A few months ago, my long time friend and colleague Phillipa described to me this delicious variation on vegetarian chili that her partner Jona regularly makes her. I filed it away in the “next time I make chili basket” and promptly forgot about it. She mentioned it again a few weeks ago and this time, in order not to forgot its genius, I asked her for the recipe. She texted me through a photo of a well-used photocopy. It originally came out of a book, but had obviously been used via photocopy for quite some time. For this reason I’m not sure which cookbook the recipe came from, but to be honest I’m not too concerned because the following recipe barely resembles it (!) – I used it more as an inspiration/jumping off point to make this delicious little number. I’ve made this weekly for the past month, tweaking it each time, and I am finally ready to share it with you!
It has to be my favourite chili to date – spicy and a little smokey, substantial yet comfortably filling. I like it best with a bowl of rice, a little coriander and the lime creme I’ve included the recipe for below, but the creme is by no means imperative if you can’t be bothered – it is great as is! That said, some avocado or a little zesty cabbage salad would be most welcome, as would serving it with tortillas or corn bread.
I’m a bit of a chilli wuss and this is on the spicy side for me, but you might like to add a little extra cayenne (to taste) at the end if you like it hot. I’m super excited about sharing this recipe with you today (after the weeks of testing), and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! X
Chili Con Tempeh with Lime Creme
Tempeh is a nutritious fermented soy protein. You can use it sliced as here, or crumbled for a finer textured chili. If you are unable to find it, feel free to substitute with crumbled firm tofu (smoked would be good here), or leave it out and double the beans at the end. You can use a variety of cooked beans or lentils – I’ve used a mix of kidney and black beans here, but any will do. The chipotle pepper adds a slight smokiness, but if you can’t get one the recipe will still be delicious (you could add smokiness by substituting in 1 tsp of smoked paprika in place of 1 of the tsp of sweet paprika). To quick soak cashews, soak them in just-boiled water for 10-15min.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 40 min
Chili Con Tempeh
260g | 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
80ml | 4 tbls olive oil
1 dried chipotle chilli (optional)
1 tsp sea salt (+ more to taste)
120g | 1 carrot, diced
300g tempeh, cut into 3 batons then in 1 cm slices ***
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbls | 4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
750ml | 3 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
250g | 1.5 cups cooked beans (or 1 X 400g can, drained and rinsed) ***
Black pepper, to taste
150g | 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in cold water for 4+ hours or quick soaked ***
190ml | 3/4 cup water
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt (+ more to taste)
To make the chili: In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion with 1/2 tsp of salt and the chipotle pepper for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the carrot and cook for a further 5 min, till the onion is soft and golden. Crank up the heat and add the garlic and tempeh, fry for another few minutes till the garlic is fragrant. Don’t worry if the tempeh breaks up at all.
Stir through the spices to coat the tempeh, then add the tomato, stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for 20 min – you want some gentle bubbles so the chili reduces. Add the beans and simmer for a further 5-10 min till the sauce is a rich gravy.
Add an additional 1/2 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper, taste and adjust seasoning – the amount of salt needed will depend on your stock, you may need to add up to another 1/2 tsp.
Serve with lime creme and rice, corn chips, corn bread, and/or warm tortillas. Other great additions include cabbage salad, fresh coriander (cilantro), avocado etc.
Chili will keep airtight refrigerated for up to 5 days. Freezes well.
To make the lime creme: Blend ingredients in a high speed blender till smooth (30 sec – 2 min, scraping down the sides if necessary). Taste and add additionl salt, if desired. Refrigerate till use. Lime Creme will keep 3-4 days airtight refrigerated, freezing not recommended.