This smoky vegetarian tempeh chili is loaded with black beans and chickpeas, and has a secret ingredient: dark chocolate. Plus, learn to make the best chili garnish ever: homemade tortilla crisps.
Chili is an undeniable comfort food. It’s right up there with creamy pastas, savory noodles, and anything with a lot of mushrooms (as far as I’m concerned, anyway). Especially when you load it up with fun toppings like avocado, tortilla crisps, and pumpkin seeds.
For a plant-based option, tempeh chili is surprisingly “meaty”. It’s thick and chunky, and has the satisfying toothsome texture of chili con carne. It’s also perfect for meal prep, since it gets even better after sitting in the fridge.
What’s In This Tempeh Chili
My tempeh chili starts with the usual foundational suspects: onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic, as well as spices (cumin, smoked paprika, and chili flakes). You’ll also need a can of tomato sauce, canned black beans and chickpeas, and a tiny bit of good-quality dark chocolate.
Adding Chocolate to Chili
“Whoa, chocolate?!” you may be thinking. Yes, there is a tiny bit of dark chocolate here. (It’s actually not that weird if you consider Mexican mole negro is enriched with chocolate, too.)
Chocolate adds depth and richness to chili. Its sweetness balances out the acidity of the tomato sauce and plays well with the onions and carrots. You only need a little (2 squares) for the whole pot. It’s not enough to make the soup taste like chocolate, but it’s just the right amount to make a well-rounded dish.
The key is to use a good quality chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher. Lindt works perfectly and is easy to find – this is not a job for Hersheys.
Tempeh Chili, Step-by-Step
Prep the Tempeh: To start, crumble the tempeh with your hands into chickpea-sized bits. Place in a pot with water and a splash of soy sauce, and simmer until the liquid evaporates, ~8 minutes. (Steaming the tempeh in this flavored liquid reduces its inherent bitterness and helps it absorb the other flavors in this chili).
Add the Vegetables: Next, add some oil to the pot, along with the onions, carrots, and bell peppers, and some salt. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the tempeh is starting to brown, another ~8 minutes. Then stir in the garlic and spices, and cook for 30 seconds more.
Add the Liquids: Add tomato sauce and stir to deglaze the pot (i.e. scrape up the brown stuck-on bits at the bottom of the pot). Add the beans and chickpeas, broth, and chocolate, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid ajar for 20 minutes.
Make the Tortilla Crisps (optional): While the chili simmers, brush a few corn tortillas with oil and cut into thin strips. Sprinkle with salt and bake until they’re golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.
Homemade Tortilla Crisps = the Best Chili Topper
These crunchy tortilla strips are toasty, aromatic, and totally addictive, adding a textural contrast to this vegan tempeh chili. They are easy and fast to make while your chili simmers, and so much tastier (and fresher, obviously) than store-bought tortilla chips.
More tempeh recipes…
- All About Tempeh + 7 Must-Try Recipes
- Tempeh ‘Bacon’ BLT’s with Spicy Mayo
- Tempeh Meatballs
- Soy-Glazed Crumbled Tempeh
This smoky tempeh chili is loaded with black beans, chickpeas, and has a secret ingredient: dark chocolate.
For the Chili
- One 8-ounce package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 small carrot, peeled and diced
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 squares good quality dark chocolate like Lindt (70% cocoa or higher)
- Avocado, cilantro, and spiced pumpkin seeds, for serving (optional)
For the Tortilla Crisps (optional)
- 4 taco-size corn tortillas
- About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- Using your hands, crumble the tempeh into chickpea-sized bits.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine the tempeh with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/2 cup water. Simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons oil, the diced onion, pepper, and carrot, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and the tempeh is starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon each cumin and paprika, ¼ teaspoon chili flakes, and black pepper to taste, and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add the beans and chickpeas, 2 cups broth, and 2 squares of chocolate. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid ajar for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the chili simmers, make the tortilla crisps (optional). Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Place a tortilla on a cutting board and lightly brush both sides with oil. Place another tortilla on top of the greased one and brush the top with oil, and continue stacking and brushing all tortillas. Slice the stacked tortillas into 1/3-inch strips.
- Transfer strips to a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake until the tortillas are lightly brown and crispy, tossing once halfway through cooking, about 15 minutes.
- Serve the chili garnished with cilantro, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and/or the tortillas.
- Serving Size: 1/8 of the recipe (w/o toppings)
- Calories: 290
- Fat: 11.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 34.1 g
- Fiber: 8.8 g
- Protein: 16 g
Keywords: tempeh, vegan, chili, beans