A couple of weekends ago, we hosted a chili cookoff at our house. It was started by Jeff and a few of his friends and is still going strong after 18 years. This isn’t just any chili cookoff, these people are serious. Most entrants can name every winner for at least the last ten years. They remember the worst chilies, calling them names like “dirty soup” and “Slider.” There are t-shirts from past chili cookoffs and compilation videos. And once a year, they
wreck descend on our house to compete for the coveted trophy and the honor of being named chili champion.
I just stopped eating meat 10 months ago, so this was my first cookoff as a vegetarian. I asked Jeff if anyone had ever made a meatless variety. “Uh well, I don’t think so. Not that I can remember anyway.” Ok, now I was really up to the challenge. These people don’t know what they’ve been missing. I had made a couple of different chilies last Fall, experimenting with pumpkin, TVP, different kinds of beans, etc. I started doing some more research (Pinteresting) and combined/added to a few different recipes for the perfect veggie chili. Jeff tasted it before everyone showed up for the party. “That’s pretty good.” Uh yeah, I know. It tasted just as good, if not better than most of the chilis that I could remember. I’ve got this. I even had a speech prepared for when I won. “Thank you so much for the award… THERE IS NO MEAT IN THAT CHILI, SUCKAS!”
There is a panel of judges who decide on the winner and runner up, and then everyone else at the party can vote for their favorite to receive the “People’s Choice” award. After the votes are tallied, Jeff announces the winners, but not before he tells everyone who received the lowest score, or the worst chili in the bunch. I think you know where I’m going with this. “…And this year the Last Place Chili award goes to…ugh, I don’t want her to get mad. My wife.” What?! This can’t be. Twelve chilies and the judges actually thought mine was the worst?! Even worse than the dirty soup?! Remember when I said people always remember the worst chilies? Yeah, that’s great. I wonder what my chili is going to be called for the next 10+ years? Actually, I did receive some nice compliments afterwards, but they were followed by, “Yeah, you just don’t make veggie chili for the cookoff. Everyone knows that,” or “it was really good, but it didn’t have any meat in it.” For a minute, I thought about making a veggie chili again next year with a side of pork or something, but I doubt that will happen. I’m no sell out.
Anyway, make the dang chili. I promise it is delicious.
It does have tempeh (fermented soybean) in it, which gives it that ground beef texture. By the way, is anyone else freaked out by the word “fermented?”
Last Place Vegetarian Chili
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
1 tbsp olive oil (or your preferred cooking oil)
8 oz pkg tempeh (I use multi grain or flax. The soy variety is a little too bitter for me)
1 green pepper diced
1 med. yellow onion diced
1 celery stalk diced
1 carrot diced
4 cloves garlic
2-3 chipotles in Adobe diced
1 serrano pepper (or 2-3 if you want it spicier), seeds and veins removed and diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Few turns of freshly ground black pepper
15 oz can black beans
15 oz can dark red kidney beans
15 oz can pinto beans
28 oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes, diced and sauce reserved
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup beer (I used Falls City)
Optional garnishes: shredded cheddar, cilantro, green onion, sour cream or Greek yogurt
Heat oil on medium heat and saute the tempeh for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove from pot and set aside. Add green pepper, onion, celery and carrot, and cook until vegetables have softened, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and peppers and cook for 1 minute more. Crumble the tempeh and add it back to the pot. Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Drain the liquid from the beans and add them with the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato sauce, vegetable broth and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Add salt and additional heat if needed. Remove bay leaves before serving.