Vegan Chili

Vegan Chili

This chili starts with a few different whole dried chiles, toasted and blended together, then fried with vegan ground meat and other aromatics to form the complex backbone of this stew. Along with tomatoes and kidney beans, I like to add some soy sauce (for umami depth), cider vinegar (for acidity and brightness) and a shot of hard liquor. The volatile alcohol in the liquor helps pull aromas up and out of the chili and into your nose. If you want to opt for a vegetarian version, feel free to use unsalted butter in place of the vegan butter, and garnish with sour cream or Cheddar.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Make the chile paste: Add all the dried chiles to a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened and giving off an intense roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if they begin to smoke. Add 1 cup water; it should immediately boil. Reduce heat so water barely simmers, and cook until chiles have softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chiles and liquid to a blender and blend at high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until a completely smooth purée is formed, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Step 2

    Prepare the chili: Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the vegan ground meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until fat has mostly rendered and it is starting to sizzle rather than steam, about 10 minutes. (I don’t mind leaving the rendered fat in the chili. It homogenizes as the chili reduces, so the end result should not be greasy. However, you can drain the mixture at this point if you prefer less fat in the finished chili.)
  3. Step 3

    Add the onion, garlic, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened, about 2 minutes. Add the chipotles, cumin and reserved chile paste, and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste reduces to the point that it starts to sizzle and fry, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently until homogenous, about 1 minute.
  4. Step 4

    Add chopped canned tomatoes and scrape up any brown bits that have stuck to the pan. Add kidney beans, soy sauce and 1 cup water, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors have developed and chili is thickened to desired consistency, about 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar and liquor, if using. Adjust texture by adding water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with whatever garnishes you like.