Best Vegetarian (and Vegan) Chili

Best Vegetarian (and Vegan) Chili

I'm just going to get this out of the way - I don't follow football. The only reason I watch the Super Bowl is if they're going to be airing a commercial that involves David Beckham in his underwear. But, I DO love a Super Bowl staple -- CHILI. I don't eat meat with feet, so I was so grateful to find a chili recipe that doesn't need meat to be rich and "meaty" in texture. Even my husband, a meat eater, requests this particular chili recipe. The key to the meatiness is mushrooms, toasted walnuts and bulgur wheat.

TIP: If you're gluten free, sub the bulgur with quinoa. If you're allergic to tree nuts, just leave out the walnuts.

This recipe isn't my own, but I share it with as many people as I can. It's THAT good. And now, it's your turn to get it. Since the only thing I have growing right now is buried in snow and I have my head down in seed catalogs dreaming of the upcoming gardening season, I'm leaning on others this week. I hope you enjoy this chili for Super Bowl or any day. (And cross your fingers for me that I win the Super Bowl pool. I'll do the same for you.)


The Best Vegetarian (and Vegan) Chili Ever


1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried beans  (I use a combo of red kidney and black beans)
2 dried ancho chiles (or 1 TBSP ancho chile powder)
2 dried New Mexican chiles (or 1 TBSP New Mexican Chile powder)
1/2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarse
10 oz fresh mushrooms (shiitake, cremini or other mushroom will do.)
4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
3 TBSP tomato paste
2 jalepeƱo chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 TBSP soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 lbs onions, finely chopped
1 TBSP ground cumin
7 cups water
2/3 cup medium-grind bulgur
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp salt (and more to taste)

Optional Toppings

sour cream
monterrey jack cheese, grated
chopped red onion
avocado chunks
cilantro leaves


  1. Bring 4 quarts water, 3 TBS salt, and beans to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Once boiling, remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain beans, rinse well, and set aside.

  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange anchos (if using) and New Mexican chiles (if using) on rimmed baking sheet, and toast until fragrant and puffed, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool, about 5 minutes. Stem and seed anchos and New Mexican chiles. Working in batches, grind toasted chiles, dried mushrooms, and oregano in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle until finely ground. 

  3. Process walnuts in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl. Process drained tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapeƱos, garlic, and soy sauce in food processor until tomatoes are finely chopped, about 45 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. 

  4. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, fresh shiitakes, and 1 1/2 tsp salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and shiitakes begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add ground chile mixture, ancho chile powder (if using), and ground cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rinsed beans and water, and bring to boil. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 45 minutes.

  5. Remove pot from oven. Stir in bulgur, ground walnuts, tomato mixture, and reserved tomato juice. Cover pot and return to oven. Cook until beans are fully tender, about 2 hours. (My chili needed about 3 hours in the oven before the beans were soft.)

  6. Remove pot from oven, stir chili well, and let stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Ladle up a bowl, stir in cilantro, add optional toppings, and serve. (Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

I found this recipe on the Crafty Cook Nook blog. Thanks to them (and to Cook's Illustrated, whom they credit for the recipe in the first place). 

Have fun watching the Superbowl....(or the commercials or the halftime show - whatever you're into).

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine