a squeeze of lime juice… or, I just eat it plain – it’s that good. It also makes for a delicious addition to a burrito or other Latin or southwestern dish. Enjoy!
FORMULA BASE: CHILI
- 6 cups cooked beans and/or lentils –> I’m using 2 cups each of black, kidney, and pinto beans.
- 1-1 ¼ lbs tomatoes –> I’m using 6 roma tomatoes.
- Approximately 4-4 ½ cups vegetables –> I’m using one green bell pepper, one yellow onion, and ½ cup frozen corn.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp dried minced onions
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried cilantro
- Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I’m using ½ tsp salt and no ground pepper.
- Sweetener to taste (optional) –> I’m using 2 tbsp agave syrup. I like a little sweetness to balance out the spices and acidity of the tomatoes.
- Cayenne pepper to taste (optional) –> Not for me – I’m a wimp. 🙂
Set your crock pot to low. Coarsely chunk your tomatoes and place in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and pour into crock pot. It will look orange/pinkish and frothy right now, but will cook down and deepen in color with time and spices.
Dice and add all veggies. Mince and add garlic.
Add all spices, seasonings, and sweeteners, if using.
Drain and rinse beans/lentils (if necessary) and add to the crock pot.
Fill any remaining space in the crock pot with water to your thickness preference*. I fill my crock pot almost to the top, knowing that it will reduce a bit.
I keep the crock pot lid slightly ajar to allow for slow evaporation and ultimately, a thicker chili, but keep the crock pot completely covered for a soupier dish. Simmer for 8-10 hours, depending on the power of your crock pot.
*ALTERNATIVE IDEA: Add only enough additional water to cook your veggies through and create a super thick warm bean dip rather than a chili. A new party favorite with tortilla chips!