I’ve been making vegetarian chili like this 3 Bean Cajun Chili since my young days of vegetarianism in the early 1990s. Even before that, my mom used to make chili for the family quite often. Especially after I went vegetarian as a teenager, we’d experiment with different variations. Me and my brothers loved it, and still do. I’m sure after I went off to college my Dad and brothers started putting meat back in the chili, but the cool thing is: Almost all of us follow a mostly plant-based diet now. In fact, I just sent this recipe to my dad last month when he asked me for more veggie dinner ideas. Times change!
I call this cajun because of the spice, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have much actual on-site experience with real cajun cooking. I’ve been around Louisiana, but it was a long time ago. I was just a kid on family holiday. Guess you’d have to talk to my mom, who’s actually taken cooking courses in New Orleans. Because of my experience with Indian cooking, I often use Indian spices in my chili. There’s a similar, popular Indian vegetarian dish, Rajma Curry, but it focuses on the red kidney beans. This recipe is much more exciting.
Big pots of dishes like this 3 Bean Cajun Chili are great for picnics, parties. Or just when you want to cook a lot of something and have it around for the next few days. You can always refrigerate or freeze the extra amount. If you don’t eat it all up because it’s so good, of course.
3 Bean Cajun Chili
serves 4 to 6 / time 120 min (+soaking)
- 1/2 cup / 90 g red kidney beans (10 oz / 280g canned)
- 1/2 cup / 90 g black beans (10 oz / 280g canned)
- 1/2 cup / 90 g chickpeas dry (10 oz / 280g canned)
- 5-6 cups / 1200-1500 ml water
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 red onion or 2 shallots chopped
- 1 Tbs cumin ground
- 1 tsp black pepper ground
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1-2 red or green chilies chopped or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 3 large / 10 oz / 300 g tomatoes chopped
- 1 large carrot chopped
- 1 cup / 8 oz / 220 g corn kernals
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 Tbs lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme chopped or 1 tspn dried thyme
- 1 tsp sugar or agave
- 2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes OPTIONAL
- 1 tsp salt
- Heat oil in a large pot or pressure cooker on medium. Add garlic, onion, cumin, pepper, paprika, chili. Fry 2-3 min stirring regularly.
- Add soaked kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas and 4 cups of water. Water should cover beans by about 1 in / 2 cm. (If using canned beans, water should be just under level of beans.)
- Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover. Cook until beans are mostly soft, water is mostly absorbed, about 60-90 min. (Less if using a pressure cooker) Check every 30 min. Add water if needed. (For canned beans, only cook 10 min.)
- Add 1 cup / 240 ml water, tomatoes, carrot, corn, tomato paste, lemon juice (or vinegar). Stir well. Return to low simmer. Cook covered for 10 min.
- Add green pepper, mushrooms, thyme, sugar, nutritional yeast, and more water if needed. Continue to cook uncovered. Reduce, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 min.
- Stir in salt. If the consistency is about right, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Garnish with vegan sour cream and/or vegan cheese if desired. Serve with rice, crackers, or bread.
Other spices & ingredients: Experiment! Possible extras (add for last 20 min of cooking): 1/2 cup cashews or walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped dates, 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped celery, pear, red and yellow bell pepper, smoked tofu, broccoli or cauliflower florets. Adjust spice and salt as needed.