Saturday, December 18, 2010

Red Bean Tofu Vegan Chili

A couple years ago I developed a habit of eating Trader Joe's vegetarian Chili. It was a simple but delicious meal. I would just cook up some brown rice and overturn the can upon the heap. At that time I wasn't even that crazy about spicy food. However, it was an inexpensive meal and the beans and brown rice formed that holy grail of vegetarian protein. Ever since I began eating chili, I felt like this would be something I could easily make from scratch but I never got around to it. That is until I moved to Montreal and situated myself miles and miles away from Trader Joe's. So the search began for a great vegetarian recipe. Fortunately I didn't have to search too far. Smitten Kitchen, a blog that I periodically peruse, featured a ground beef recipe that looked great. Hollin and I thought we would give it a try. We ended up with a chili that was unbearably spicy- it was really something we couldn't eat. Now, I'll admit that neither of us are really that keen on spicy food, but I'm not sure how anyone could eat it. The upside to the adventure was that we thought this recipe nailed the flavor that we were accustomed to and striving to recreate. So we tried it once again. This time we completely cut out the chili flakes and significantly reduced the amount of chili powder. 

I also want to stress that this recipe is quite easy and doesn't take too long to make. The best part is that it yields so much chili. You can easily freeze it so you always have some on hand. Also, what is fantastic about making your own chili is the fact that you control what goes in it. You'll most likely use far less salt than canned chili. Lastly, you'll save quite a bit of money if you are used to buying cans of it. Even the inexpensive Trader Joe's Chili is more expensive than this recipe. 


Serves 6
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots, chopped in a small dice
1-2 pounds of crumbled firm tofu (extra firm and medium would work too). It works best to run the      tofu through a food processor to achieve a ground beef consistency.
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
*Dried red pepper flakes to taste, if you feel it necessary, I chose not to.
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomato sauce or tomato puree
1 1/4 cups of vegetable broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups or 1 19-ounce can red beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, chopped

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen 


1. Begin by heating up the olive oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Use a pot that is 5 quarts or larger if you plan on making the full recipe.

2. Sauté chopped onions until they begin to become translucent (5-10 mins). Meanwhile mince garlic and chop carrots.

3. Add garlic and carrots and cook for about 1 min.

4. Increase heat to medium and add the tofu, chili powder, cumin, paprika and oregano.  Cook for another minute. 

5. Add the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar and simmer the chili, covered, for 20 minutes.

6. Add the red beans, bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender.

Serve over brown rice and with a dollop of vegan sour cream (tofutti).


  1. That looks very appetizing! Red beans/kidney beans are my favorite, and I make a similar vegetarian chili that tastes real good.

  2. Mm - looks wonderful. It's raining cats and dogs here in So. Cal. so a bowl of chili sounds wonderful. Thanks for experimenting and giving us the best recipe!

  3. I made this for lunch today. Noticed you left out the measurement for the Chili Powder. I used 1 tsp. and it was just right, the flavor of the Chili Powder came through but wasn't over powering. I just happened to have a jar of Pink Hopi Beans we grew in New Mexico and I used a cup of those that I soaked over night with a small piece of Kombu to cut the gas from the beans. I substituted the Green Pepper with Bok Choy. I have a mild sensitivity to Bell Pepper. All in all the dish came out really good. I made a Field Blend of rice to go with this. It was perfect for this very cold wintery day. :) Thanks for posting this. I will definitely make it again!