Spicy Vegetarian Chili and The Best Cornbread

I know the word "chili" means something different to everyone - depending on where you're from, chili may be white or green, red or brown, sweet or flaming hot spicy - there are a zillion regional varieties. And it's a great dish, easy to make and great when you're cooking for a crowd. It freezes well, it's great as leftovers, and it's pretty much a meal in itself. And it can be as healthy (or unhealthy) as you like, with pretty much any protein you want - I've seen chili made from turkey, chicken, beef, pork, bacon, beans, tofu, etc. I don't eat or cook with red meat, so I prefer veggie or tofu chili; this tofu chili recipe from Whole Foods is a favorite in our house, but I was in the mood for something different. When I saw this vegetarian chili recipe from The Curvy Carrot I thought it looked like the perfect warm and comforting meal to welcome the chilly fall weather. 


Spicy Vegetarian Chili

adapted from The Curvy Carrot

serves 6


  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (make sure you get a brand without added salt)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen corn, just defrost before using)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • shredded extra sharp cheddar (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • chopped scallions (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent and slightly softened, about 3 minutes. 
  2. Add the red and green bell pepper and and cook for 3 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pot so that the center of the pot is clear - sprinkle the cumin into the center of the pot and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir the cumin and vegetables together and let cook until the cumin is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the chili powder and cayenne pepper and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  6. Add 1 3/4 cups water and stir well to combine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, oregano, and brown sugar, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. 
  8. Add the beans and the corn and stir gently to incorporate. 
  9. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lime juice and cilantro right before serving. 
  10. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of scallions, if desired (I'd highly recommend it). 
I served the chili with my favorite cornbread, aptly named The Best Corn Bread, from Eating Well. This cornbread is light and fluffy and has only 81 calories per serving - the perfect accompaniment to hot chili. 
The Best Corn Bread

serves 9
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup lowfat buttermilk (I never have it on hand, so I use this trick with 1% milk instead)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 cup thawed frozen sweet corn kernels (optional)
  • honey (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, egg, and oil in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If using corn kernels, gently fold them in now. 
  2. Lightly brush an 8x8 baking pan with oil (I just spray with canola cooking spray) and heat in oven for 5 minutes. Pour the batter into the hot pan and bake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack and cut into 9 pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you like (I do), drizzle honey over your warm corn bread. 


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