Every time I make a new chili recipe, I say “This is the best version yet.” Every darn time.
And this time is no different!
I made this chili a couple weeks ago after having a similar version at a local restaurant, and I may be converted to this chili for the rest of time. Well, until I create the next favorite version. Because I really don’t discriminate much when it comes to a hot bowl of chili loaded up with all the toppings (let’s be real: the toppings may be the best part). It’s one of my favorite comfort foods in the cooler months, and I associate it with all the fun fall activities, like football tailgates.
THIS chili, however, actually is special and different than the more traditional varieties. First, it’s vegetarian (and very vegan friendly!) and gluten free. Second, I make it in a crock-pot so there is minimal clean up or fuss (which is also nice given how warm the past week has been – no stove-top cooking involved here!). Third, it uses quinoa.
Quinoa and I have a love-hate relationship. Truthfully, I am not a big fan. I eagerly tried it out when it first came on the scene as a healthy food trend, and I could just never get on board that bandwagon. No matter how badly I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. I’ve tried it every which way, and it comes down to a texture AND flavor issue for me. It’s just not my favorite.
There are a few exceptions to my dislike of quinoa, though. First, anytime it’s in a soup, I’m OK with it. The texture doesn’t become an issue when it’s in soup, and the taste is often overwhelmed by the other ingredients. Second, I like it cold in salads, especially when a tangy vinaigrette is involved. But only a little bit! If there is too much quinoa in my salad, it ruins the whole experience for me. I know, I know. So high maintenance.
Lucky for me, putting quinoa in chili works well! I can’t taste it, thanks to all the other awesome flavors going on, and the texture becomes obsolete with so many other ingredients. But! I’m still left with all the great nutrition the quinoa adds here. It’s loaded with protein and fiber and is chock-full of vitamins and nutrients. You won’t miss the meat in this chili AT ALL, mostly thanks to the quinoa.
We’ve also got creamy sweet potato and a couple kinds of beans, a splash of orange juice for some acidic sweetness, and honey. Now, honey and orange juice are definitely not in my usual list of chili ingredients, but I love what they did here. The orange juice is very subtle and adds an acidity from the get go. And the honey is just fabulous here. It rounds out those spices and super savory flavors perfectly. If you’re vegan, it’s the only ingredient you would need to alter to make this a vegan chili. Sub in with your preferred sweetener. Brown sugar or maple syrup would work well here!
I love crock-pot soups and stews like this one. You prep everything in the morning, throw it in the crock-pot, and let it go all day long. A few finishing touches before dinnertime, and you are good to go. It makes this busy working mama very, very happy. Especially on a weeknight!
Yes, I think it’s safe to say that this chili is definitely going into our soup rotation this fall. Quinoa and all.
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup of orange juice
Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons honey
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 (15-oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
Grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
In the bowl of a slow-cooker, whisk together the broth, orange juice, lime juice, and honey.
Stir in the diced tomatoes, beans, onion, peppers, sweet potatoes, garlic, jalapeno pepper, tomato paste, spices, salt, and pepper.
Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on LOW for 8 hours or on HIGH for 5 hours.
Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
During the last hour of cooking time, stir in the quinoa. The chili is ready once it has thickened and the quinoa is tender.
Ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream/yogurt, and tortilla chips. Serve while hot.
This chili is gluten free and vegetarian. It can be made easily vegan by omitting the honey and using a couple tablespoons of maple syrup or brown sugar instead. Swap in vegan toppings, as you see fit.