No meat? Vegetarian Chili? What’s this all about, you ask? Okay all you meat lovers out there don’t panic. It’s so easy to add a little bit of shredded chicken or ground beef to this dish and still follow this exact recipe. Or, if you are like many households out there who are split on veggie versus meat lovers just make a big batch of the veggie and add the meat into half of it.
My story of vegetarian chili starts with being pregnant with my son several years ago. I never was a big Mexican food eater just because I (erroneously) associated Mexican food with heavy and starchy. I now know that Mexican food can be sooo delicious and healthy, too. But, my story starts before my enlightenment. So while I was pregnant I suddenly started craving Mexican flavors. I couldn’t believe how much I could crave a type of food that I hardly ever ate. Yet, that’s what I wanted. Tacos please. That’s really when I started experimenting with finding good Mexican food and I tended to gravitate toward fish tacos and lots of spicy slaw. I also looooved the beans. Beans of any kind – refried, whole black beans, smashed with a little bit of hot sauce and cojita cheese on top. Yes please! I found a few good local restaurants and ate my share for several months until my son was born. Fast forward a few years and he still craves Mexican food above all, with it’s earthiness and spices, so its something we try to incorporate into our family dinners at least once a week. This idea of a a fresh corn and butternut squash version of chili was my way of keeping it healthy but flavorful and something we can all dig into. I serve it with fresh avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream or Mexican crema, scallions, and toritilla chips or warmed tortillas. Without all the garnishes this dish is actually Vegan, believe it or not. So it’s versatile for everyone.
1. Start with the pantry items (broth, pinto beans, black beans, and tomato paste). Any brand you like is fine. This is what I had on hand.
2. Then I diced up the garlic, onions, jalapeno and cut the kernels from 1 ear of fresh corn. You could also use frozen corn instead.
3. I measured out all my spices for this recipe but (in real life) I would just eyeball it from the containers.
4. I cubed about 1/2 of a butternut squash. I recommend fresh and not frozen because the frozen took on a mushier consistency. But if you don’t have the time then frozen will do.
5. In a soup pot (I like enameled but that’s up to you) I heated the olive oil over medium heat and then when it was hot added in the onions, garlic and jalapeno. I cooked for just a few minutes, stirring, to get the onion translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic though or you will have a strong, bitter taste.
6. Add in the salt and spices and give it a stir.
7. Then the fresh corn…
8. And the butternut squash….
9. And then the drained and rinsed beans with the tomato paste…..
10. And finally add the broth and the bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover, partially.
11. The chili will start to thicken as it cooks…..after 45 minutes or so it should be done.
- 1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ cups yellow onion, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons jalapeno, chopped (about ½ of a large one or more)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups butternut squash, cubed into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 ¼ cups corn (1 ear) or can use frozen
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 -15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 -15oz. can pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 ½ to 5 cups vegetable broth (approx 1 32oz container)
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheese
- Tortillas or Tortilla chips
- In a large pot set over medium heat add the olive oil to the pan and let it just get hot but not smoking. Add in the onion, garlic and jalapeno and reduce heat to a medium. Stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes, so the garlic doesn’t burn, until onions are translucent.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, chili flakes and salt to the pan and stir to combine then add in the corn and butternut squash and stir again.
- Add in the tomato paste, beans, and vegetable broth and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Place the lid on but leave a little space for the liquids to cook down a bit for thicker chili. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove bay leaf and serve with garnishes. Refrigerate if made a day ahead.