chili: an interview with a master

October 1, 2009 at 8:55 pm (vegan living) ()

3930562108_f07c8dec17Chili is one of those foods I never really thought about until meeting Raechel, mostly because I never make it. I feel like chili is one of those foods that if you don’t eat it as a kid you don’t think to cook it as a grown-up. I ate it on chili dogs or whatever in the school cafeteria, and I think on a whim I once ordered it a Wendy’s, but I can’t really recall my parents making it. So never what Whoopie might call “chili chili.” (Too soon?)

Anywayz, when Raechel said she was making chili last night, I knew I needed to blog about it for VeganMoFo. Her chili is epic, both usually in quantity cooked, and deliciousness. Thus, I present you, the internet, with an interview with one Raechel the Chili Master, followed by her chili instructions.

Here is Raechel, eating guacamole:


Q: Some people never make chili (like me), but for the people who do make it, it seems to be a staple dish. When did chili become a part of your life?

A: My dad worked a lot when my sister and I were young, and though he really enjoyed cooking, he rarely had the energy to make anything fancier than a one-pot dish. So, he’d make a delicious chili to last a few days.

Q: There are lots of different chilis out there, how did you come by your recipe?

A: Well, I’ve never really used a recipe since chili is kind of a throw-things-in-a-pot kind of dish. I actually didn’t start loving chili until going vegan and realizing that it was a quick and inexpensive way to make a vegan meal to for a bunch of friends.

Q: Do you measure stuff out or do you make it more with whatever’s around? What ingredients MUST be a part of your chili for it to be OK for you?

A: I don’t measure anything out– chili is a great opportunity to use up soon-to-be-bad veggies! As for must-have ingredients, well, you know I love hot things. (She does, I verify this.) If I’m cooking for myself I tend to use three or four times as many peppers than if I’m cooking for friends. Blame my dad.

Q: OK your chili is done. How do you serve yourself a bowl? What toppings do you like?

A: I top mine with vegan sour cream and grated Follow Your Heart cheese. I hear nutritional yeast is a delicious topping, as well. (This is actually true, nutritional yeast is an essential chili topping.)

Q: Do you put anything underneath, like rice? What role does bread play in your chili consumption, typically?

A: I don’t really like rice with my chili. I love a good french bread, though. I’ll dip bread in pretty much anything.

Q: What would be your advice to a novice chili-maker?

A: It’s really hard to screw up chili. Beans and canned tomatoes are the standard base. From there, add whatever you think tastes good!

Q: Do you feel comfortable sharing a version of your personal recipe with VeganMoFo? This is for posterity, so be honest.

A: Sure!

Good! Picture tutorial and Raechel instructions, activate!

I typically chop up a yellow or white onion, a bell pepper or two, 4-5 cloves of garlic, and some hot peppers (habaneros are my favorite, but jalapenos are a bit gentler) and throw them in the pot with a little oil to cook. When the onions are turning clear, I add spices– I like cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and oregano– and 1/4 cup of water or so to keep it all from sticking while I stir.

veggies and spices

I cook for a few more minutes then add canned chili beans and diced tomatoes (drain the water off of these unless you like watery chili), then turn it on low, cover it, and let it sit for forever (seriously, anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours), stirring occasionally.

chili done

If you use as many veggies as I do, you’ll want to make a big-ass pot. I think tonight I used 6 cans of beans and 3 of tomatoes. Use fewer veggies for smaller batches so that it doesn’t taste too oniony. Then again, I’m a stickler for proportions. Except for where hot peppers are concerned because you can NEVER HAVE TOO MANY! (This is frightening, since waving a jalapeno over food makes it too spicy for me.)

ALRIGHT! Thanks to the lovely Raech. And for posterity, here is a properly suited-up bowl of chili, complete with vegan sour cream and plenty of nutritional yeast:

molly chili

Thanks everyone! Tune in soon for VeganMoFo: Guacamole Edition, wherein I attempt to interview Jesse about the one dish he makes: Guacamole! If he won’t do it I will just make up answers for him.



  1. John said,

    That chili was delicious. I ate too much of it, and couldn’t move for a while. I am definitely down with the cheese, sour cream, and bread, but nooch? Nah, dog. Nah. Also, chili goes best with beer, and anyone arguing gets a bottle upside the head.

  2. Raechel said,

    You forget that Jesse also makes a mean burnt-tempeh.

    • John said,

      Be nice to Jesse, he still cooks better than I do.

      • molly said,

        Potatoes and onions! And. . . cotton candy mac n cheese?

        Oh man I had actually forgotten about the burnt tempehs. . . hahaha.

        • Raechel said,

          Don’t forget John’s bean alfredo sauce. Blech.

  3. brad said,

    I bet some polenta dumplings would be good in/beside this. What do they make vegan sour cream out of? We use the organic valley stuff, and we go through more of it than seems possible.

    • John said,

      I think the sour cream is one of those vegan substitutes that you’re not supposed to look at the ingredients for. It’s probably all chemicals and self-righteousness. But it tastes good!

    • molly said,

      I will check out the ingredients when I get home! But yeah, polenta. . . anything. On anything. In anything. It is one of my favorite foods!

  4. Selena said,

    I can vouch, her chili is rock.

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