Texas Style Chili (vegan)

imageKnowing how to make a good Texas chili could very well save your life one day. It’s cheap. It’s spicy and it’s filling; important attributes for survival in a dust storm or for getting through college.  I’m pretty sure chili evolved from the Mexican Chili con Carne which seems to be as varied in Mexico as chili is in the United States. There are huge rivalries and debates about this subject.  You can go down this wormhole on this page: legends of chili’s origins, and learn about San Antonio’s Chili Queens in Lomax’s piece here.  I also highly recommend the works of Adan Medrano regarding the history of Tex-Mex food.  He wrote the book on the matter and as I write these words he is working on a documentary with a chapter on this very subject.  I’ll be looking forward to that.

Texas chili has been codified by the state legislature as being both red and bean-free. “One cannot be a true son or daughter of this state without having his taste buds tingle at the thought of the treat that is real, honest-to-goodness, unadulterated Texas chili.”

Real Texas chili has chunks of chuck beef, but I know that there are vegan Texans out there who would like to heed the demands of the Texas state legislature without compromising their values.  I offer this recipe which simply swaps soy for the beef. There are vegan chuck-like products you can get, usually online or in Asian-markets. I’ve always been a bit wary about these products, mostly because of my gluten-free clients. Bob’s Red Mill makes an organic tvp and that is 100% organic soy and that’s what I use.  I would be interested to know if you use other products in your chili so please leave a comment and let me know.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that chili is quick and easy to make, mediocre chili maybe, but chili that tastes like home requires attention and time. I add minced vegetables for heft, along with more traditional fixes like corn tortillas for thickness and achiote for color.  Once the chili is cooking in the pot it should be stirred every 30 minutes to an hour and tested for how-it’s-coming-along-ness. Does it need more cumin? more garlic? a dash of sugar? Probably.  I top mine with vegan cheddar cheese and avocado pico-de-gallo. When you are dealing with dried chilies there will be variables, from season to season, region to region, a guajillo chile may be spicy and citrus in one batch and smokey and bitter in another so recipe amounts are approximate. Feel free to experiment with other chiles like arbol and cascabel.  Also, vegan chili lacks the fat content of meat chili.  Therefore for authenticity, I add oil to the top of the chili.  This is part of the reason that this Chili won 2nd place in Onion Creek’s first annual Chili Cook-off, of which I was the first and last ever vegan contestant.  After I got second place for this chili among 20 carnivorous contestants, vegan chili was banned from the competition forever.  Hmmmm?

For a step by step picture gallery go here


Texas Vegan Chili


Soak the TVP:

  • 1 cups TVP (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 1/2 cups chile water
  • 1 Tbls garlic powder
  • 1 Tbls smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbls cumin
  • 1 Tbls dried oregano
  • 2 Tbls vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free soy sauce

For the chili

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 big stalk celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbls vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbls brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 corn tortillas, crumbled
  • 2 Tbls achiote if you can find it
  • 2 Tbls sea salt
  • 2 Tbls black pepper

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 4 cups whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 ancho or mulato chiles
  • 4 guajillo or pasilla chiles
  • 2 chipotle chiles from a can of chile en adobo


Cook the dried chiles in a pot of water.  Weigh them down with something like a small bowl or a pot lid so that they all get submerged.  Boil them for about 7 minutes or until all the chiles are soft.  Dump out the water so that your chiles cool quickly but save a cup or two of the water.  When the chiles are cool you will remove the stems. If you want milder, less bitter chili, you may want to remove some seeds and pith as well. (I just remove the stems).

Soak the tvp. Add all of the tvp soaking ingredients in a bowl and let the tvp soak for 30 minutes to an hour.

In a blender or food processor, mix the whole peeled tomatoes with the dried chiles. Blend until smooth.

Chop the onions, celery, carrots into large chunks.  Pulse these in a food processor with whole garlic until minced. you may need to stop and scrape the sides of the processor down.

Saute the minced vegetables in the oil slowly adding salt, pepper, oregano and cumin as it cooks.

When the vegetables are soft add the tomato mixture and all other ingredients, including the tvp.  Cook on medium to low heat for several hours, stirring every 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how low you want to go) Crock pots work great with chili and they cook so low you can check it less. Adjust the chili to your needs.  Top with vegan cheddar, pico de gallo and avocado.

Oaxacan Yellow Mole

Yellow Mole 7(Wa-Ha-Ka)

The yellow mole is the hardest one to find in Oaxaca.  It’s based on the rarest chile in Mexico called a chilhuacle amarillo. Chilhuacle peppers come in red, yellow and black. Red is the most common, the black is hard to find and the yellow should only be used for special occasions. It’s said to taste of lemon and pie spice which, when blended with the richness of hoja santa creates a perfect summer mole. Oaxacan chefs have long since learned to work around the problem of chile scarcity. That’s why most pictures of mole amarillo are redder than you would expect.

