Where’s the Beef? Vegan Chili

Let me start off by saying that I am not a vegan- I’m not even a vegetarian!  I have a chili recipe that has won several chili cook-off competetitions over the years and I use THREE different kinds of meat to make it!  

I have had the most beautiful Romanesco growing in my garden this winter and because of the taste and the texture, it inspired me to try and make a vegan version of my chili.  Wow!  I’ve gotta say, it’s even better than I imagined it would be!  The texture of the Romanesco really gives a meatier, hardier bite to the chili.  

So whether or not you are vegan/vegetarain, I challenge you to give this chili a go!  It’s always a good idea to incoroporate more veggies in our diet and this chili is a great way to enjoy a warm, hearty meal with no guilt!

You may be asking yourself, what is Romanesco anyway?  It belongs to the same Brassica family as broccoli and cauliflower, often called Roman Broccoli or Roman Cauliflower.  It has a texture similar to that of cauliflower, but with a distinct sweet, nutty flavor.  It is most notable for it’s stunning chartreuse color and unique shape.  Romanesco heads form in gorgeous, fractal patterns.  Beauty for the sake of beauty.  There is no other vegetable that grows in my garden that speaks to me more of a creative Creator than Romanesco.  

That being said, if you cannot find Romanesco at your local farmers market or grocery store, you can substitute cauliflower for this recipe and be just fine!  Just be sure to leave chop them up leaving them slighly chunky, not completely riced to give the chili a meatier texture.


Here are your first set of fresh ingredients (make any substitutions you wish to make- if you like it spicier, add spicier chilies):


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3C butternut squash (or favorite winter squash), peeled, diced
  • 3C diced Romanesco (or cauliflower)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced

See full recipe down below

Here are the canned ingredients (the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce add a great smokey flavor, but can also add a lot of spice.  Add more or less depending on your spice preference):


  • 1-2 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped and seeded (or more if you like it spicier)
  • 1-2TB of adobo sauce
  • 1-32oz can of San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
  • 1-15oz can of kidney beans
  • 1-15oz can of pinto beans
  • 1-15oz can of black beans

See full recipe down below


Here is the spice blend.  The bouquet garni is a dried herb bundle (sometimes including bay, thyme, parsley, rosemary, onion or celery tops) and is totally optional.


  • 3TB chili powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 TB smoked paprika
  • 1 bouquet garni, if preferred
  • Salt and pepper to taste

On medium heat, warm up a heavy bottomed Dutch oven (or large pot), adding 3-4TB of avocado oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot very well). Add the diced onion and diced butternut squash. Cook until the onion becomes translucent and butternut squash begins to brown (around 5-7minutes).

Next, add the diced Romanesco, cooking until the Romanesco softens a bit (~5 minutes).  Note on the Romanesco:  you want to chop it so that is stays a little chunky to give the chili a meatier texture.  If you leave it too big, it will be hard to eat and if you fully rice it, you will lose that nice meaty texture.

 Next, add the diced peppers, garlic, Chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and spice mix. Cook for a few minutes until the peppers soften, you start to smell the garlic and all the spices begin to wake up!

Next, add the tomatoes, crushing by hand as you add them. Then add all of the beans (after they have been drained and rinsed). You can also add a bouquet garni (if you have one). You may need to add a little bit of water if they mixture seems too thick.

Turn the heat down to low, put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for 2-3 hours, lifting the lid occasionally to stir. 

Be sure to remove the bouquet garni when you are done and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside your favorite toppings, on a baked potato or simply eat as is! We like add sour cream and cheese (you could do vegan or not). 

This makes a lot of chili, but the bonus is is also freezes really well so you can portion out what you don’t use to freeze and use for later!  Bon  Apetit!