Vegetarian Chili with Tofu

Spring is finally here and with the return of fresh produce and vegetables to our city’s farmers markets, now’s a good time to modify a traditional winter recipe into one more fit for spring. Chili is one of my favorite dishes and this vegetarian recipe is really versatile – you can use any vegetables you want. I like to combine colors and textures like broccoli or cauliflower with zucchini, red bell pepper, beans, corn, and tofu. But just throw in whatever looks fresh. Of course, frozen vegetables and canned beans work fine too.

Use whatever vegetables you have

Everyone has their own spice mixture for chili but I found fennel seeds and some smoky pimentón bring out the best in this dish. The vegetables in the ingredients list below are what I used the most recent time I made chili but feel free to use different vegetables and beans. This chili can be made in as little as 30-40 minutes and so I’ve made it on many weeknights. But, of course, as any experienced chili aficionado will tell you, the longer it simmers the better.

Vegetarian Chili with Tofu

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 large white onion, chopped
1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeds removed (if desired) and chopped
1 zucchini sliced and quartered
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 small bunch broccoli, trimmed, and cut into smaller florets

Fennel seeds and pimentón are key

2 cups fresh or frozen corn at room temperature
1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained, cut in cubes
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 28 ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon Mexican or other oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon pimentón
chili powder or cayenne to taste
salt and freshly ground black peppper
grated sharp cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
chopped avocado
greek yogurt or sour cream
parsley or cilantro, diced

1. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic, onions, serrano or jalapeño pepper, bell pepper, zucchini, and broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, fennel seeds, oregano, cumin, pimentón, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of vegetable stock or water and assess consistency, adding 1/2 cup-1 cup more if it’s too thick or if you’d prefer to simmer it longer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and add corn and beans. Taste and add chili powder or more seasoning for desired spiciness. Simmer for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour. When you’re tired of simmering add tofu and cook for no more than 5 minutes, just for the tofu to heat up. Much longer and it’ll start to crumble.

3. Ladle the chili into bowls and top with chopped avocado, diced parsley or cilantro, cheese, and greek yogurt or sour cream

This basic recipe can also be used for meat chili too. Brown the meat first and drain out some fat, then add the meat at step 1, above.

Total time: 40 minutes, or longer if you want to simmer it more.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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