I am all about chili this time of year.
I make it on an almost-weekly basis, and I make it a little bit differently every time. I have a variety of chili recipes on this site, and I don’t see the trend stopping anytime soon!
There’s something so satisfying about a big bowl of chili, whether you’re watching a football game or unwinding after a long day at work. It’s comfort food. But comfort food with some heft! And comfort food that doesn’t have to be bad for you.
Today’s version is vegetarian. Don’t let that fool you, though. Vegetarian does NOT mean lacking on flavor or heartiness. This chili is just as flavorful as any other variety I’ve made. Maybe even moreso!
This recipe starts with roasted poblano peppers. Yup. They are so easy to do over a gas flame on the stovetop or under the broiler in the oven. You char the skins for a few minutes until it’s black, crispy, fragrant, and the flesh is starting to soften up.
Then, you pop them in a covered container or pot to steam until the skins can be easily peeled off. It is an extra step that takes a little bit of time (I actually do it while I start cooking the onion/peppers/etc for the chili), but I promise you, it is SO worth it.
The roasted peppers add a smoky, super savory pepper flavor to the chili. I think that’s the key with vegetarian chilis. You have to make one ingredient the star and really think about how you are going to drive that flavor home. In this case, it’s the peppers! This is a pepper-heavy recipe.
We’ve got the roasted poblanos for some smoky savoriness, some bell peppers for sweetness and color, and some pickled jalapeños for spice and tang. The use of three peppers here makes a world of difference in the end result. Plus, it keeps things interesting!
And if I’m going to pitch a vegetarian bean and pepper chili to my beans/pepper-hating husband, you better believe it has to be interesting.
(To be fair, I didn’t actually state any of that when I served this to Dan for dinner. But ya know what? What you don’t know won’t hurt you. He LOVED this.)
I love making vegetarian spins on classic dishes. Don’t get me wrong, this beef and three bean chili still reigns supreme in my house (it is a classic, no-frills beef chili recipe. It’s so good and what I serve to chili purists, every time.), but lightening things up a bit or trying to incorporate more veggies into our diets (which is a constant struggle for me) is good too.
Especially when you don’t have to sacrifice any of the goodness of chili. This one has it all: flavor, comfort, spice, smokiness, and heft.
Oh, and it’s absolutely delicious as well!
3 poblano peppers
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons chili powder
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup pickled jalapeños, diced
2 tablespoons of the jalapeño pickling liquid
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
3 cups baby spinach
½ cup of milk or half-and-half (optional)
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped scallions or red onion
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
Hot sauce or chili flakes
To roast the poblano peppers, place them directly over an open flame (I do this on my stovetop burners). Using tongs, turn the chilies every 15 seconds until all sides are blackened and blistered. Alternatively, you can place them under an oven broiler, on a sheet pan, for 4-5 minutes or until they are charred.
Place the peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to steam in the bowl for about 15 minutes. Then, carefully remove the charred skin, stems, and seeds. Chop and set aside.
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper with a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes.
Add in the garlic and spices and cook for another minute. Add in the roasted poblanos, broth, and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Add in half the beans, jalapeños, and pickling liquid. Add another pinch of salt and some black pepper.
Mash the remaining beans with a fork to break them down. Add the mashed beans to the pot.
Return the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes.
Stir the spinach, corn, and lime juice into the chili. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
At this point, if you want a slightly richer and creamier consistency, add the milk/half-and-half. This is totally optional!
Season, to taste, with additional salt and pepper.
Ladle the chili into bowls while hot and garnish however you like. My favorite combo is a generous dollop of Greek yogurt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and some cilantro. Oh, and some crushed up tortilla chips never hurt anybody!