Chile Sin Carne: 5 Tips for Satisfying, Meatless Chili

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A hearty vegetarian chili can make a great weeknight dinner or dish to serve to a crowd of mixed eaters. The key is to build in plenty of texture and flavor so the chili is satisfying to the taste buds and belly. Check out our tips and share your own!

• Hearty texture. Bulk up your chili and create textural interest with ingredients like portobello, shiitake, or porcini mushrooms, wheat berries, bulgur, extra firm tofu, crumbled tempeh, or beans. Bonus: mushrooms and tempeh also have savory, umami flavor.

• Heirloom beans. Go beyond standard black, kidney, and pinto beans and try heirloom beans, which typically have a greater depth of flavor and texture. Suggested: Rio Zape or Good Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo.

• Chile peppers. Just about every chili recipe calls for chili powder, but you can boost the richness and complexity of your stew by adding other dried chile peppers like chipotle, ancho, mulato, and urfa biber.

• Smoky flavor. Add an earthy smokiness to your chili with ingredients like smoked paprika (note: a little goes a long way!), chipotle or morita peppers, smoked salt, or even lapsang souchong tea leaves.

• Creative and healthy garnishes. Aside from the usual cheese, onions, and avocados, consider topping your chili with interesting garnishes like roasted garlic cloves, sweet potato cubes, shredded carrots, or crispy kale chips.

What are your secrets for great vegetarian or vegan chili?

(Images: AnjelikaGr/Shutterstock)

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