Over the past few months I’ve come to a realization: chili doesn’t need meat!
I’ve always thought that to make a nice, hearty chili you needed some sort of meat – whether that was ground beef, ground turkey or even chicken or sausage. A meatless chili just doesn’t satisfy. Oh how I was wrong.
Vegetarian chili has made its way into my heart and quickly become a staple in our weekly meal rotation.
Typically I like to make chili in my crock pot. That fix it and forget it method is a lifesaver! But other times I get done with work and I’m craving something warm and cozy for dinner and I know a big bowl of chili would totally hit the spot.
Luckily, chili can also be made on the stove top, using just one pot AND in less than 40 minutes (most of which is hands off time anyway). All you need to do is throw the ingredients into the pot, let it bubble away for a while and dinner is served.
So getting home from work and whipping up this fabulous pumpkin quinoa chili? Totally doable and totally worth it.
One of my secrets to making an ultra satisfying pot of chili without the meat is to add quinoa. The quinoa puffs up as the chili cooks and gives it a very meat-like consistency. It’s thick and chunky, but the quinoa almost resembles ground beef/turkey. See in that picture above? It really looks like it could be meat chili!
The quinoa also adds some nice depth of flavor. Even though it isn’t necessarily adding flavor itself, it soaks up all the wonderful juices and spices and makes the whole dish really pop.
Oh and of course I have mention that quinoa also adds a bit more protein to the dish, naturally making it more rich and filling.
Now I’ve made my fair share of chilis before, but this one is definitely one of my favorites. I added a can of pumpkin to the mix which brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and makes it rich and even a little indulgent. The pumpkin is super mellow though, so don’t worry. My boyfriend, who is NOT a pumpkin fan, had no idea it was in there (and no, I didn’t tell him…shhh!)
Aside from the pumpkin, the other addition I made that I don’t normally do is a touch of maple syrup. I know it might seem a little strange, but it totally works with this recipe. It doesn’t make it overly sweet because you’re just adding a touch, but it really marries all the flavors together and makes the dish taste more rounded and complete.
Oh and one more thing to add at the very end is just a splash of lemon juice. The acid intensifies all the flavors and makes the whole dish a little brighter.
It’s amazing how just a simple splash of an acid (lemon, vinegar, etc.) can totally transform the flavor of a dish. And it applies to more than just this dish – I highly recommend you give this a try next time you make a soup or chili!
Last but not least, probably one of the very best thing about this dish is that it freezes well!
There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day of work, to realize you have nothing to make. So I’m all about using my freezer as much as possible this winter. I have chili (and other soups) on hand as my saving grace.
Hope you enjoy this protein-packed quinoa chili – I think your family is going to love it!