bonus shot: the best vegetarian chili i've ever eaten

Several years ago, for a period of 7 years, I gave up all meat except for seafood. I did it on a dare: a vegan friend bet me I couldn't go without meat for 2 weeks. I proved him wrong, and would've remained mostly-meat-free except for a fateful trip to Egypt when some coworkers treated me to a traditional Egyptian barbeque. I tried it to be polite, but by the end of the meal, I had two chicken drumsticks in each fist, barbeque sauce dripping off of my chin and down my arms. It wasn't pretty: when I fall off the wagon, honey, I fall off with gusto.


Last year for Lent, I decided to see if I could go back to my mostly-meat-free diet without disrupting life for Marcus and Alex, and it turned out I could. Except for a regrettable lapse on New Year's Day this year where a plateful of barbeque ribs (always with the barbeque) left me ill for 2 days, my only meat source since this time last year has been seafood. And honestly, I haven't missed the meat at all.

This year for Lent, I'm trying to go the whole way: I'm giving up seafood as well. So far so good, actually -- I'd started doing a bit of research on good vegetarian recipes for a few weeks before, and have found some great ones (except for any which involve tofu. Oh, tofu, I want to love you, I really do, but what is with that texture of yours?). One of my favourites, however, is the following for vegetarian chili -- I've always found vegetarian chili a poor substitute for the real thing, but this one is as close to traditional chili as I've ever tasted. I think it's the bulgur wheat. It gives the dish the appropriate texture.

Texture is obviously a very big deal to me.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my recipe here with you. Again, the following is a conglomerate of various recipes I've found on the web, tweaked until it worked for me. And so, I share it with you, in case you've looking for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs vegetarian dish: look no further. Added bonus: while not necessary, this meal involves a crock pot, which makes life so nice and easy for lazy Sunday meals.



1 can black beans, drained
2 cans kidney or chili beans, drained
1 large can corn, drained
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 medium-sized onions, chopped finely
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup bulgur wheat
(Update Feb 14, 2010: or, for those with wheat allergies, 1-1/2 cups quinoa works admirably as well)
extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

2. Add chili powder, cumin, coriander and cinnamon.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Transfer the mixture to a crock pot (or keep in large pot, if desired).  Add vegetable broth, black beans, chili beans, corn, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth and bulgur wheat.  Allow to get close to boiling, and then turn down the heat and simmer until bulgur wheat is tender.  In a regular pot, this should take about 10 minutes.  In a crock pot, I leave it for at least 2 hours or so (Update 2/14/10 - if using quinoa, maybe 2-1/2 hours)

4. Serve hot.  I like to add grated cheddar cheese on top for a little added flavour (although, omit it to make it vegan -- it's pretty awesome either way).  Also?  Leftovers freeze well, and frankly, I think this tastes better a day or two after you make it. 


Comfortably serves a family of 4, with enough leftovers for dinner another day.  Enjoy!

Karen Walrond23 Comments