Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

I felt like veganizing another old recipe tonight. This is my grandmother’s recipe for Chili Con Carne, which I picked out because I thought topping it with one of the new Cheezly flavors that arrived Friday would be a good way to test the cheese out. I often find myself wishing I had discovered my interest in cooking long before I did so that I could have apprenticed myself under my grandmother before she died, or better, that she had lived longer. I’m positive she would have happily helped me make vegetarian meals. Here’s the original, rather vague recipe:

Cook ground beef, 2 onions, and pepper until brown. Add 1 can tomatoes and 1 can kidney beans. (Pour broth off kidney beans before adding.) Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, 3 Tbsp. Chili powder, and dash red pepper. Simmer 40 minutes.

So I set about looking for beef substitutes. First I thought of TVP, which would have also been good for nostalgic purposes, reminding me of all the times my college roommate and I made huge pots of Fantastic’s Chili, but I discovered I had less than a cup of TVP. Next I thought of bulgur, which is a great texture for chili, but I had even less bulgur. But I probably had enough of both combined, so that’s what I did. You could use one instead of the other and still have great results, although you may have to adjust the amount of water. Bulgur requires more water than TVP, so just keep that in mind.

Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
4 cups vegetable or vegan “beef” broth
1/2 cup bulgur
3/4 cup TVP
3 Tbsp vinegar (I used white wine; apple cider would have been good too)
3 Tbsp chili powder
minced hot pepper or hot sauce to taste (reduce the amount of vinegar if you use a vinegar-based hot sauce)

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, then add a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the green pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.

Rinse the beans …

… then add to the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, …

… reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, until the bulgur is soft and the chili is as thick as you desire.

If you like, top with shredded vegan cheese and/or vegan sour cream.

The Nacho-flavored Cheezly was really good, both by itself and on the chili. I love Cheezly. As for the chili, it was good. I will definitely make it again. It was simple, easy, and very fast: a great weekday meal.

As Tigger and I were busy in the kitchen prepping the chili, I heard thundering cat paws in the living room. Quickly and quietly, I grabbed my camera and tip-toed into the room, viewfinder to eyeball and finger on shutter. Despite my stealth, Brachtune, who had been enjoying a Tigger-free reprieve and batting around one of the Cat Toys For Cats, heard me approaching and immediately stopped playing and started walking towards me. It’s so impossible to catch her playing; she always abandons her games and approaches me looking for love.

Then she gets her face so close to the camera, I can’t focus.

It’s much easier when she’s half asleep.


  1. Mom Said,

    September 10, 2008 @ 8:19 am

    I must had altered the recipe because I have 1 onion. It looks like I might have written a 1 over a 2. Also some additional measurements are 28 oz. tomatoes and 40 oz. kidney beans (drained). I inserted ‘cider’ above the vinegar, so that must have been my addition. And now I see where I crossed out the dash of red pepper.

    Not having hot spicy foods growing up, the first time I had this chili, I thought it was very spicy. I did get used to it, and the next thing I knew, Grandmother was making it with Mexican chili powder instead. Now it was even hotter and spicier, yet everyone else was sprinkling additional hot sauce into their chili like crazy.

    Grandmother would always keep the ingredients on hand to make chili, and when we would call up and say we were coming over, she would get the ground beef out of the freezer and make chili. She used to go to the Hanover outlet in PA and stock up on the Hanover chili beans. She and Granddaddy took me there with them once.

    Now I always make it with Mexican chili powder, and your father still puts more hot sauce in it when he eats it. For any non-vegans, the chili at Wendy’s tastes amazingly like this recipe if you would make it with regular chili powder instead of the Mexican. However, now that it not really spicy enough for me, although I do get it sometimes.

    This is my favorite recipe of Grandmother’s because it brings back so many happy memories. Plus it is so easy that even I don’t mind cooking it. It makes a lot, so it lasts two people several nights. It is one of those things that even tastes better the second night.

  2. Jennifer Said,

    September 10, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

    Brachtune is so gorgeous! The chili looks delicious, too!

  3. Dad Said,

    September 10, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

    It looks very good. Did I ever mention that I love chili? It’s one of those dishes that you never get tired of. And your mother is right, it tastes even better the second night. Yes, I like it hot and spicy, and I recommend that it be served with a very cold beer!

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