Tempeh Chili

a bowl of chili

We’ve been trying to make some of our favorite meat dishes without meat. (So far we only have one for-sure source of certified-humane meat: Murray’s chicken.) Chili in particular has always pleased this carnivore. My mother made it with beef; I used to make it with ground turkey (until I learned how almost all turkeys are raised); and now I make it with tempeh.

I love tempeh. It has that rich, proteiny, “umami” taste that Western science has “discovered” is available to human taste receptors (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and now umami). Umami is yummy.

Tempeh comes out of the package in a neat, dry slab and is strangely satisfying to dice. This recipe is hard to mess up and is amenable to substitutions, additions, and deletions.

Tempeh Chili

  • 1 slab (8 oz.) of plain tempeh, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Packet of chili seasoning mix (or make your own with chili powder, cumin, oregano, and paprika)
  • 2 zucchini and/or yellow squash, diced
  • 2 cups diced bell pepper (it’s nice to use three colors)
  • 1 can each: pinto, kidney, black beans
  • Large can of crushed/diced tomatoes or spaghetti sauce
  • Frozen corn (roasted corn is nice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute the tempeh and garlic in soy sauce and oil over medium heat until browned. Add onion and saute till translucent.
  2. Add seasoning mix and the remaining ingredients except corn. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least 45 minutes (the longer the better). If you want thicker chili, leave the pot uncovered. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add corn toward the end so it doesn’t get too mushy (it’s okay to throw it in frozen). To gild the lily, you can top with grated cheddar cheese, chives, fresh cilantro and/or sour cream. It’s even better the next day, and also freezes well.

Here are other crazy things you can add to the mix: the half jar of salsa you have in the fridge, a shot of Tabasco, a bottle of good dark beer, a squirt of ketchup for extra tanginess, a dash of lemon juice, a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup.

One thought on “Tempeh Chili

  1. I’m a relative beginner when it comes to organic local foods. You are my first encounter and I look forward to learning a great deal. Thank you!

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