Chili Without Carne — and chili — is right up my alley

Chili Without Carne goes easy on the chili powder but is still flavorful and has great texture from all the vegetables. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Chili Without Carne goes easy on the chili powder, but is still flavorful. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Anyone who knows me knows better than to invite me to a chili cookout. It’s never been one of my favorite dishes, and when I was a food editor I turned down many requests to judge chili contests. (It just wouldn’t have been fair. I would have rated everything C-minus.)

Chili has wonderful ingredients in it — meat, beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes — but the “authentic” chili seasoning just turns me off. I’ve always found it bitter and harsh. So I don’t cook red chili often. I make green chili with chicken, white beans and green chiles; I make tomato sauce with ground turkey to serve over pasta; but I don’t make chili.

Naturally, I married a wonderful man who loves chili. Fortunately for both of us, he can get it often at his work cafeteria.

But because I love him, I still make the occasional pot of chili. Recently, I tried a recipe that I actually enjoyed and will probably make again. It’s vegetarian and easy to make, and it doesn’t taste as harsh (to me) as other chilis I have sampled.

The recipe is from Jane Brody’s “Good Food Book” and she writes that she modified it from a Marian Burros recipe. (Marian Burros updated the classic “Fanny Farmer” cookbook. If you have no idea who I’m talking about, it’s OK. Trust me, they are expert cooks.)

The seasonings in this chili don’t taste strongly chili-ish, which is why it appealed to me, but my husband enjoyed it, too. Add another spoonful of chili powder if you think it needs more of that flavor, but remember it already has a chopped jalapeño in it. If you really want hot, don’t seed the jalapeño pepper; or add some cayenne. Or maybe both.

This chili is plenty flexible. I added a cup of chopped celery, which added bulk and stayed delightfully crunchy. I also used Brody’s tip of adding coarse-grain bulgur (see below) to the chili to create more texture and liked it very much.

Best of all, because it’s meat-free, the fat content is low, low, low. The recipe calls for serving over rice, but you can serve it over cornbread for a traditional approach. I don’t care that much for cornbread, either (I’m not a fussy eater, really!), so we ate ours served over polenta. Here’s Brody’s recipe.


Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients — they’re mostly seasonings. The entire recipe takes but 15 minutes to throw together. Besides, chili flavors improve with age, so this is a fine dish to make in advance for reheating at serving time. If you miss the meat, try adding coarse-grain bulgur (soak 1/3 cup of bulgur in 2/3 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, then add it along with the beans).

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped (1 heaping cup)

3 large cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)

1 green pepper, chopped

1 fresh jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (wear rubber gloves) or 2 tablespoons chopped canned hot peppers (jalapeños or green chiles)

1 28-ounce can tomatoes in puree or drained tomatoes, chopped, plus a 15-ounce can of puree

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves or generous pinch of ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice berries or generous pinch of ground allspice

2 teaspoons oregano

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons mild chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 cups cooked kidney or pinto beans

1 cup raw rice, brown or white

2 cups boiling water

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil, and saute the onions, garlic, green pepper and jalapeño pepper until they are softened.

Add the tomatoes (and puree), coriander, cloves, allspice, oregano, brown sugar, chili, cumin and beans. Bring the chili to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the chili for 30 minutes.

While the chili is cooking, in a medium saucepan add the rice to the boiling water, reduce the heat, cover the pan tightly and simmer the rice for 15 to 35 minutes, according to package directions (depending upon the type of rice you use). Serve the chili over the rice.

Makes 4 servings.

(c) copyright 2019 Laura Groch


One thought on “Chili Without Carne — and chili — is right up my alley

  1. Chili Without Carne — and chili — is right up my alley — beyondbites | My Meals are on Wheels

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