If you count yourself as a millennial, you probably need another vegetarian chili recipe like a hole in the head. How rich would we all be if we had a dollar for every dingy apartment potluck we’d ever been to that was being propped up by an enormous pot of veggie chili surrounded by a food bank’s worth of empty legume cans? SO RICH.
This chili resembles your student dinner chili in looks alone, but distinguishes itself as soon as the first spoonful hits your (now matured/discerning) taste buds. Boasting a bizarre ingredient list that includes Marmite, soy sauce, homemade chile paste, and instant cornmeal (not to mention the KILLER toppings that, as with all chili, are what make the chili an exciting meal and not just a slog through a giant bowl of stew), this chili sets itself apart from its peers with the same vehemence as a millennial forging their hipster path of uniqueness.
Vegetarian Tex-Mex Chili
Adapted slightly from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (The Food Lab)
2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried morita or ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
1 cup good-quality vegetable broth
2 14-oz cans chickpeas, liquid reserved
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, liquid reserved
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo + 2 tbsp sauce (all from the same can), chiles chopped finely
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely grated
2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Marmite (yes, Marmite – it’s truly not as gross as everyone makes it out to be)
2 14-oz cans red kidney beans, liquid reserved
2 tbsp bourbon (vodka will also do the trick)
2-3 tbsp instant cornmeal (such as Maseca)
Cubed avocado + crumbled corn chips + sour cream + grated cheese + cilantro leaves + diced red onion + sliced jalapeños + chopped scallions, to serve (Do them all! Get that texture!)
Tear the dried chiles into 1-inch pieces. Toast the chile pieces in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, flipping frequently to avoid burnt patches. Avoid blackening the chiles as this gives a more acrid taste to the chili – this is easier said than done as the pasillas and moritas are dark and therefore make it hard to tell when they’re burning. The chiles will take about 2-3 minutes to toast, during which they will give off an INTENSE aroma that can be quite irritating for those with sensitive airways. Open some windows and take the chiles off the heat if you need to step outside for a moment. Add the vegetable broth to the chiles and simmer until the liquid has slightly reduced and the chiles have softened. Transfer the chiles and broth to a blender and blend, starting at the lowest speed and working your way up to the highest speed. Make sure you take the lid off every 5-10 seconds or so to allow some of the steam to release (or take the little top out of the blender lid and hold a paper towel over the hole to avoid splattering while blending). Blend the chiles and broth until a very smooth paste has formed, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed to incorporate any larger flecks of chile. Set the chile paste aside to cool.
Pour 1 can of chickpeas (drained, liquid reserved) into a food processor and pulse until just roughly chopped, about 3-5 quick pulses. Place in a large bowl along with the remaining can of whole chickpeas (drained, liquid reserved). Set aside. In a separate large bowl or large measuring cup, combine the reserved chickpea liquid with the canned tomatoes and their juices, breaking up the tomatoes into rough chunks with your hands. Add in the chipotles and their sauce along with ½ cup of the reserved chile paste. Set aside.
Set a large deep pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pour in the vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently until softened and lightly golden brown (~5 minutes). Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano, then cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the soy sauce and Marmite, cooking for another 30 seconds. Pour in the chickpea liquid-tomato mixture and stir well. Pour in the reserved chickpeas (chopped and whole) along with the (drained) kidney beans. At this point, all of the legumes should just be submerged in liquid. If this is not the case, pour in the reserved kidney bean liquid (I know it seems hideous to do so, but just bear with me here). Bring the whole mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. If the chili thickens too much or begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, add some vegetable broth or water. The finished product should be thick and rich.
Once the cooking time is up, leave the chili on the heat and stir in the bourbon. Season the chili GENEROUSLY with salt and pepper. I mean it – don’t go to all the trouble of making this chili if you’re not going to season it up properly. Go wild. Whisk in the instant cornmeal in a slow steady stream – slowly letting the chili thicken up a bit after each tbsp addition (I used all 3 tbsp, but you can play it by ear if your chili is already quite thick). For best results, let the chili cool, then refrigerate and reheat the next day. Like so many stews and hearty dishes, this chili gets better with time. Regardless of when you’re serving it, don’t forget the garnishes! Spoon the chili into deep bowls or mugs and garnish the shiiiiiiiit out of it.