Non-Traditional Vegetarian Chili with Tofu

After the completion of this delicious dish I called my mother to announce my success. “I made chili!” I told her, to which she responded, “no you didn’t.” I should note that she made this comment not as a criticism of my ability as a cook, but rather as a warning. Calling something chili, she told me, is dangerous because everyone has an opinion on what that means. While crafting this recipe I too did a good deal of research into just what makes chili, chili. Originally chili was made with beef alone, with other versions following adding beans and maybe even removing the beef. My version, which includes no meat, but lots of beans and – dare I say – tofu, is a bit far from the traditional image that this dish invokes.

That being said, if I should be so bold, I’d say that this “chili” was fantastic. I’m willing to take the risk and brand it with that name, especially because once you add a bit of cheese and maybe corn tortilla chips the dish feels complete. The flavor palate to me is representative of chili and it even has weird ingredients (cocoa powder anyone?), though not the coffee and beer that I’ve seen added on online recipes. I’ll leave it to you to make it and tell me if it’s real chili or not!

Non-Traditional Vegetarian Chili with Tofu

Time: 1.5 hours Serves: 4-6 – great for freezing


  • One medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one package of extra firm tofu
  • one large or two medium green peppers
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 8oz white mushrooms
  • 1 can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz)
  • 2 cans pink beans (habichuelas rosadas) (15 oz)
  • 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg,1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper,
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • extra sharp cheddar cheese to garnish


  • If you don’t have onions, use 5-6 cloves of garlic instead, just be careful not to brown them or they will become bitter
  • If you cant get green use red, yellow, or orange peppers
  • The additional vegetables are not necessary, but I think it’s nice to bulk up the dish with a bit of extra fiber, if you don’t have them don’t let that stop you
  • If you have it, use kidney beans instead of pink beans, I didn’t have any so I had to make do with what I had in my pantry.
  • Do the best you can with seasonings, cocoa powder is also not necessary but makes the flavor more interesting

Add olive oil to your large pot, bring to medium heat. Dice your onion and add. Cook onions until they are just starting to caramelize, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, take your tofu out of the package. You want to buy it fresh, which will mean that it comes packaged in water and must be refrigerated. Before you can cook the tofu, you want to press the water out of it so that it will absorb the flavors of the sauce. I cut my tofu into three big chunks to help the process go faster.

cut your tofu into 3 pieces

Take a plate, place some paper towels, then the tofu, then more paper towels. Put a bowl or a pot filled with water on top to press out the tofu. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. You will be amazed at how much water comes out, you in fact may have to change the paper towels if they become too wet. (Don’t be afraid of the tofu! This is all you have to do, it’s really not too hard)

press the tofu

While the tofu is sitting and the onions are cooking, wash your vegetables. Dice the carrots and peppers into similar sized chunks. Wash your mushrooms and cut them into fourths. Set all aside.

Once your onions are cooked, add the fire roasted tomatoes. Then, add your seasonings and cocoa powder. If the tomatoes are too think you may want to add a bit of water. Bring to a simmer, then add your carrots and peppers. Bring to a gentle boil, allow to cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

add carrots and peppers

Take your tofu, place in a clean dish and crumble with a fork. You might also have an easier time using your hand to break it into coarse crumbles. Then, add your tofu to the sauce, mix well. Bring to a gentle boil, then add mushrooms.

crumble tofu

Open your beans, drain in a strainer and rinse. You don’t need to overdo it, just try and remove some of the juice that they come packaged in. Add them to the chili. Bring to a gentle boil, and eat whenever you’re ready! Serve with grated cheese and tortilla chips if available. Enjoy!

serve with cheese on top!

3 thoughts on “Non-Traditional Vegetarian Chili with Tofu

  1. great photos.
    generally I don’t like chili, but since you didn’t add cumin!! I will love it.
    can’t wait til you make it again and invite me!!

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