Vegetarian recipes are tricky. For one to really be a success, it’s got to satisfy the vegetarians AND the meat-lovers out there. A true vegetarian recipe isn’t just delicious; it’s deceptive. It uses tasty tricks and alternative forms of protein to distract you from the missing meat. You see, with a good vegetarian dish, you forget it’s vegetarian at all. When you’re eating, you shouldn’t be concerning yourself with whether or not your food has meat in it; you should be focusing on how good it is.
Now, that being said, accomplishing a satisfying vegetarian chili ain’t easy. The good news is: this was a task I was willing to tackle. I knew the chili was going to need something special, something to make it so stand-out good & satisfying that the absence of meat mattered not. So what was it about this particular recipe that intrigued me?
Yep, that’s the secret ingredient, my little cookies. Before you proceed to make judgements about the combination of chili and peanut butter, allow me to stop you. First of all this isn’t peanut butter-flavored chili. There’s only a teeny tiny bit of PB in this recipe, but its contributions are colossal.
You see, the peanut butter thickens the chili, bulking it up and giving it a leg to stand on. Plus, you get the faintest nutty flavor in the background of every bite. It’s the kind of thing that will make people ask, “What is that?” Never fear, you do not taste peanut butter. It merely accents the chili, giving it a whole new kind of deliciousness that will leave everyone wondering what your secret is.
But we won’t tell.
Now, this chili has a whole lot going for it besides that bit of PB. For one, it’s thick & hearty. There are 3 kinds of beans, insuring a substantial meal that’s packed with protein. Then you’ve got corn for a little hint of something sweet to balance out the heat-packing spices. We’re talking chili powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Every bite gives you a wake-up call on its way down. Chili’s gotta have some kick, my friends.
Perhaps my favorite part of this chili was the caramelized onion topping I added. Allow me to let you in on a little lesson I learned: chili and caramelized onions are bff’s. Once you try this combo, you will never want your chili any other way. Those sweet, buttery onions come bursting through, adding that little something extra to really make this chili special. Now, if you go and serve this stuff piping hot over a bowl of rice with some sharp cheddar melted over the top, then you’re gonna be one happy
If chili seems like a boring dish to you, allow all of the crazy flavors going on here to change your mind. Loaded with spicy, kickin’, hearty ingredients, this chili is vivacious and lively. It’ll warm you up on a chilly day and fill you up when serious hunger strikes. Get ready to change your mind about chili and all things vegetarian. This is vegetarian chili done right.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- You will smell the peanut butter when the chili’s cooking, but don’t be alarmed. You smell it way more than you taste it. I guarantee once you eat it, you won’t even know it’s there.
- Prep work is a pain. Get it out of the way ahead of time so the rest of the process is smooth sailing.
- You can use any kinds of beans you want. Feel free to switch out the ones below.
- The caramelized onions on top really are spectacular. Try it.
Secret Ingredient Vegetarian Chili with Caramelized Onions
Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 a large red onion, chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Two (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- One (12-ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
- Two (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- One (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
- One (15-ounce) can whole sweet corn, rinsed and drained
- 4 cups cooked white or brown rice (for serving)
- 1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (for serving)
- In large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped red onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes and their liquid, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes to pot. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then add tomato paste, vegetable stock, and peanut butter. Stir until tomato paste and peanut butter are well incorporated. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and add all beans and corn. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, caramelize the onions. Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Add the whole sliced onion and cook low and slow until golden brown in color and caramelized (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat & set aside.
- To serve, place several scoops of rice in a bowl. Ladle on some chili. Top with cheddar cheese & caramelized onions.