The New Veganism

A New Kind of Vegan Chili

By • February 20, 2014 • 2 Comments

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: Want to recreate the texture of classic chili, without the meat? Here's how. 

Tempeh Chili on Food52

Whether you knew it or not, there’s a good chance you’ve had meatless chili before. Chilis made with beans (for example, black bean and sweet potato chili) are fairly ubiquitous, and most of us have crossed paths with them at some point or another. But tempeh chili? Well, that’s another story.

Unlike its fellow soy product, tofu, tempeh remains a somewhat exotic ingredient in American kitchens. This is a shame, because tempeh is versatile, nutritious, and satisfying in ways that some other meat substitutes are not; it has a dense, chewy texture and a nutty taste. And when you grate it on a box grater, it takes on a texture that is not unlike ground beef. Could anything be more perfect for a pot of vegan chili?

More: Looking for more vegan chili recipes? Try Gena's smoky black bean and sweet potato version.

This recipe mixes grated tempeh with kidney and pinto beans to create a perfect, hearty chili that’s full of flavor and spice. I like to brown the tempeh before adding my beans and liquid; this adds an extra layer of flavor and makes for a more authentic chili texture. Even if tempeh hasn't impressed you in the past, I bet it will be hard not to fall in love with this recipe.

Tempeh Chili on Food52

Tempeh Chili 

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
One 8-ounce package tempeh, grated on the largest setting of a box grater or crumbled finely
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup puréed tomato sauce
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup green onions or scallions, chopped

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Gena Hamshaw  

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Tags: vegan, vegetarian, tempeh, chili, winter, beans, meatless, stew, soy, special diets

Comments (2)

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5 months ago Lesley Goldberg

I made this last week-end. I loved the grating technique for the consistency it gave the dish but I thought it needed more chili powder and maybe a bit more tomato. I had soaking liquid left from rehydrating some ancho chiles and I used that instead of water when the pan got too dry and I think that helped.


I also had an issue browing the tempeh. It stuck to the pan and what stuck to the pan did get brown, but the tempeh never did. I added water to loosen the brown bits. I've had this issue with sticking every time I've tried to cook with tempeh and in the past, I've cut it into cubes and browned it in the broiler before adding it to my recipe. But I don't know how well that would work with grated tempeh. How do you keep it from sticking to the pan?

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5 months ago veganmiam

This looks delicious, Gena! I used soy rizo sometimes in my chili and loads of cilantro for the flavor.