While it is often used as a sauce, mole amarillo is also frequently made into a soup with chayote, green beans and potatoes.  When you make a big pot of  this mole, you can use half of it for sauce and the other half for soup. By the way it’s easy to veganize this mole. Just use vegetable oil instead of lard and vegetable stock instead of chicken.  I’m recording it the way I learned it for posterity. See the Step by Step here



  • 10 Yellow chilhuacle peppers  or
  • 5 Red chilhuacle peppers or
  • 6 Guajillo peppers and
  • 2 Ancho peppers
  • 8 Tomatillos (14.1 oz)
  • 1 Tomato (7 oz)
  • 3 Garlic cloves (.4 oz)
  • 2 Cloves
  • 3 whole allspice
  • 3 Peppercorns
  • 1/8 Teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 Hoja santa (root beer plant) leaves  (.7 oz)
  • 1 Cinnamon stick (.08 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 3 cups of chicken stock (25.3 fl oz)
  • 1 tablespoon of lard
  • 4 Black peppercorns
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt
  • 1/4 Cup prepared corn masa or 3 corn tortillas
  • 1 Chayote or zucchini, cut into large chunks
  • 1 Cup fresh green beans
  • 2 New potatoes, cut into large chunks

To make the mole:

Remove the stems and the seeds of all of the peppers.  Measure out all the stuff you are going to use and lay it all out on the table.  Blend in batches, adding wetter ingredients like tomatoes with dryer ones like cinnamon sticks to get a smooth blend. Reserve a little of the lard and all the masa or corn tortillas for later. Blend all ingredients and strain them with a medium mesh wire strainer into a large heavy pot.

Cook the mole, (some say “fry” the mole) in the large heavy pot on medium to high, adding fat as it cooks.  Stir frequently being careful not to splatter your hands.  The mole will change color as all of the ingredients meld together. Taste the dish. It should taste light and tangy with a finish of spice and butter from the hoja santa.

When you’ve got it how you want it, divide the mole into two pots. Add cut vegetables into one pot for the soup (chayote, green beans and potatoes are traditional) and continue to cook.

In the other pot, add masa or corn tortillas to the simmering sauce. Cook the mole until it is thick like mustard.  This masa is good with chicken, pork and pumpkin or anything that floats your boat.




English Pea Gnocchi with Mint

Scoring the gnocchi

Gnocchi (nyo”-ki) is a small Italian dumpling used much like pasta.  It is traditionally made with potato and flour but in this recipe I’ve added English Peas grown here in Texas. Gnocchi should be light pillows that seem to float above your sauce.  The way to achieve that is to handle the dough a little as possible.  You will find many recipes that add baking soda or egg but I find that vegan gnocchi is just as easy and fluffy. A step by step gallery is located here.

English Pea Gnocchi with Mint


For the Gnocchi:

  • 2 cups organic white flout
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup diced potato
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon sea salt

For the Sauce

  • 1/4 cup pureed peas
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Plain Silk Soy Creamer
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 thumb of mint
  • Bacon or Sauteed Mushrooms*

For the Garnish:


For the Gnocchi:

If you have fresh peas you will have to cook them. See Place them in water with a dash of salt and cook them on medium heat for about an hour until soft.

If you have frozen peas, thaw them out in a colander or just leave the bag on the counter until they are cool but not frozen.

Place the peas the potato and the oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  You can use a potato masher but you really have to go at it. Pull out a fork and a spoon and whatever you can find to make a smooth, smooth paste.

Pile all of four on a cutting board or clean counter. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the puree into the well.  Gently work the flour into the puree until it becomes a light dough.

Roll your dough into a log and cut it into two pieces. Roll one of the pieces into a half inch round sized rope. Use plenty of flour.

Cut the Gnocchi into about one inch segments and sprinkle them with flour so they don’t stick together. Gently shape the gnocchi back into shape if need be and mark each dumpling with your fork to make ridges.

Store the gnocchi in a plastic container and dust it with flour.  It will stay for about three days unless frozen.

To cook the gnocchi:

Boil a quart of water with a dash of salt and oil. Add half of the gnocchi one or two at a time to the water. If the gnocchi start to sink, stir them gently so they don’t stick to the bottom. When the gnocchi start floating to the top pluck them out of the water with a slotted spoon on to paper towels.

To make the Sauce:

Add a Tablespoon of the pea puree to a cup of cream (or vegan sour cream mixed with vegetable stock).

Bacon Version:

Cut bacon into half inch strips. Space bacon pieces apart into a skillet on medium heat. Cook until bacon is done to your liking.  Drain all the grease from the pan. Add the pea cream and cook .

Mushroom Variety:

Add one teaspoon vegan butter to a hot skillet. Add chopped mushrooms and fry them for a minute without stirring. Stir in a clove of crushed garlic to the saute pan and a pinch of salt. Continue until mushrooms are nicely browned then add the pea cream and cook unitl warm

To Finish:

Slice a half cup of cherry tomatoes in two. Add them and a quarter cup of peas to the pea cream and continue to warm.

In a separate and hot pan add one tablespoon vegan butter.  When the butter is melted add the gnocchi.  Make sure the pan and the butter is hot.  Let the gnocchi get browned on one side.  Using a spatula, scrape them from the bottom of the pan, trying to keep the browned part in tact.

Add the gnocchi to the pea cream, toss and serve. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.