chiliseriesI have, so many times in life, been let down by chili. It’s a dish that many a restaurant and loving friend have provided in an effort to fill the vegan void. They are well intentioned, with their peppers and beans and spices. But, in the end, it almost always falls flat to me. In fact, I have such a disdain for the stuff that I almost never make it. But, when I feel like making cornbread, sometimes it seems that only chili will do.

Last night I set out to make a chili worth my time. I thought, “It has great components, there are cook offs dedicated to this stuff, I have to be able to make it great.” And, wow, not to toot my own horn here (there’s a joke there, given the amount of beans in this chili), but it was go-back-for-thirds good. The mix of smoky roasted green chills with sweet onion and chewy tempeh and all the right spices made a chili I couldn’t wait to eat again the next day.

We ate this with sweet cornbread (I love any excuse to make cornbread, and it’s really easy to make it gluten free and still have it taste great) and put some chipotle cashew cream and cilantro on top. I dare you not to really dig it.

recipe: tempeh chili
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 T high-heat oil (separated)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large (or 2 small) red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 4-ounce can of roasted green chills
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup very rich vegetable stock
  • 3 lbs of beans (any combo, I used one can each of kidney, pinto, and garbanzo), cooked, rinsed and drained
  • 28 ounce can of tomatoes (I like fire roasted, peeled and from San Marzano, but I’m picky)
  • 12-16 ounces of tempeh
  • 3 T your favorite chili spice blend, mine is below
Chili spice blend (makes about 2x as much as you need for this recipe, store the rest in an airtight container)
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 T granulated onion
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 t cumin (or roasted cumin)
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
  • ½ t black pepper
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper
  1. Brown the onion in 1 T of oil for about 10 minutes in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot with a lid.
  2. While the onion is browning, heat the other Tablespoon of oil in a separate pan over midume-high, crumble your tempeh into that pan and brown it, stirring occasionally, until the final step of this recipe happens…
  3. Add red bell pepper and garlic, sautee for 3-4 more minutes until pepper is soft (stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn).
  4. Add the can of green chills (with their juice is fine).
  5. Add the red wine and let simmer until wine is gone (about 5 minutes).
  6. Add veggie stock and de-glaze the pan.
  7. Add beans, tomatoes, browned tempeh, and chili spice blend, bring to a boil white breaking up tomatoes, and then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  8. Cook for at least 30 minutes, but up to a few hours (though you’ll want to turn the heat down lower).