In Chicago, it’s almost the end of chili season, when we turn from heartier soups and chilis to lighter summer fare. In winter, this vegetarian black bean chili is one of our favorite gluten-free meals. With plenty of toasted cumin, chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika, the flavors are strong and smoky, lingering long on your tongue with a spicy spike. I’ve made this several times and have dialed down the heat until I got to this version — spicy but not numbingly so. The recipe was inspired by “Lisa’s Superior Vegetarian Black Bean Chili,” a recipe handed down from a co-worker 20 years ago. This gluten-free black bean chili makes a satisfying entree, accompanied by a side of gluten-free cornbread.
Once a few years ago, I toasted the cumin in our toaster oven at a higher temperature and for a longer time than I now recommend (the amount listed in the following recipe is fine). The cumin started smoking ferociously. When I opened the toaster oven’s door, pungent smoke curled outward, singeing our noses and throats and setting off the smoke alarm. I handed my kids baby wipes, told them to put the wipes over their faces and yelled at them to go out into the hall. We all left our apartment, leaving the windows open (killing the plants by the windows, because it was a freezing wintry day) and went to a museum and out to dinner so we could vacate the apartment. At the museum, we quickly noticed that everyone was looking at us funny. That’s probably because the pungent burnt cumin scent lingered on our clothing and smelled like the worst-ever stinky feet.
Lesson learned: Toast spices at low temperatures and watch them carefully!
Smoky, Spicy Black Bean Chili
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin (don’t skip this!)
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or 2 cans black beans and 1 can cannellini beans, as in photo)
- 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed whole tomatoes
For serving (optional):
- Green onions, chopped
- Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt or soy yogurt
- Heat cumin, chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika in a small skillet over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until spices are fragrant; stir constantly to make sure spices don’t smoke or burn. Set aside.
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions become soft and translucent. Add salt and spices and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Stir in black beans and crushed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Serve hot with side dishes of cilantro, green onions and Greek yogurt. Leftovers taste great and freeze well.
Yield: About 8 to 10 servings
This post is linked to Slightly Indluglent Tuesdays.