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Chickenless chicken chili: how to rock the taste, but lose the meat {vegetarian}

Floribean bean chili: how to turn a favorite chicken recipe into a meatless wonder!

Susan, a long-time reader of The Perfect Pantry, wasn't always a vegetarian. She often writes to me about how she's changed up one of my recipes to fit her current way of eating. Susan lives in New Hampshire, where she and her husband formerly owned a health food store. She's a wonderfully creative cook, and the first person ever to tell me that she made my beef brisket recipe -- without the beef! Intrigued, I asked her to share more about how she approaches adapting meat recipes for her meat-free lifestyle. This is Susan's first guest post for The Perfect Pantry.

I might be an anomaly. I’m a vegetarian who seeks out meat recipes. Selectively, yes... but why?

It’s all about taste. I am lured by the seductive taste and smell -- not of the meat (or chicken or seafood) itself, but the techniques of cooking and the fabulous sauces I discover. However I get there, I want to share the tagines, curries, and chilis, the foods of every continent and cuisine. I want to do it without the lamb, chicken or beef.

It’s all about nutrition. We eat to live, we live to eat, and both must be considered. Sometimes all I have to do is take out the meat, and there’s still a meal in the works. I like to look at the balance of everything that goes with the recipe so that all the parts leave me well fed.

It’s all about satisfaction. More than a full feeling, I love the pleasure of the aftertaste. I like my house to hold on to the scent of spices, or the chemistry of the sauce in a frying pan or oven. Sometimes, there’s the satisfaction that I have been able to recreate a recipe to my own needs and still retain the clarity and purpose of the original.

Some of my favorites from The Perfect Pantry are the ones I’ve redirected for my vegetarian meals; Southwestern Beef Brisket and Nasi Goreng are two that I enjoy with only a little shift of ingredients.

Then there’s Floribean Chicken Chili. First I omitted the chicken, since both beans and (vegetarian) sausage were enough for me. I wanted to taste those Florida-Caribbean flavors! Delicious, but I kept experimenting. If you’d like to see how it is now, here’s the adapted, still evolving, recipe. Don't hesitate to reach into all corners of your pantry shelves for ingredients, to find the taste you want. (Indonesian kecap manis in a Caribbean-inspired stew? Why not?!)

A vegetarian bean chili with all the flavors of Florida and the Caribbean!

Floribean bean chili

From the pantry, you'll need: onion, bay leaves, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, black peppercorns, canola (or other neutral) oil, chile pepper in adobo, canned chopped tomatoes, red wine vinegar, kecap manis, canned pinto or black beans, cornstarch, lime.

You'll find the original recipe here. Makes about 2 quarts.


1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice, divided
3 carrots, sliced on the diagonal, divided
2 bay leaves
3 tsp ground cumin, divided
3 tsp ground coriander, divided
3 tsp chili powder, divided
4 black peppercorns
1 bell pepper (red or green, or a combination), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 Tbsp sunflower or canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1/2 tsp crushed chiles
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 chile pepper in adobo)
1-2 spicy vegetarian sausages, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
14 oz crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp kecap manis
1-1/2 cups cooked pinto or black beans (canned okay)
1-2 Tbsp Goya Masa Rica or cornstarch
1 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Garnishes (to taste): sour cream, chopped mango, diced tomatoes, grated cheese


Broth: Put 1/2 onion and 1 carrot (cut in rough chunks), bay leaves, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp chili powder, and the black peppercorns in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup, pressing out as much liquid as you can.

Sauté: In your soup pot, sauté in the oil the other half onion, bell pepper, sweet potato, and remaining carrots until they start to soften. Stir in crushed chiles, chipotle powder (or 1 chile in adobo), 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp chili powder, and the sausages. Stir for 1-2 minutes to release the fragrance.

Chili:  Add to the pot the strained broth, crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar, kecap manis, and beans. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Thicken: Sprinkle Masa Rica (or cornstarch dissolved in some of the liquid).  Simmer 5 minutes. If not thick enough, increase the amount of masa or cornstarch, or bring to a boil to evaporate some of the liquid.

Finish: Add juice of half a  lime, or more to taste, and chopped fresh cilantro. The original recipe suggests wonderful garnishes -- sour cream, chopped mango, diced tomatoes, grated cheese.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More meatless chili recipes:
South End Deep Root Chili, from The Perfect Pantry
Slow cooker vegan spicy pinto bean chili with corn and kale, from The Perfect Pantry
Vegan lentil chili with roasted red peppers, olives, and green onion, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow cooker vegetarian chili with butternut squash, from The Lemon Bowl
30 minute vegetarian Thai chili, from Some the Wiser

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


What a lovely recipe! I am looking forward to the fragrances and tastes of this chili.

I am intrigued. I do have a few meatless recipes that I make over and over but I feel like I'm still learning about what really works in meatless dishes! Thanks to Susan for sharing.

Candy, I love the combination of spices and condiments here. I know you'll love it, too.

Kalyn, I really admire cooks who are fearless about combining ingredients, and Susan is one of those cooks. Love her creativity!

Susan really ought to have a blog. Susan, if you start one, drop me an email?

Susan writes about food in a way that makes it come off the page, you can feel the love of cooking, the nurishing results, almost smell the fragrance. oh to be sitting at her table and watching alchemy...wonderful-

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