I recently watched an America’s Test Kitchen episode which featured a vegetarian chili recipe. Years ago, I developed my own Vegetarian Chili recipe, using imitation ground beef. There are many excellent fake meat products (and some really bad ones), and I use them from time to time. However, they are a processed food, so I limit my usage of them.
I decided to try ATK’s version – tweaking it, of course – to see if I could replace it for my imitation beef recipe. It was absolutely delicious!
The hands-on preparation is easy and fairly quick, but the overall cooking time is about 4½ hours, so plan accordingly.
Note: It’s best to use fresh shiitake mushrooms, if you can find them. If you can only find dried, place them in a bowl, cover with 1/2 cup water, and soak them for 20 minutes to soften, so they can be ground in a food processor. Dried shiitakes will NOT be ground in a food processor – they’re that tough!
VEGETARIAN CHILI – makes about 9 cups
- 1 lb dry pinto beans
- 3 T + 1¼ tsp salt, divided
- 2 ancho chilies
- 2 Anaheim chilies
- 3 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded (they’re too tough)
- 1½ tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
- 15 oz canned whole tomatoes
- 3 T tomato paste
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1 T pressed garlic
- 1 large jalapeño chili, stem and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 T cumin
- 2/3 cup dry bulgur
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Thoroughly wash pinto beans, discarding any small stones (I’ve never found any, but recipes always say this). Place beans in a stockpot with about 12 cups of water and 3 T salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn off heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain beans in a sieve, rinsing well.
While beans are cooking, put the ancho and Anaheim chilies on a cooking sheet and bake at 300º Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then discard stems and seeds. Coarsely chop by hand, then put in food processor and pulse until ground. Remove to a bowl.
Coarsely chop mushrooms, then grind in food processor with the oregano. If using dried shiitakes, process with the soaking water. Add ground mushrooms to the chilis.
In the empty food processor put the canned tomatoes (I always discard the stem end and any skin or imperfections), tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, and jalapeño. Pulse 5 or 6 times to chop.
Grind walnuts in food processor and set aside in separate bowl.
Once the beans are out of the stockpot, heat the vegetable oil in it and sauté the onions and 1¼ tsp salt until browned – about 9 minutes. Add in the mushroom/chili mixture. Add in the cumin and cook for 30 seconds more in order to bloom the spice. Add in the beans, plus 7 cups water (if using dried shiitakes, then only add 6½ cups water – you already added the 1/2 cup soaking water). Bring to boil on stove, cover, then place in oven and bake at 300º F for 45 minutes.
Note: Make sure your stockpot is oven-proof.
After 45 minutes, stir in the tomato mixture, walnuts, and bulgur. Cover and bake 2 hours. Remove from oven and let set 20 minutes uncovered. Stir in cilantro.