For me, chili is all about the beans, complemented by a savory sauce and plenty of tasty garnishes. I think adding grains and lots of vegetables just detracts from the main event. My version includes dark beer, dried chiles, and cocoa powder to create deep bass notes, reminiscent of Oaxacan mole. My Brown Butter Cornbread is a great accompaniment.
The pressure cooker is my favorite way to make chili. It allows me to cook the beans from scratch and include the bean cooking liquid as part of the broth. The pressure cooker requires about 8 cups of liquid for 1 pound of beans (consult your manual to be sure). This makes a soup rather than a thick chili, so I just drain off the sauce and quickly simmer it down to the right consistency, then add it back to the beans. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can still make this dish. Just precook the beans and follow the instructions below.
If you have the time, make this chili a couple of hours in advance, or even the day before you plan to serve it. The flavors only get better when they have time to rest.
Recipe: Vegetarian Chili
A delicious, hearty chili recipe that uses a variety of beans and flavorful tomato-chili sauce.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed (or 2 to 3 cups cooked pinto beans)
- 1 cup dried black beans, picked over and rinsed (or 2 to 3 cups cooked black beans)
- 2/3 cup dried kidney beans, picked over and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked kidney beans)
- 2 whole chiles negro (dried pasilla)
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle very dark beer
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 handful minced fresh cilantro or flatleaf parsley leaves
- Sour cream, minced onion, shredded cheddar cheese, minced cilantro or parsley, and hot sauce, for garnish
- Heat the oil in a pressure cooker base or a 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.
- If using a pressure cooker, add the dried pinto beans, dried black beans, dried kidney beans, chiles negro, ancho chili powder, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa powder, salt, beer, and tomatoes. Add 6 cups water, cover the pressure cooker, and cook on high pressure according to manufacturer’s suggested time and instructions; in my pressure cooker, it takes 33 minutes. Turn off and allow the pressure to release naturally. If not using a pressure cooker, use the cooked beans, skip the water, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and discard the whole chiles. Test the beans (all 3 types) to make sure they are done; if not, simmer until tender.
- If using a pressure cooker, pour off most of the liquid into a saucepan and simmer the sauce briskly until it’s reduced to about 1 cup. Pour the sauce back into the chile.
- Add the lime juice and cilantro, mix thoroughly, then taste and adjust the seasoning. It will probably need more salt and possibly more chile powder.
- Serve immediately, passing the garnishes so diners can customize the chili to their taste.