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Texas Heritage Vegan Chili


adapted from Lady Bird Johnson's recipe by Donald Guertz and John Snyder

Here is an authentic Texas chili recipe for your collection. It's not always easy to be vegan in Texas because so many of our specialties and our comfort foods are meat-intensive. Chili Is serious business in Texas, and this is a recipe I would not hesitate to serve to my carnivorous friends. Hardly a week goes by that I don't have some myself, and we make sure there's enough in the freezer to get us through until the next time we can cook.---John


3 12-oz. pkgs. of Morningstar Grillers/Crumbles
120 ml1/2 cup olive oil
5 or more cups water
15 cloves garlic, finely chopped
89 ml6 Tbsp (generous) chili powder (or 5 Tbsp chili powder + 1 Tbsp chipotle powder)
44 ml3 Tbsp (generous) paprika
5 ml1 tsp (generous) ground cumin
5 ml1 tsp (generous) crushed oregano
5 ml1 tsp crushed red pepper (only if you are not using chipotle powder)
15 ml3 tsp salt
15 ml1 Tbsp sugar (optional, but don't substitute other sweeteners)
89 ml6 Tbsp cornmeal (coarsely ground is best)
1-2 cans organic kidney beans (optional)


Chop garlic and set out other ingredients for quick addition later. Heat olive oil in 6-quart pot, add grillers/crumbles and sear over high heat just short of smoking. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes.

Add water, cover, and cook at a bubbling simmer for 10 minutes. (Note that the garlic is not sautéed but added in the next step.) Stir in all remaining ingredients except cornmeal and cook at a bubbling simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Mix cornmeal (it’s the thickener) in 1 cup cold water and add. Cook five minutes more to determine if more water is needed to produce desired consistency. Stir to prevent sticking.


Do not cook beans with the chili. If you want beans, drain and rinse them, and add after chili is done. Never, never cook onions or tomatoes in the chili. That would be Sloppy Joe Mix, not chili. Chili is not served with cheese – not even to your non-vegan guests. Traditionally, chili is eaten straight up with saltine crackers.

If you can find it, the chipotle powder is highly recommended. It makes the chili quite spicy and wonderfully flavored. Without the chipotle powder, this chili is mild, by Texas standards, and can be made hotter by increasing the crushed red pepper or by adding a dash of cayenne pepper.

In place of the MorningStar soy product, you can buzz tempeh and/or seitan in a food processor until the consistency resembles ground meat. The MorningStar product gives the best consistency and flavor; pure seitan is too spongy.

There are many competing legends as to the origins of chili, but what we can say with certainty is that chili was firmly entrenched in Texas culture no later than the middle of the 19th century. It started out as "poor folks'" food – one way to make poor quality meat palatable. From these humble origins, it became something that everyone ate, and as many of those poor folks grew up to be leaders of the state and even the nation, chili lost its stigma, although not its homey connotations. The city of San Antonio, in particular, and the German settlements surrounding it are particularly identified with chili culture, and it's worth a web search to read about San Antonio's Chili Queens and the annual Terlingua International Chili Championship.

Major Ingredients: