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Why This Recipe Works

We wanted to develop a vegan version of classic chili so satisfying that meat lovers would enjoy it. We’d need to find replacements for the different ways that meat adds depth. Along with two kinds of beans, bulgur bulked up the chili. A combination of umami-rich ingredients—soy sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, and tomatoes—added deep, savory flavor. Walnuts are also high in flavor-boosting glutamates; when we ground some and stirred them in, they contributed richness and body. For the chiles, we chose a combination of dried ancho and New Mexican chiles, toasted them in the oven until fragrant, and then ground them and added them in.

Serves 6 to 8

To substitute chili powder for the dried chiles, grind the shiitakes and oregano and add them to the pot with ¼ cup of chili powder in step 4. We recommend a mix of at least two types of beans, one creamy (such as cannellini or navy) and one earthy (such as pinto, black, or red kidney). When shopping, don’t confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which has a much longer cooking time and will not work in this recipe. For a spicier chili, use both jalapeños. Serve the chili with lime wedges, dairy-free sour cream, diced avocado, and chopped red onion, if desired.

Salt
1 pound (2½ cups) assorted dried beans, picked over and rinsed
2 dried ancho chiles
2 dried New Mexican chiles
½ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarse
4 teaspoons dried oregano   
½ cup walnuts, toasted
1 (28‐ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1–2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and chopped coarse
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 pounds onions, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
⅔ cup medium‐grind bulgur
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 de­grees. Spread anchos and New Mexican chiles on rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and puffed, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate, let cool for 5 minutes, then remove stems and seeds. Working in batches, grind toasted chiles, mushrooms, and oregano in spice grinder until finely ground.

3. Process walnuts in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds; transfer to bowl. Process tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapeño(s), soy sauce, and garlic in food processor until tomatoes are finely chopped, about 45 seconds.

4. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and 1¼ teaspoons salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in ground chile mixture and cumin, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in beans and 7 cups water and bring to boil. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 45 minutes.

5. Stir in bulgur, walnuts, tomato mixture, and reserved tomato juice. Continue to cook, covered, until beans are fully tender, about 2 hours. Remove pot from oven, stir well, and let stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro before serving.

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