This hearty vegan quinoa chili makes a smoky, flavorful, protein-rich and fiber-rich meal. Prepared in one single pot, it is perfect for feeding a crowd.
Chili is on the menu today as we are exactly one week away from Cinco de Mayo, one of the biggest Mexican celebration held on May 5th every year. Chili is actually more a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine than an original Mexican recipe, although it takes inspiration from Mexico. As a little reminder, Tex-Mex (from Texan and Mexican) is literally a fusion of Mexican and American cuisines, deriving from the culinary creations of Tejanos. It has spread from border states such as Texas and others in the Southwestern United States to the rest of the country as well as Canada. It is nowadays most popular in Texas and some parts of Mexico.
On a more personal note, I have got to tell you that I’m completely obsessed with chili and I order takeout at least once a week (I know, shame on me, I opt most of the time for takeout rather than eating homemade chili, we’ll come back on that later). I like my chili smoky, slightly spicy, loaded with vegetables and served with a moist cornbread or occasionally with a toasted bagel. Now I have to confess that I go for the classic meat version of the chili each time, as there is no other option in the US – or at least I never found some. I think I could totally live without meat and I eat mostly plant-based 90% of the time, with exception of the chili I order in takeout.
Being so obsessed with this dish I have planned to prepare some homemade chili for quite a while now, making my own vegan or at least vegetarian chili. Of course I had high expectations as I really like the original recipe, so the idea was to keep the smoky and spicy flavor as much as possible, combined with a texture closed to minced meat I browsed many recipes and noticed there was not one single way to make a vegetarian or vegan chili as all recipes are different, some using quinoa, others textured soy protein, minced tempeh, red or brown lentils… the options are endless!
I use here quinoa as I like the texture it gives to the chili once cooked, making it close to the minced meat one. Also quinoa makes the chili quite nourishing, especially if you serve it with rice (quinoa protein are always more absorbed if combined with rice). The result completely convinced me, although I am pretty sure we could totally create variations of this recipe using one of the other options listed above. It will probably be one of my next attempt.
When it comes to the vegetables, they also differ from one recipe to another. My focus was here to bring some texture to the whole chili but also load it with healthy, rich-fiber ingredients. You can skip some of them if you don’t have them all at hand. Usually onions, red pepper, tomatoes, minced jalapeños, diced celery are the main vegetables to use in a chili, while diced carrots and mushrooms are extras you can skip. Some also like to add some corn as well, which I do not here. The important thing to remember here is that a chili is very forgiving and you can easily adapt the recipe.
Vegetables, quinoa and red kidney beans are here cooked together in one single pot, which makes your work easy (and less dishes in the end). Now we come to the next point: the spices. Seasoning is key in a chili, and in particular in a vegan version as you want all the smoky and hot flavors without the meat. It is also what will make it taste different from a simple vegetable soup. I recommend you taste often while cooking to find the right balance according to your own tastes. This recipe is quite mild in taste, and you might want to add a bit more of jalapeños or tabasco sauce if you like it hot.
Last but not least, they are a few options to serve your chili. You can enjoy as is, topped it with sliced avocados, soya yogurt and fresh cilantro. You can also serve with a side of white rice, or with a homemade cornbread (this recipe is my favorite – extra moist and slightly spicy). Happy Cinco de Mayo and enjoy this vegan chili loaded with hearty flavors!
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion (2 cups), diced
- 1 large red pepper (1½ cups), diced
- 1 jalapeño, diced with seeds
- 4 medium carrots (1½ cups), diced
- 15-16 oz mushrooms (3 cups), chopped
- 4 celery stalks (1 cup), chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 Tablespoons chili powder
- 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 15-oz (425 g) cans diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon tabasco sauce
- 1¾ cup (420 ml) water, plus more as needed
- 1 cup (170g) quinoa
- 2 15-oz (850g) can red kidney beans, slightly drained
- 2 15-oz (850 g) can black beans, slightly drained
- 1-2 Tablespoons light brown sugar (optional)
- Fresh chopped cilantro, chopped
- Avocado, sliced
- Plain soya yogurt
- Jalapeños, sliced
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add chopped veggies, and sauté, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
- Add all the spices, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and stir well, cooking for 2 minutes.
- Pour the tomatoes, water, and bring to boil. When boiling, add the quinoa and reduce heat to medium-low or low, so it's at a gentle simmer. You want to see bubbles, but you don't want it boiling. Cook for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked, adding more water to the pot if needed.
- Add kidney beans and black beans, and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, adding more chili powder or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, or a little light brown sugar to balance the heat and draw out the other flavors.
- Serve as is or with a side of rice, garnished with chopped cilantro, avocado and soya yogurt.