I love chili … and meat has little to do with it! The thick, spicy, and tomatoey sauce with all kinds of textures coming together in one bowl is what seals the deal for me. Sweet potato chili is quite common among vegan cooking. That’s old news. But for my vegan chili recipe, mashed sweet potatoes play a pivotal role as a thickener while chipotle peppers in adobo sauce deliver a dose of smokey heat. It’s a spicy/sweet combination just made for each other. And if you’ve never cooked with an avocado leaf, now is the time to start.
Because chipotle peppers are actually jalapeño peppers that have been dried and smoked, their aroma of a rustic wooden barbecue gets all up in your nasal cavity as soon as you open the can. Why would you NOT want that flavor transferred to your vegan chili? Chipotles in a can are drenched in adobo sauce – a sauce consisting of vinegar, tomato puree, salt and sometimes a few “spices”. Therefore, it serves as a great starter ingredient to sauté with. Tomatoes are a no-brainer. But also having some cubed sweet potatoes in the mix with different types of onions, peppers and beans are really the basics of what you need.
Avocado leaf and Mexican oregano are two herbs that will make your vegan chili taste one more step closer to some authentic Mexican food you might have tasted in a restaurant. By habit, I usually use bay leaves for making soups, but this time I was looking for something new. I had seen all sorts of Mexican herbs in the bodegas for many years and now was the time to actually put my curiosity into action. The anise-like sweetness of avocado leaf makes this recipe spicy-but-sweet in a different way. Mexican oregano has more of a bold flavor than other types, so it can hold it’s own when paired with spicy elements such as Chipotle, Serrano and Poblano peppers.
Why Vegan chili?
When I told a coworker I was writing a post on vegan chili, he said “what’s the point of that?”. Lately I have found vegan chili to be a very rewarding comfort food. You can devour the entire bowl and walk away with a feeling of lightness in your body. No need to sit still on the couch and feel sluggish while your food digests. Another benefit to vegan chili is that it’s quick to whip up. You don’t want all the vegetables cooked down to nothing, so no need to simmer it for hours. Sure, cook down some for a hearty and flavorful broth, but save a couple handfuls of fresh veggies to add towards the end. And speaking of convenience … usually I cook my beans from scratch, but I got over myself and chose canned this time. It’s so much quicker. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse and strain them.
Preparing your Veggies
Prepare all your veggies ahead of time. It takes quite a while … that’s one caveat about vegan cooking. So, be patient and treat the preparation as a separate event. My recipe involves roasting peppers on the stovetop, dicing all the onions, stripping corn from the cob, and rinsing the beans. This could all take about an hour of time. Also, have lots of bowls on hand to contain everything. Everything needs to be out and ready to add at a moment’s notice.
Make a Veggie Stock for your vegan chili
You can just add water to this sweet potato chili if you really need to, but adding stock just adds more flavor. A low-sodium store-bought stock can be fine. The Kitchn does a great job at breaking down the best brands. But if you have time to make your own, I highly recommend it. Just save your vegetable and herb skins, ribs, cores and stems in the freezer and/or gather up what you can find lying around. For this recipe you will have sweet potato skins, so definitely add those to your stock pot. Unlike meat stock, you don’t need to cook the heck out of it for hours. I find about 45 minutes on a low boil will do just fine.
- 1 can of Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 large white onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled with seed and ribs removed
- 1 roasted poblano pepper, peeled with seed and ribs removed
- 1 Serrano pepper
- 3 stalks of scallions
- 15 oz. can black beans
- 15 oz. can kidney beans
- 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 stalk of fresh corn
- 1-2 Avocado leaves
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Prepare all your vegetables. Chop them all down to the desires sizes, strip the corn from the cob, and remove the ribs and seeds from the poblano and red bell peppers. Finely chop the chipotle peppers and keep the seeds. Keep all veggies in separate containers. Reserve the sauces from the canned tomatoes and chipotle peppers.
- In a small pot, bring about 2 cups of salted water to a boil with half of the diced sweet potatoes. Let these cook down until soft. Set these aside.
- Meanwhile … in a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions with the garlic, half of the scallions, and all of the chipotle peppers.
- Once onions are translucent and sweating, stir in the remaining sweet potatoes, cumin, Mexican oregano and salt. Stir this frequently for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the vegetable stock. Scrape up as much as possible all tiny bits of caramelized goodness on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining vegetables and beans. Bring everything to a boil for about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to simmer. Drain the reserved sweet potatoes and mash them in a small bowl. Stir the sweet potatoes into the chili.
- Simmer your vegan chili for about 45 minutes, then serve. Garnish with avocados and if you like cilantro, add some to your bowl.
Yield: 6-8 servings