I knew I wanted a meatless version of chili con carne but I also knew I wanted something I could serve to my Texans who love their chili. Why I would bother worrying about what hardcore chili con carne aficionados think about my vegetarian chili is probably confusing to some but I had something to prove. A lot of vegetarian chilis taste great and that’s the point. But for me, chili needs to be all about the chiles. I am fully aware that I could make art and there’s no way some of the traditional chili fans would give me an inch, no matter what the result, but a fellow has to try. I know Texans say that beans don’t belong and I understand their doubts about them, but for me, this wasn’t the big problem. After much experimenting, I realized the real issue was tomatoes! Both in the meat and meatless versions. They add a pleasant sweetness and some body, but they take the focus off the chile powder. I made my tomato-less Chili sin Carne, as described below and I thought, I could serve this to a Texan. It may be meatless but it’s muy macho, and I don’t mean just the heat, which is only moderate when using our chile powder. (I asked my 15 year old what he thought about the spice level and he said if he could eat it, anyone could.) Without the tomatoes, it’s a great, slightly butch dish with all the spirit of the original. That’s what I was going for. I made this with both the porcini powder and the Spanish paprika. I think the mushrooms added something good but this powder can be hard to find. If you have it, use it. I wouldn’t make a special trip for it. I do love my paprika and the smoked kind adds depth. If you can find it, I think it’s worth the bother. You might also add a few dashes of our Felicidad hot sauce, powered by smoked chipotle chiles. Without meat, what would fill it up? This tortured me a little but I finally settled on good, firm green zucchini. I tried yellow squash and Mexican calabacitas, which are more bulbous and a lighter green, but both were too watery and the texture was wrong. I had three ears of corn in my refrigerator and thought that since I was breaking all the rules, why not? It turns out they were delicious and the natural corn starch helps thicken the stew. The pop of the corn teamed with the velvety beans perfectly. I was in love! I would suggest limiting the vegetables to two, otherwise the chili starts to get too complicated and fussy. I would experiment with potatoes and bitter greens, like dandelions, next. Maybe corn and greens or potatoes and zucchini. Or just stick to zucchini and corn, as I have. As I write this I’m thinking mushroom would be terrific. I have been eating this constantly and I love it. I did try a spoonful of creme fraiche and it was divine but I also love the idea of keeping it all about the chiles, and making macho vegan food is a lot of fun. Rancho Gordo Chili sin Carne 8 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Ayocote Negro, Ayocote Morado or Scarlet Runner beans with their broth (about 6 cups of cooked beans and 2 cups of bean broth) 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or ground cumin 5 cloves 2 whole allspice 4 tablespoons olive oil 1/3 to 1/2 cup Rancho Gordo 100% Pure Chile Powder 1 tablespoon Rancho Gordo Mexican Oregano or Oregano Indio 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)(optional) 1 tablespoon porcini mushroom powder (optional) 2 cups vegetable broth 4 zucchini, sliced in rounds or at a bias Fresh corn kernels from 3 ears of corn Rancho Gordo Sal de Mar (sea salt) to taste Sugar (as needed) Grind the cumin (if seeds), cloves and allspice in a mortar or electric spice grinder. In a large pot, like an enameled cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it ripples. Add the chile powder and mix well with the oil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the ground spices, oregano, and optional porcini powder and Spanish paprika. Mix thoroughly and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. You should have a dense paste. Very slowly, mix in the vegetable broth, stirring constantly until well blended. Gently add the beans and their broth. Mix and cook on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add about a tablespoon of salt and cook for another 10 minutes. Test seasonings and add more salt if needed. If the broth is overly bitter, add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until the flavor is correct. A teaspoon or two is more than enough. Continue simmering on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until the chili has started to thicken and the there is no grainy texture from the chile powder. Add the zucchini and corn and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and a bowl of creme fraiche, if you like. Leftovers were of course even better. I made this guisado for tacos by adding dandelion greens to the chili. And yes, there might have been a touch of crema in the taco to go with all of this goodness. Want to dig deeper? We have a free ebooklet, Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Chili, available for download now! Click here to download your free ebook.