Chili is the perfect dish for a casual gathering on a fall day. We threw a small birthday party for my son recently and while the kids had pigs-in-blankets and sweet potato fries, the adults chowed down on chili accompanied by jalapeno corn bread and the usual chili fixins’. While I was getting ready for the party, the chili was simmering away on its own in the slow-cooker – one of my top ten favorite kitchen appliance. I’ve made this chili numerous times and it is certainly a crowd-pleaser. It can definitely hold its own next to its meat-filled counterpart, and it’s good for you. It’s an oft-requested recipe so I’ve dedicated a post to it. See? It’s the best chili EVER.
A few notes on the recipe…regarding the beans, I prefer black and pinto beans since I find these varieties to be the most flavorful. You’ll also note that there is an added step of running the diced tomatoes through the food processor to achieve a desired consistency that lies between purée and chunky. So, why not just use crushed or puréed tomatoes, you ask. Well, the folks at Cook’s Illustrated concluded that “tomato purée tasted too thick and sweet” and that the consistency of crushed tomatoes varied too greatly among the different brands of canned tomatoes. Believe me, I tried the puréed and crushed tomatoes on separate occasions and the consistency of the chili was never “right” even after hours in the slow-cooker. And after making this dish many times, I prefer some tomato chunkiness in my chili so I usually run just one can of diced tomatoes through the processor and leave the other one as-is. The corn is a must-add, the cilantro brightens the dish, and the sugar balances the heat and acidity of the chili. This chili also freezes well so you can have chili throughout the year.
Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Bean Chili
Serves 6 to 8
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, minced
8 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 8 teaspoons)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 (15.5-ounce) cans pinto, drained and rinsed
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1-3 tablespoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
Ground black pepper
1 – Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until slightly chunky, about 5 pulses; set aside. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the onions are softened and lighly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the processed tomatoes.
2 – Transfer the onion and tomato mixture to the slow cooker insert and stir in the beans, chipotles, and sugar until evenly combined. Cover and cook on low until the chili is flavorful, 7 to 8 hours.
3 – Stir in the corn and cilantro, cover, and continue to cook until the corn is heated through, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.