Smoky and sweet tempeh Chili

There’s nothing more American or more comforting than a hot bowl of chili. It’s great in the summer at festivals and get togethers and it’s great in the winter to warm your chilly bones. It brings to the mind images of cowboys sitting around a camp fire, of fourth of July fireworks and of great chili cook-offs. Chili is so popular that there are entire festivals dedicated to it and vicious competitions.

I’ve taken part in several chili cook-offs myself, some of which I have won. This recipe that I’ve created is the closest to the one that I remember making for the last competition. I’ve made it very mild, allowing for the chef to decide how many peppers to put into it to add spice. I chose to use two serrano chilies that can be replaced with jalepeños if you like. Using just the two serranos leaves you with a very mild chili that even a child could eat, but I encourage anyone cooking this recipe to add more chilies to their liking, doubling or even tripling the quantity. The other option that can add spice to your dish is to leave the seeds. I almost always remove the seeds from my chilies before dropping them in the pot but by leaving the seeds you can really kick it up!

Another chili that I use in this recipe that is sweet, rather than spicy, is the Ancho chili. An Ancho chili is the ripened and dried Poblano chili. Poblano chilis are the green chilis that chili rellenos are made with, but when they are ripened they turn red and get a sweetness to them. It’s very similar to chipotle chilis that are nothing more than ripened and dried jalepeños chili peppers. When we think of green jalepeños, they are actually unripe. When ripened, jalepeños become red and then dried to become chipotles. In this recipe I reconstitute the Ancho chilies in hot water for about twenty minutes or so and chop them up finely and toss out the stem. This chili helps give the smoky flavor to this dish.

As always, get creative with this dish. If you want it spicy, add more chilies. Toppings can range from cheese and sour cream, to extra hot sauce and onions. Enjoy your food and keep cooking! I hope you like this chili as much as I do!


  • 2 Cups of vegetable broth
  • 28 Ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 14 Ounce can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 14 Ounce can of pinto beans drained and rinsed
  • 8 Ounces of tempeh chopped small
  • 1 Cup of celery chopped
  • 1 Cup of corn fresh or frozen
  • 1 Cup of carrots chopped
  • 1 Cup of cashews soaked and chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Serrano chilies seeded and minced (leave seeds for more spice)
  • 2 Ancho chilies reconstituted and chopped small
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Teaspoon oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  1. Soak cashews and ancho chilies separately in hot water. We want the cashews softened and the anchos reconstituted.
  2. Heat oil over medium high heat and add onions, garlic, serranos, celery and carrots for about five minutes, or until they become softened.
  3. Add tempeh and cook for about another five minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for about five more minutes.
  5. Scoop two cups of the chili into a blender and blend until smooth. This will give the chili a thicker and creamier texture. Add the blended chili back into the pot and simmer for about ten more minutes.
  6. At this point the chili is ready to be served but can sit and simmer on the stove for as long as you want. The longer the chili sits, the deeper the flavor will become.
  7. Garnish with chives and cilantro or any other topping you choose.

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