Are there certain foods that remind you specifically of a certain occasion or event? For me, chili is all about Halloween. My mom makes a huge pot of chili every year on Halloween, and when I smell those spices simmering with tomatoes and beans, I can just feel that giddy excitement that comes with trick-or-treating. Chili is great fuel for a late night of candy-binging, and it’s a huge crowd pleaser because it’s totally customizable. This chili is inspired by my mom’s, and it’s a recipe that I mastered while I was in college. It’s crazy cheap (like, less than $3 a serving) and it’s a great way to entertain/feed a bunch of people on a cool night (right before you go trick-or-treating)! Also, as a bonus, it’s vegan (before toppings).
The secret to this chili is Boca Burgers. They’re made of soy, and although I wouldn’t slap one on a bun and be satisfied with it, they have a texture that can be really great in place of ground beef. Plus, they’re way cheaper and vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Also, I use canned tomatoes, beans, and corn. It’s just easier.
The one thing that I really don’t scrimp on are the spices. I use 10 different spices total, which can be a pretty serious investment. But, some of them are optional. I can’t really highly recommend the pre-made spice packs, but in a pinch, they will do. Just be aware that the sodium content is through the roof and they also include things that I can’t pronounce, which isn’t great. If you can, make your own spice mix. Mine includes salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, ground red pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin, basil, and (secret ingredient alert) a little smoked paprika.
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 original vegan meatless Boca Burgers (one package)
1/2 bottle beer
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 small can corn
1 large can diced tomatoes (with no added flavoring or sugar)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like things extra spicy)
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (more if you like things extra spicy)
plain greek yogurt (it’s just like sour cream!)
grated cheddar cheese
Start by dicing the onion and green pepper and mincing the garlic. Then, sweat those things in a little oil on medium heat in the bottom of the pot you’ll be cooking the chili in. When the veggies are translucent, push them to the sides of the pot and lay the thawed boca burgers on the bottom of the pot. Break up the burgers with a wooden spoon until the pieces are small. By the time you’re done doing this, there should be a lot of burger sticking to the bottom of the pot. Before it burns, pour about a half a beer into the pot and scrape the bottom.
The mixture in the pot will be a little wet at this point, and that’s okay. Now is when you’ll add all the spices. Let that simmer for a few minutes until it starts to reduce, then add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, and corn. Stir well.
Let this mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for as long as you can wait. Taste the chili as it cooks, adding more salt, pepper, or chili powder as you see fit.
Serve the chili in deep bowls and allow people to choose their own toppings. Make sure the cheddar is sharp–and grate your own! Include green onions and avocado for anyone who wants to keep their chili vegan, and be sure there’s sour cream or greek yogurt. I made cornbread muffins this time (which are perfect in the bottom of the bowl), but tortilla chips are also really fun. Serve the chili with more of the beer that you cooked it with.
This chili is one of the meals that made me love cooking for lots of people. It’s easily doubled and will easily satisfy everyone from the picky vegan to the meat-lovingest dude you can find. It’s best eaten standing up in the kitchen in a sweater and wool socks, hands wrapped around the bowl for warmth, and close to people you love. Happy Fall, Y’all!