The ultimate vegan bean chili sin carne with a complex and well-rounded flavor made with a homemade Mexican chili powder. Worth every ingredient and you can top it (and side it) with anything from rice, pico de gallo, avocado, guacamole and vegan sour cream. This is the best vegetarian chili and you won't miss the meat at all!
What is chili sin carne?
Chili sin carne, or chilli sin carne, means chili without meat. And yes, it is a chili con carne, chili with meat, without the meat! So then the next question may be what chili is, and a chili is a comforting stew made with chilies and usually ground beef. The sauce is tomato based and has tons of delicious Mexican (or Southwestern) flavors.
So a vegan bean chili does not have the ground beef obviously, but a trifecta of beans. I used three different kinds of beans to add both interest and good looks, but you can use just one of these and it will still be good. Vegan chili con carne is also often made with lentils, but I think beans are so perfect for Mexican and Southwestern cuisine!
Don't get frightened by the amount of ingredients in this dish, most of them are spices. If there's any ingredients you can't find, there are many good substitutions too, just keep on reading!
- Vegetables: onion, bell peppers, beans - easy right? You can add any other vegetable you want, but this is usually enough.
- Spices: homemade Mexican chili powder (read below), but a little extra smoke from the smoked paprika, extra cumin because hello Mexico, bay leaves and freshly cracked pepper.
- Sauce ingredients: tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, veggie stock, soy sauce, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
- Flavor enhancers: garlic, salt (try mushroom salt for an extra umami boost!), maple syrup, lime juice. Also some cocoa powder which helps to deepen the complex flavor of this chili!
So I love ALL the toppings when it comes to chili. My favorites include rice to make the chili stretch longer, pico de gallo for some freshness, guacamole or avocado for that luscious creamy element, (vegan) sour cream for some tangy balance.
Also, I love some crunchy tortilla chips for texture! And I sprinkle cilantro on every Mexican dish, but you could also go for green onions.
- Switch up the vegetables: Use the three mentioned, add more like celery, carrots, other types of onions and cherry tomatoes for more diversity or use them instead of the mentioned ones!
- Simplify the sauce: Omit the homemade Mexican chili powder (oh it breaks my heart) and substitute it with something store-bought, you can also leave out cocoa powder, soy sauce, some spices and garlic. Keep in mind that it will no longer be the ultimate vegan chili!
- Other "meats": Use 3 cans of drained lentils instead of the beans, or 2 cans of beans or lentils and 1 can of the other. You could of course also use 1 lb (400g) ground beef and 1 can of beans but then it is obviously no longer vegan. Sear it in a separate pan towards the end of the sauce cooking.
- Other toppings: So I love the Mexican style toppings mentioned above, but my parents really love this with a big bowl of mashed potatoes. So that means you could also go for polenta.
This type of dish is fantastic as a make ahead meal because the flavors deepen over time. You can make it in the morning, and just reheat it for dinner. Or you can make it up to 3-4 days in advance. Once it has reached room temperature, cover with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
To freeze, add to a freezer-safe container and freeze for about 4-6 months. It will still be good after, but best before. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat in a casserole. You may or may not need a splash or two of water to thin out the chili when you re-heat it.
Mexican Chili Powder
This red chilli powder makes the vegan chili stand out from the others. Super complex with a variety if yummy whole dried chilies. Of course, you can add or subtract but remember the flavor will change when you do so. However, it will most likely still be very much delicious.
It is easy to make when you first have the ingredients. It's recommended to use gloves when handling chilies though (1), or else you will burn your eyes out when you accidentally touch your face later that day. Yes, it sticks for a long time!
Remove the membranes and seeds (2) because the membranes are bitter and the seeds make the powder too spicy and hot! I usually never remove seeds, but for this and for homemade harissa paste it is highly recommended!
Tear into similar sized pieces and add them in a single layer in a non-stick pan (3-4) on medium heat. Toast for about a minute on each side and set aside to cool. Now you toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds for a minute too (6).
Since this is quite a bit of dried chili, I add them in batches to the grinder (5). Once all the chili and cumin and coriander seeds are ground, I add the other ingredients and just pulse a few times (7-10).
Types of whole dried chili peppers
But why girl, why do you have 5 different kinds of dried chilies in this recipe? Let me tell you, each chili brings another nuance, another complexity to the chilli powder.
According to Benito's, the holy trinity in Mexican cooking is ancho chili, mulato and pasilla.
- Ancho chilies are sweet, fruity and mild
- Mulato chilies are sweet, smoky with a moderate heat
- Pasilla chilies tastes like sweet raisin and coffee and is mildly hot
However, many agree, including the City Cook, that the real Mexican trifecta includes ancho, pasilla and guajilo, which generally are easier to find. However, I really like the smoky addition of the mulato.
- Guajilo are similar in flavor to the pasilla, and has a sweet and earthy flavor almost like tea. Pretty mild.
- Chiles de arbol are used mostly for their heat in this recipe. So if you like it spicy, add more, and omit if you don't like it spicy. I added 2 and it was hardly spicy at all.
How to substitute one chili for another, please refer to the dried chilis guide below:
Where to find all the dried chilies
I thought I could not find all these chilies in little Norway, but there is this one thing called the Internet, and I figured there exists tons of spice stores online, many Norwegians too.
I bought my chilies from krydra.no (not affiliate). But you can probably find them in Mexican stores if you have that, because all of these chilies are common in Mexican cuisine!
How to make it
Considering this post is already so long, I will just give you the highlights of the recipe here. The complete recipe can be found in the recipe card below.
First you need to prepare the Mexican chili powder as mentioned above and prepare all the ingredients for the chili (1). Then start by cooking the diced onion in oil until translucent, about 10 minutes (2). Add in the bell peppers and garlic and fry a little more (3).
Add in the tomato paste, cocoa powder, chipotles and all the spices and stir to coat the vegetables (4-5). Toast for a couple of minutes before deglazing the pan with vinegar or wine if necessary (6). Then add the sauce ingredients: crushed tomatoes, vegetable stock and soy sauce (7). Simmer for about an hour, stir occasionally.
Add all the canned beans and taste the chili (8-9). Add salt, maple syrup and lime juice and cook for another 5 minutes (10). Serve with all the toppings you want - enjoy!
Did you like this recipe? Here are more comforting meatless dinners I think you would like:
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