Healthy and Hearty: Vegetarian Three-Bean Chipotle Chili

three bean chiliAlthough I’m trying my best to eat more vegetables and less butter and meat, during these short, frigid days and long, chilly evenings I crave stick-to-your-ribs food of the stewy, braised, baked-under-layers-of-cheese sort. I want carbs, and warmth, and heft. I want mashed potatoes and mac & cheese. Unfortunately, man (nor woman) cannot live on mashed potatoes and mac & cheese alone. Although I’ve certainly tried.

This dense, substantial chili is bean-based, its flavor intensified by a long cooking process, smoky chipotle chiles, and if I can manage it, an overnight stay in the refrigerator. Time gives flavors a chance to meld, and the texture tends to thicken and morph into something that will stay heaped on your spoon. As a carnivore, I can honestly say I don’t even miss the meat. It’s fantastic over a split baked potato.

Start with dried, simmered beans if you like, but canned are fine if you haven’t planned ahead. Just make sure you drain them well, and rinse them too if you want to get rid of most of the sodium. Chili freezes well, so is ideal to make in large batches to stash away for good-for-you fast food on a chilly evening down the road.

Vegetarian Three-Bean Chipotle Chili

If you don’t have chipotle chili en adobo, add a chopped jalapeño pepper, a good pinch of cayenne or a glug of spicy salsa.

canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 large onion, chopped
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder (or to taste)
1-2 tsp. chopped chipotle chili en adobo
1 tsp. cumin
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can black beans, drained
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can red or white kidney beans
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chickpeas, drained
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can diced tomatoes
1/2 small can tomato paste (or a couple heaping spoonfuls)

sour cream, chopped avocado, grated cheese, chopped green onion and/or chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Toss everything but the garnishes into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Alternatively, saute the onions, pepper and garlic in a drizzle of oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat, add everything else, bring to a simmer, turn the heat down and cook for an hour, or until thick. Chili is always better the next day – if you like, cool and refrigerate it, then reheat the pot or individual servings.

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