Strange thought of the day: I think veggie chili recipes might be like having kids. Maybe you have a lot and say they’re all your favorite, but you’re really being honest. You love each of them in a totally unique and unconditional way. Weird? Very. Especially considering I have zero children, or even pets. But I do have veggie chili recipes (several of them, at this point), and it’s the only logical comparison I can draw.
Before getting to today’s black bean and squash veggie chili, let’s review some of my other favorites, both from this blog and elsewhere:
- Beet and bean veggie chili, with tangy tomatillos and unexpected chickpeas
- Emeril’s vegetarian chili, chock full of meaty portobellos
- Mexican all-bean chili, for its no frills approach
- South of the border veggie chili, thickened with masa and flecked with broiled squash
- One of my first veggie chilis, with all the good stuff
It’s clear from this list that I have a problem taking a perfectly wonderful recipe and repeating it. No, I have to explore, making a different veggie chili every time the urge strikes (monthly). So, when I was planning a “practice run” for my personal chef service, making four dinners in six hours, I couldn’t just pull a familiar recipe from the list above. I had to perform two hours of research to determine how I might streamline the ingredients and process to arrive at an easy, quick, but football party-worthy chili recipe. And folks, it was a success. Thanks to a little inspiration from the Pioneer Woman, I’ve finally arrived at a chili recipe that can be accurately described as both mouth watering and weeknight friendly.
You might wonder what food blog universe I reside in, sharing chili recipes at the onset of spring. Isn’t this the time to be snapping endless pics of asparagus and talking incessantly about the impending rhubarb crop??? Probably. And I love seasonal produce as much as the next food blogger, but I also adore comfort food all year. I’ll associate it with my upcoming 30th birthday, but I’m comfortable owning my cravings and admitting that I’ll never be a 5-day-a-week salad eater. Not gonna happen.
Luckily there are so many healthy veggies in this pot o’ chili that it might as well be a salad. [Insert raw foodist harsh comments here.] Yep, it is another vegan recipe out of my kitchen, but topping it with cheese and sour cream alongside a buttery gluten-free corn muffin makes me mighty happy. Totally up to you, though. Vegan or cheating vegan, this is a no judgment zone.
Hard winter squash is perfect in this recipe, as it stands up to simmering without falling apart. However, if it’s not winter squash season as you read this, I encourage the use of seasonal squash. Zucchini and summer squash to be specific. If that’s the route you go, do not add the squash with the tomatoes and broth. Summer squash are tender and will cook in much less time than dense, hard butternut. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with dissintegrated zucchini in your chili. What to do? Follow the recipe, without adding the squash, and simmer until the chili is ALMOST as thick as you want it, but slightly soupier. At that point, add the squash and continue to simmer. When the squash cubes are almost cooked through (just taste one), add the cilantro and cornmeal, so the squash finishes cooking as the chili absorbs the cornmeal.
As complicated as that might sound, I have confidence in your squash-tasting skills, and, even if you slightly overcook the summer squash, it’s not the end of the world. You really would have to cook the bejesus out of them in order to end up with disingtegrated vegetables. Sorry for that slight exaggeration.
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1 carrot, diced ¼"
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped medium
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped medium
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded if desired, finely chopped
- 1 T chili powder
- ½ T ground cumin
- ¼ t cayenne pepper (more or less to preference)
- ¾ t epazote (optional)
- Kosher salt
- 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, with juices
- 1 C vegetable broth or stock
- 4 oz. can diced green chiles (mild or hot)
- 2 C cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 C chopped seasonal squash, hard winter squash peeled, chopped ½"
- 1 C canned tomato sauce, low or no sodium
- 1 T finely ground cornmeal or masa
- 2 T chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
- 1 lime
- Optional (but highly encouraged) toppings: grated cheddar, chopped avocado, sour cream, minced red onion, sliced scallions, lime wedges, crumbled tortilla chips
- In a large pot or soup pot, heat vegetable oil over medium high. Add carrot, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne, epazote, and ½ teaspoon salt and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes, until spices are fragrant and sticking to the pan.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes with juice, vegetable broth, diced green chiles, beans, squash, and tomato sauce. Stir and raise heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash is cooked through. Stir and test squash every 5 to 10 minutes, as cooking time will vary based on seasonal squash.
- Once squash is cooked, add cornmeal and cilantro, stir well, and simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cool for 5 minutes, then squeeze in juice from the lime and season to taste with more salt.
You can substitute kidney or pinto beans, if that's what you have or you don't like black beans.
Before toppings, recipe is gluten-free and vegan (confirm ingredients in spices, stock, and other packaged items to be certain).
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