There are several chili recipes in my archives, but not too many vegan versions. I am an unapologetic omnivore, who happens to recognize the environmental and health benefits of a plant forward diet, however. So, my weekly menu always features more vegetarian meals than meat-based ones. The ratio usually floats between 5:2 or 4:3, with veg always in the lead. Mostly, I practice this type of diet for practical budget reasons, because purchasing meats from either the organic, grass fed section or from my local butcher shop means exceptional quality ingredients sourced from local farms, with a bit higher price tag than the cheap, mass produced Perdue, Smithfield, or Tyson options. The way I see it tho, before CAFO’s were the norm, people ate meat as an occasional luxury, not three times a day, seven days a week. So, that’s how I try to keep things at home with my cooking, which means I usually reserve our meat-based meals for my favorite, true-to-my-roots dishes, like chili. This week however, I have a surplus of vegetables on hand (yet again another shout out to Misfit Market) and so vegan chili it is. This smokey Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili is incredibly delicious, packed with protein, and just absolutely delicious….wait, did I say that already? In fact, it is so delicious that this Texas native didn’t miss the carne at all!
With everything going on globally, nationally, and locally these days, comfort foods are a lifesaver for me right now, and so, I chose to ladle my chili over a serving of Trader Joe’s Organic Corn Dippers and top it off with shredded cheddar, diced onion, and jalapeno. I’ve had dozens and dozens of servings of Frito Pie back in my early Texas days, at baseball games, football games, church potlucks, around bonfires, lakes, and swimming pools. It’s just one of those nostalic dishes that sweeps me up in the ugliest most delicious food hug a person can get. Not into Frito Pie? No worries, as this chili will taste scrumptions over cornbread, rice, or even spaghetti, if that’s what you’re into. Right now, in particular, seems a good time to show off how versatile veggies can be so I hope you give a bowl of vegan chili a chance! And, if you decide to eat it with corn chips, I won’t tell!
Note: Whenever I make chili, I make a double batch, as leftovers just keep tasting better, and in my sweetest Annelle Dupuy voice, “It freezes beautifully.” So, cut this recipe in half otherwise.
2 cups black beans
2 cups sweet potatoes, diced
1 dried chipotle chili
1 dried guajillo chili
1 dried chili morita
1/4 cup chili powder, divided
1/4 cup cumin powder, divided
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 – 3 cups water
3/4 cup dark beer, optional
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp Masa flour, if needed as a thickening agent
In a cast iron skillet over med high flame, toast the dried chilies until they are just softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the toasted chilies to sm/med bowl and pour very hot water over the top of them. Steep the chilies in the hot water until they are completely soft, about 15 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the chilies and discard the stems and seeds. Strain the soaking liquid through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Add the steeping liquid and the soaked chilies to a Ninja or blender. Puree until a very smooth, wet paste is formed. Set aside.
To a slow cooker, add the black beans, sweet potatoes, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, half the chili powder, half the cumin powder, salt and pepper. Set the cooker to the HIGH setting. Add in two cups of water, the chili puree, and beer, if using. Stir until well combined. Cook on high about two hours. Add the remaining chili and cumin powder and continue to cook on high about two hours more, adding an additional cup of water, if necessary. Reduce the setting to LOW, taste the chili, and adjust seasonings as desired. Continue to cook an additional two to three hours more. Add 1 tsp of Masa flour at the end, if a thicker consistency is desired. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve the chili with any of your favorite sides and garnishes.
Note: I like to start my chili a day in advance, leave it to marry in the fridge overnight, then bring it back up to temperature just before dinner the next day. This really imparts a very complex flavor to the chili with minimal effort. Bon appetit!