When we started eating plant based last fall, my cravings for crock pot white chicken chili all but vanished. Luckily my pantry is brimming with dried beans, so I popped onto Google to quickly grab a recipe for a vegan white chili. The meaty, dairy-laden version I previously enjoyed was easy to throw together in the slow cooker, and that was a big criteria for my recipe search.
But Google came up short (just like I did when photographing this chili in the pot used to reheat it and NOT in the crockpot). Apparently it is REALLY hard to come by a white chili recipe that has ALL of the following characteristics:
- Uses dried beans (not canned)
- Made in the slow cooker
In our food blog world, it’s rare that a recipe search basically fails, and I was really bummed. White chicken chili is a great family staple, typically milder than a red chili, so was it really that hard to veganize it? In a crock pot? With dried beans? Doesn’t everyone have dried beans in the pantry during a pandemic??? I was undeterred, but what I thought would be a quick search, grocery order, and assembly had expanded into a recipe development project.
I already knew how to cook dried beans in the crock pot, a skill, in my opinion, that you MUST acquire if you’re to survive long as a plant-based eater (it’s easy: I learned from my favorite cookbook). So I worked in the flavors I love in a white chili and some quick tricks I’ve picked up along the way to really make this a thick CHILI, not just a misleadingly named white bean SOUP.
And voila! This gem of a chili recipe was humbly born, not knowing it would become a go-to recipe that my children would, honest-to-goodness, love just as much as any cheesy pasta you presented them. If I have this in the freezer and I’m home with two kids at lunchtime (which has basically been half of the last year because HELLO pandemic), I know I’m safe.
It can be presented in subtly different ways so that you may even make it to Friday before your crew realizes that you fed them the exact same thing for lunch every one of the last seven days:
- In a bowl all on it’s own, with toppings and tortilla chips
- Over rice or other grains
- As a sweet potato topper
- In tacos or burritos
- My latest favorite: over the top of a big salad of romaine and red cabbage with a scoop of pico de gallo and some chopped avocado on top. I crumble just a few tortilla chips over it then mix it all into a big mess. It doesn’t feel remotely like the salad that it actually is.
And if what you’re currently craving IS a nice hearty red chili, try butternut squash and black bean chili. It’s one of the recipes from this blog that I personally make at home all. the. time.
- 1½ C dried garbanzo beans
- 1½ C dried white beans
- 1½ C chopped green bell pepper (2 medium)
- 1 C diced white or yellow onion
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3-ish cloves)
- 1 C chopped celery (4 stalks)
- 2 tsp dried epazote (optional)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp dried oregano (add 1 more tsp if not using epazote)
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp masa (or fine ground yellow cornmeal)
- 2 C frozen corn
- For extra spice: 1 fresh jalapeno pepper finely chopped AND/OR
- ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes AND/OR ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Toppings for serving: tortilla chips, limes, pickled onions, cilantro, avocado or guacamole
- In a 5 quart or larger slow cooker, combine dried beans, bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery, dried herbs and spices, and salt. Cook on low for about 9 hours until the beans are fall-apart soft (losing their shape is okay for this recipe!).
- Use a ladle or measuring cup to transfer 2 cups of the chili to a blender. In a separate dish, stir or whisk masa with ¼ cup water until smooth. Add to blender. Blend soup and masa mixture until totally smooth. Pour back into the slow cooker.
- Add frozen corn to the slow cooker. Cover and continue cooking on low for 30 minutes so the masa mixture thickens the chili. Serve with toppings or transfer to containers to cool for refrigerator or freezer storage.