According to singer and songwriter Ken Finlay, “If you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans.” At least that’s what they say in Texas. Who would’ve known that the world of chili is strictly divided by those who believe in the power or evil of beans. They’re so innocent, those beans. All they want to do is add fiber and protein to a dish, but they have a bad reputation when it comes to chili if you ask some people. It appears as though the inclusion of beans in bowls is seen as blasphemy. Well now, that seems odd because beans are good. We like beans. They taste good in soups, stews, and yes, chili too. All across the country, there are numerous recipes and serving methods for chili. You’ll find those who slide in pre-made seasoning packs, while some purists start from the beginning with their own flavors. Others insist that they have a big chunk of hot cornbread on the side, while some families serve their chili over rice or alone in the bowl with cheddar cheese and sour cream on top. Or with all of the above. No matter how people like their chili, one of the biggest points of contention is the presence of beans. Who would’ve known that those little legumes would be so troublesome?
Chili is one of those dishes where the room for debate is bigger than the serving bowl. Luckily for all of us, chili is very forgiving. You can make it with beans or without, especially if you’re have lots of meat in there. But what if you have no meat? Well then, you might as well call on those beans. This super hearty mixed bean chili actually falls into the vegan category, but that should not scare you. It is as delicious as any meat-laden version you might find out there. It is full of body, texture and heat. The mix of black beans, pinto beans and kidney beans come together harmoniously with each bite. The corn adds a hint of sweetness to offset the slight spice. Serve it with crackers, cornbread, rice or, as you see here, polenta. It’s only going to taste better with a partner in the bowl. There are a few tiny substitutions to fit vegan guidelines, but you could make this non-vegan easily. Or not. It might be easier than you think to fool yourself or anyone else who sits down to your table.
Three Bean and Corn Chili – Serves 8 to 10
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance)
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegan beer (whatever your preference)* or vegetable broth
15 ounces black beans, drained but not rinsed
15 ounces kidney beans, drained but not rinsed
15 ounces pinto beans, drained but not rinsed
15 ounces diced tomatoes, drained
15 ounces canned or frozen corn, drained or thawed
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar, agave nectar or your favorite mild sweetener (This recipe uses leftover Pear Jalapeno ‘Honey’ from our Christmas dinner.)
9 ounces soyrizo, cooked
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste**
1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter substitute over a medium high flame. Once hot, add the bell peppers and onions, cooking for 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
2. Pour in the beer or broth and bring to a simmer. Add all three cans of beans, tomatoes, corn and tomato paste. Stir until well combined, then add the cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper, bay leaves and brown sugar. Stir again, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Add the soyrizo and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Serve while hot.
*Of course, if you are not a vegan, you may not think about beer using animal products. Well, in all honesty, it never crossed either one of our minds. A bit of research shows that some beer producers make use of animal-derived products, and that goes far beyond the honey you might find in your light ale. Just an interesting fact! Check out Healthy. Happy. Life. for a short list of vegan approved beer producers.
**Typically, we include salt in all of our recipes, but with all of the beans, corn and soyrizo, you may find that this chili is seasoned enough on its own sans salt or just a wee less than noted here.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.