Chili has always been one of my favourite cold-weather foods – I like to make mine with just enough spice to bring a good heat to your mouth and all through your body, but not so much that there is any lingering discomfort.
For people like me who need a little extra help sending body heat to their fingers and toes, warm meals like this send strong currents of heat to the extremities of the body and give a healthy stimulation to the stomach, digestion, and immune system.
I like to use tempeh in my chili for a contrasting flavour and texture against the rest of the beans in the dish – in chilli, tempeh is strikingly similar to ground turkey, especially if you take the time to caramelize it well in the beginning stages of the recipe.
Tempeh – in addition to being a delicious source of protein – is a fermented food that is extraordinarily beneficial for our digestion and overall health! The culturing process breaks down the protein of the soybean into amino acids that are easily digested and used by our bodies while the fermentation process neutralizes the phytate/phytic acid in the soybeans. It is also high in protein and fibre.
You don’t have to use roasted tomatoes in this recipe, but it certainly does add an incredible depth of flavour – I recommend taking the extra step!
I make BIG batches of this recipe and keep it on hand for easy, filling weekday lunches for my boyfriend to eat on the go, or for delicious dinners that take less than 15 minutes to reheat and prepare.
I like to serve this chili with a side of homemade corn bread or organic blue-corn tortilla chips. It also works well with your favourite bun of choice as a ‘sloppy-joe’ style sandwich, or with a salad for a balanced meal.
If you see any stars beside an ingredient on the list below, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to read important extra notes!
- 1 250g package tempeh*, thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp. unrefined sesame oil**
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- one large onion or two small onions, finely diced
- 5 – 10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp herbs de provence***
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp. raw coconut sugar or maple syrup
- 1 x 28 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes****
- 1 x 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 1 x 15 oz can adzuki beans, drained
- 1 x 15 oz can black beans, drained
- 1 x 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
- 8 cups water (or vegetable stock)
- 3 bay leaves
Begin by heating 2 tbsp. of the sesame oil in a large pot – either stainless steel or enameled cast-iron – over medium heat. Add tempeh in single layer and let cook for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned on the one side. Flip each slice and let cook another 2-5 minutes or until well-browned on the other side.
Using a wooden spatula, break up all the slices of tempeh into smaller pieces that look like chunks of ground meat. Continue to let the tempeh cook and caramelize as you break it down. When you’ve reached the desired size and sear of your tempeh, remove the tempeh with a spoon and set it aside.
Heat the other 2 tbsp. of sesame oil in the same pot, still over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the oil and let fry for a minute to infuse the oil with flavour and cook the seeds slightly.
Add the diced onion and let it cook until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes – stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic, stir, and continue to let cook another 3-5 minutes, or until garlic begins to brown. While the garlic cooks, add all of the spices (cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, chilli powder, coriander, nutmeg, garlic, onion, herbs, salt, and pepper) into a bowl and set it by the stove to use shortly.
Add the spice mix to the onions and garlic, along with the coconut sugar or maple syrup. Stir to coat and let the spices cook in for 3 to 5 minutes – this ‘toasting’ of the spices is one of the most important steps to developing mind-blowing flavour in your chili!
Add the diced tomatoes, stir to coat, and let cook for 2-3 minutes. You can turn up the heat slightly at this step due to the liquid levels of the tomatoes.
Add the tempeh back to the pot, stir to coat, and let it cook while you measure out the liquid you’re going to add to the pot.
Turn the heat up to high. Slowly pour in your water or stock and give the pot a good stir.
Stir occasionally until the pot comes to a boil. Add the bay leaves, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 25 minutes. We’ll add the beans in later – giving the chili time for deep flavours to develop without overcooking the soft canned beans!
Remove the bay leaves and add the beans to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-low, stir, and let the chilli simmer another 15 minutes.
Add a bit more water if you feel the chilli is too thick.
Taste the chili and see if the flavours are balanced. Adding the beans may take some of the saltiness away, so feel free to add another pinch of salt if you think the flavours should be more pronounced. If it’s a bit salty and you can’t really taste an element of sweet, add another teaspoon of coconut sugar or maple syrup to round that out. If the spice is too tame, add a few extra shakes of red pepper flakes.
Let the chili cook another 5 minutes to work in your last-minute flavour adjustments before tasting it again.
Serve hot, garnished with freshly cracked black pepper.
* Note: I prefer to use the original flavour of tempeh, but feel free to experiment with others! My boyfriend loved this chili made with the curry-flavour tempeh,
** Note: You can substitute the unrefined sesame oil for avocado oil, or oil of your choice – I prefer the flavour that the sesame oil gives in this recipe.
*** Alternatively you can use a mix of sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, lavender, and anise.
**** You can fire-roast your tomatoes on your own, too! In this case, use 6-8 small/medium tomatoes and roast them over an open flame or sliced and in the oven at 450F for 10-15 mins. Muir Glen is my favourite brand for non-gmo fire-roasted diced tomatoes in BPA-free cans.