This simple slow cooker recipe for vegetarian chili is reliable, comforting, and very adaptable. I realize it doesn’t follow any of the strict guidelines that a truly authentic chili would, but I think that’s what gives this recipe a sense of fun and spontaneity. I dreamed this version up while I was taking an early morning train from Seattle to Vancouver. The sun was just beginning to come up, bouncing across the steely water and turning the waves gentle shades of lilac and rose; Mt. Rainier was a constant blink of gold in the distance. The tracks would briefly touch on forested areas that were coated with softest white, Puget Sound weaving in and out of view as we got closer to the Canadian border. The quiet of the early morning train was welcome as I read my new copy of Niki Segnit’s Flavor Thesaurus, a superbly witty and informative read that I warmly recommend to anyone curious about pairing and truly tasting food. If you’re anything like me you find it impossible to read about food without planning meals in your head and by the time we got home to Vancouver I was in a state of absolutely needing to cook something nourishing and wonderful. My plan was to make something in my slow cooker, so that I could take a nap and then get up to the smells of simmering vegetables. I decided on vegetarian chili, which for some reason I have always made instead of a regular chili with meat, so I felt comfortable riffing on tradition. If you want to try different vegetables I would recommend frozen corn, poblano peppers, diced carrots, celery, cremini mushrooms, roasted peppers, eggplant, or butternut squash. It’s very important to cook the onions and other aromatics together first in a skillet, the onion flavour loses some of its intensity and the spices gain focus before they’re added to the slow cooker. I’m particularly fond of topping my chili with a crispy fried egg and avocado, both lend a soothing creamy component that is only further enhanced by a quick application of Sriracha.
simple slow cooker vegetarian chili:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and minced (or seeds in, if everyone is in agreement on their heat tolerances)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cocoa powder or 2 small squares of dark chocolate
2 tsp. cumin
1 small zucchini, cut into thin quarter moon slices
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into a small dice
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and their juices
11/2 cups of tomato juice (or Clamato if you’d like the Canadian version of this recipe)
1 Tbsp. salt
Generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper
Potential toppings: crispy fried egg, sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced scallions or radishes – maybe lightly pickled in some lime juice, Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled feta or Oaxaca cheese, cilantro, fresh basil, shredded carrot, salsa, Sriracha, salsa, roasted tomatillos, lime wedges, roasted corn, parsley, torn spinach, shredded Iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, corn chips, pickled jalapeños, chopped olives, and anything else you can think of.
- Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeño until soft. Add a pinch of salt and the chili powder, cinnamon, cocoa or dark chocolate, and cumin. Stir for 2 minutes or until the spices become very fragrant. Remove from heat and reserve for future use.
- Combine the cut up vegetables, bean, tomatoes, tomato or Clamato juice, salt, and pepper to taste in a large slow cooker. Add the cooked onions and other aromatics and give everything a good stir to combine.
- Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with the toppings of your choice and hearty buttered bread. This chili is even better the next day, when any excess liquid has had time to be absorbed and it keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Freeze any remaining chili for up to 6 months.
I’m so excited for Wild Nothing’s new album, Life of Pause, to come out in February; each of their songs always feel like a sharp and smart breath of fresh air. These new songs have so much energy, lots of shoegazey influences, and just the perfect touch of Bryan Ferry – all of the suitable components that make an ideal music for Ashley trifecta.
Wild Nothing – To Know You / TV Queen