How do you like your chili?
Is just a touch of heat right for you, or do you prefer a dish that leaves you breathing fire when you’re done?
If you’re in the latter camp, my Roasted Vegetable & Chipotle Tempeh Chili is for you.
This is no ordinary chili — mainly because it was another one of those deals where, rather than starting out with any kind of plan in mind, I took what I had on hand, threw it all together and discovered that it tasted pretty darn good. The recipe draws on my love of two things: roasted veggies and super-spicy food.
I roasted four veggies for this chili that I commonly have on hand in the fall and winter.
- Sweet potatoes
Kohlrabi is the odd man out in terms of chili ingredients, but it’s right at home here with the other veggies and spices. My brother turned me on to this bizarre, but tasty, veggie several years back, and since then I’ve been enjoying its crisp sweetness raw as a snack or in salads, roasted as in this dish and even as a substitute for summer squash in some recipes.
Like kale and cabbage, kohlrabi is a Brassica, and it’s been bred to obtain its rather unusual shape. You generally find smaller green or purple kohlrabi earlier in the season and then see the bigger green ones just about all winter long. (Apparently these, the Gigante variety, can sometimes get so large that they need to be cut with a chain saw! I have yet to find confirmation of this, but that’s pretty impressive if it’s true.) The root, stems and leaves are all edible, as with most Brassicas, and offer similar health benefits to those found in the rest of that vegetable family.
Roasting the veggies is the first step in making this chili. The sweet potatoes take the longest and therefore go in first, followed by the parsnips and kohlrabi and finally the kale. Try to cut all the veggies into pieces that are relatively the same size so that they cook evenly and caramelize inside rather than turning into charcoal. (Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything!)
While the veggies roast, the rest of the chili comes together on the stove top. It’s packed with your standard chili veggies, as well as tempeh and kidney beans. The addition of a couple dried chipotle chilies adds that super kick. Be sure to remove the seeds unless you have a very high tolerance for spicy food! If you want a smoky flavor without the burn, you can substitute some ancho chili powder or use a mild chili powder and a few drops of liquid smoke.
When all the ingredients are mixed together at the end, the result is a spicy, earthy, hearty chili that’s perfect for warming you up on cold evenings. It goes well with corn tortillas or corn muffins, or you can serve it over your favorite cooked grain. Toss a little nutritional yeast on top or perhaps a dollop of vegan sour cream! I wouldn’t recommend avocado, though; the flavor combination isn’t quite right for that.
So my question for you is — how hot will you make your chili?
- 12 oz. sweet potatoes, diced
- 6 oz. kohlrabi, peeled & diced
- 6 oz. parsnips, diced
- 8 oz. kale, including stems, cut into thin strips
- 1½ cups onion, chopped
- ½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 8 ounces tempeh, cubed
- 2 dried chipotle chili peppers, soaked in hot water until soft & diced small, seeds removed
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups or 1 28oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with their juices
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups cooked or 2 15.5oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed if canned
- Preheat the oven to 400F while you prep the veggies for roasting. Cut the root veggies into even pieces, ½-3/4 inch in size. Place the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Add the parsnips and kohlrabi and roast for 25 minutes more, stirring once halfway through. Add the kale, stir again and cook for 5 minutes more, until the leaves are just starting to brown and the root veggies are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the veggies are roasting, place the onions and peppers in a large pot over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add small splashes of water to the pan if anything starts to stick. Toss in the garlic and cook, uncovered, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tempeh and chipotle chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tempeh begins to brown, about 5 minutes. (Note: Avoid putting your face over the pan while the chilies are cooking! If you have a fan over your stove, it's a good idea to turn it on to vent the spicy fumes.)
- Add the spices, tomatoes, corn and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, to blend the flavors. Allow the chili to simmer until the veggies are ready.
- When the veggies are done roasting, add them to the chili along with the beans and more water to thin, if necessary. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until completely heated through. Simmer covered for a thinner chili and uncovered if you like a thicker sauce.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, and serve hot with corn tortillas, corn muffins, rice, quinoa or whatever strikes your fancy!