A creative mix of beans, vegetables, grains and spices can produce a vegan Three Bean Chili that satisfies even devout carnivores.
It began as an amateur effort to duplicate a local restaurant’s version of vegan chili at home, beginning with the name and a hearty sample at lunch. Some elements were obvious (kidney beans, onions, ground cumin) but some were guesses, and a few were personal additions and modifications for taste.
By default, the recipe starts with three varieties of beans. Kidney, black and pinto are used here for contrast, but any three types can be used as long as they provide a noticeable difference in color and size. Navy beans, mung beans, Great Northern beans, even lima beans or fava beans will work. Avoid peas or green beans, as their shapes and textures are too dissimilar.
The choice of peppers is also flexible with canned, smaller green chiles used here for a mild flavor to contrast a bolder, fresh poblano. Likewise, as long as the basic “chili” spice palate is covered (garlic, cumin, oregano), other fresh herbs or customizations will work just fine. Round this out with tomatoes and onion, and you have your basic meatless chili.
Two ingredients here make all the difference in this recipe. The first is quinoa, a South American grain (actually a protein-rich pseudocereal) that has gained recent popularity in the West as a trendy “superfood.” When cooked, the quinoa softens with still a toothsome quality like oats or rice–both good substitutes–to provide a meaty body for the dish.
The second critical ingredient is smoked paprika, an investment well worth making. Far more flavorful than the ordinary paprika found in the spice aisle, this ground spice has been dry-smoked over a fire much like barbecue brisket, picking up many of the same flavor elements. For a meatless dish, this one element can go a long way in covering its absence.
Serve with vegan-appropriate sides (yogurt, breads, crackers) or fresh crudités.
Three Bean Chili
15-oz can kidney beans
15-oz can pinto beans
15-oz can black beans
14.5-oz can tomatoes (diced)
4-oz can green chiles
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
½ c quinoa
2 c vegetable broth
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin
½ T oregano
½ t smoked paprika
1 Chop the onion and poblano, and mince the garlic. Sauté in a little oil until soft, about 5 min.
2 Add the quinoa and stir to coat, toasting lightly for 1-2 min. Work in each of the spices in turn. Deglaze with the vegetable broth
3 Add the green chiles and tomatoes. Drain and rinse each can of beans and add to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, about 15 min.
4 Finely chop the cilantro and stir in at the end. Season to taste.