This smoky one-pot tempeh chili is loaded with black beans, chickpeas, and one secret ingredient: dark chocolate. Plus, learn how to make the best chili garnish.
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 creamy avocado, tortilla crisps, and spiced pumpkin seeds, which you should definitely not skip.
For a plant-based version, this tempeh chili is surprisingly “meaty”. It’s thick and chunky, and loaded with crumbled tempeh, black beans, and chickpeas, all united by an aromatic, tomato-y, chocolaty broth.
Chocolate in Chili
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Chocolate?” you may be thinking. Yes, there is a tiny bit of dark chocolate in this chili. (It’s actually not weird if you consider Mexican mole negro is enriched with chocolate, too.)
Chocolate adds a special depth and richness to chili. Its sweetness balances out the acidity of the tomato sauce and plays well with the onions and carrots, and you only need a tiny bit (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, minimally sweetened dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher. Lindt works perfectly and is easy to find – Ghirardelli, Theo, and Chocolove are also great – but this is not a job for Hersheys or Dove.
Why Make Chili with Tempeh
If you’re not familiar, tempeh (pronounced TEM-pay) is a fermented soy product. It’s a centuries-old Indonesian food and a go-to protein source for vegans. Unlike tofu – which is coagulated soy milk – tempeh is made of whole soy beans, so all their nutrients remain intact.
Culinarily speaking, tempeh has a meatier texture than tofu and makes the perfect meat substitute in tons of recipes. It can be sliced, then seared/grilled/baked. Or you can crumble it to resemble a ground meat texture (like for this chili). Tempeh bacon, Bolognese, and meatballs are some of my favorite ways to use it.
One thing to note about tempeh is its slightly bitter taste. Steaming, marinating, or simmering tempeh in a flavored liquid will tamper down the bitterness. That’s why this chili recipe starts by simmering the tempeh in water and soy sauce.
Homemade Tortilla Crisps = the Best Chili Topper
These crunchy tortilla strips are toasty, aromatic, and totally addictive. They are so easy and fast to make while your chili simmers, and so much tastier (and fresher, obviously) than store-bought chips.
Check out these other tempeh recipes…
- Tempeh Banh Mi with Quick-Pickled Carrots and Onions
- Tempeh ‘Bacon’ BLT’s with Spicy Mayo
- Tempeh Meatballs
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Tempeh and Mushrooms
This smoky tempeh chili is loaded with black beans, chickpeas, and one secret ingredient: dark chocolate.
For the Chili
- One 8-ounce package of soy tempeh
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 red 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 red pepper flakes
- One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked beans)
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked chickpeas)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 squares good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher)
- Avocado, cilantro, spiced pumpkin seeds, and/or tortilla chips, 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 small bits that resemble ground meat.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, combine the tempeh and soy sauce with 1/2 cup water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is evaporated, about 8 minutes.
- Add the oil, onion, bell pepper, carrot, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and the tempeh is starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, paprika, pepper flakes, and black pepper to taste, and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add all the beans, broth, and chocolate, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid ajar for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- 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.
- 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