Friday, February 8, 2013

Vegan Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili

This Vegan Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili recipe is a cooking checklist dream come true. Healthy? Yes. Cheap? You got it. Full of items most likely already stocked in your kitchen? Uh-huh. One-pot wonder? Done. Under 30-minutes? Yup. Freezer-friendly? For sure. Filling, flavorful, hearty, wholesome? Each more than the last. And last but not least (because I am running out of different ways to say the affirmative), it's absolutely delicious.
I've had this recipe on my "to-try" list for a while, finally putting my mind to it last Sunday in the Superbowl spirit. A true "pantry" dish, over half the ingredients are kitchen staples; the four fresh ingredients—onion, sweet potato, cilantro, and avocado— can be purchased for under $4. A little sautéing and simmering, and 30 minutes later, voila! Introducing the meatiest, meatless chili you've ever known.
It's so easy to get enveloped in the hearty delicacies of this chili—a plump stewed tomato, grainy quinoa spoonful, or tender sweet potato chunk; each exhibiting perfectly balanced hints of spicy, nutty, fiery, and herbed— that the realization it's sans meat occurs as a mere afterthought; most likely while you're scraping clean the bowl from your first (OK, second) helping.
In fact, it is so inconsequential that I debated even including the word "vegan" in the title of this recipe, fearing the word would serve as an automatic turn-off to carnivorous chili-lovers. I promise, this dish is anything but a paled comparison of the beloved game version. If anything, the organic vegetables and seeds yield even more hearty, intricate flavors: starchy sweet from the potato, and a subtle nuttiness from both the quinoa and a most unexpected ingredient: cocoa powder.

Yup, that slightly bitter, complex undertone adding an extra layer of depth to the multitude of spice is indeed chocolate! (Happy Valentines Day). Unsweetened cocoa powder earns the MVP ingredient award here, casting an almost mole-like nuance to the stew, and tempering the acidity of the tomatoes. With it's powerful flavors comes a host of excellent health benefits too, such as concentrated antioxidants (pure cocoa has the most) and cardiovascular benefits, including reduced blood pressure and increased coronary artery blood flow.

I thoroughly enjoyed my chili bowl topped with creamy sliced avocado and chopped cilantro, but other add-ons could include chopped scallions, crushed tortilla strips, and shredded cheese or sour cream if you're dairy craving proves insatiable. (But try it without, first!) This recipe serves 4-6, but if you're cooking for less I highly recommend making the full batch and freezing the rest for a later date. A chili so hearty is bound to yield repeated appentencies.

Vegan Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili (derived from Milk Free Mom)
Yield: 4-6 Servings

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 6 oz can tomato paste or 1 cup 
diced canned tomato with juices
32 oz (4 cups) vegetable broth
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet potato, cut into bite sized chunks
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and translucent, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic, tomato paste (if using diced tomatoes and juice, add with stock) chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add black beans, vegetable broth, and sweet potatoes; season with salt & pepper. Raise heat to bring to a boil, and add quinoa.
4. Turn heat down to low, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked through, stirring every 5 minutes. Add additional salt & pepper to taste.
5. Serve topped with avocado and chopped cilantro, or other desired garnishes.

Shifko, Robert. "What Are the Benefits of Pure Cocoa?" LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.


  1. Can't wait to try it! Favorite meal now a little healthier!

  2. So if I wanted to make this with my slow cooker, what would I need to change? It has a capacity of 2 quarts, if that's important.


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