Growing up, my mom made two things that really rocked: meatballs and chili. Surprisingly, she wasn’t even a beef person, really, but she cooked it damn well. Her ingredients were simple and her recipes weren’t complicated. I think the secret to her success was her crockpot.
Oh, the crockpot. It was such a glorious day when I inherited that crockpot from her (when I moved out). Along with it, she gave me her recipes for those two marvelous things she made. And soon, I too became good at cooking meatballs and chili.
But the day came when I became vegan, and I gave up my meatball and chili dreams…
… until now.
I had lost all hope until I visited one of my favorite local vegan restaurants, Dandelion Communitea Café. They feature a “famous chili,” vegan of course, yet it had a curious ingredient I had never had before: ~TEMPEH~
At the time, I was baffled. Especially when I went to the store and checked the packaging. What the heck (keeping it nice) is this stuff? It looks like a brain, I thought.
Of course, now, I know tempeh pretty well, as most vegans do. It’s a great beef substitute. It’s firm, has a nutty flavor, and can be sliced into strips, diced into chunks, or ground up. It’s perfect for chili.
Unfortunately for me, since I’m in Mississippi on vacation, I don’t have my crockpot. ☹
So I did it the old-fashioned way and put a big pot on the stove, which is OKAY, I GUESS. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a crockpot, lug that thing out of the shadows and put it to work!
Gluten-Free Tempeh Chili
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time – 4 hours
Yield – 4-6 servings
- 1 package of tempeh (8oz)
- 1 15oz can stewed tomatoes, halved
- 1 can of white beans
- 1 can of kidney beans (dark or light)
- 1 cup of onions, chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 packet/mix of chili
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs fresh or dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- salt/pepper to taste
- ¼ cup celery
- ¼ cup carrots
- ½ cup green/yellow/red pepper
- 1 avocado, sliced (garnish)
- a dollop of vegan sour cream (garnish)
- tortilla chips (as a pairing)
STEP 1: Start cutting up your tempeh into diced pieces. I love cutting tempeh because I feel like I can make the perfect little squares out of it! Throw it in a bowl with 2 tbs olive oil and the oregano, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Mix it up with your hands.
STEP 2: Heat a skillet to medium-low heat with 2 tbs olive oil. Once heated, throw the tempeh in the skillet for 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Watch it carefully, as it can burn easily. When finished, place chili in your crockpot or a big pot on your stove.
WARNING: Tempeh tends to get a bit crumbly when you’re cooking. Those little crumbles will become burnt while the rest of your tempeh is still cooking. Do NOT add those burnt pieces to your chili, as it will give your chili a bitter taste.
STEP 3: Rinse and drain your beans.
As for your stewed tomatoes, we want those tomato juices in our chili, so don’t drain the stewed tomatoes! A personal preference of mine is to cut them in half, but my mother would tell you otherwise. Do as you want with them.
Dump everything in the pot when finished. Use your stewed tomato can to add water to your chili. Fill up your can twice and pour it in the pot.
STEP 4: Cut up your garlic, onion, & optionals!
Chili is awesome because you can really throw in any kind of vegetable you’ve got laying around. I like seeing a few colors in my chili, so I try to include a pepper and something green. Corn is a nice addition, too, if you have it. Get creative!
Place everything in the pot when finished.
STEP 5: Mix in chili mix and get this party started.
I had always used your basic 99¢ chili mix in my pre-Matt days, but all of those have gluten in them. Hmm… who knew?
So now, I use Carroll Shelby Chili Kit. I’ve seen it at most grocery stores for a little over $2, but it’s so worth the extra money. The ingredients aren’t scary and don’t leave anything to the imagination. Also, you have the power to make your chili as salty, spicy, and thick as you want!
Included in the kit are packages of Chili Spice, Salt, Cayenne Pepper, and Corn Masa Flour (for thickness).
Since I like things hot and Matt likes things salty, I threw in all of the chili spice, salt, and cayenne pepper. I even threw in a little additional salt for safe measure. Save the corn masa flour for the end, when the chili is done cooking.
STEP 5: Stir up your pot, cover it, and let your chili cook on low heat for at least 4 hours. Some crockpots get extremely hot even on low heat; if this is the case with yours, you might want to add a little extra water for some added measure, as you don’t want all of your liquid to evaporate and your contents to burn.
STEP 6: There should be an amazing aroma wafting through your house right about now. Unveil your chili, marvel at it, and add your corn masa flour to desired thickness. I added half of my packet, but you decide. Cover your chili and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
STEP 7: Have some sliced avocado and vegan sour cream ready. Unveil your chili again, marvel at it again, and spoon it in a bowl. Top with your garnishes and enjoy!
NO FLEEGLE, you may not have any.