I’ve been trying to think of one, single unhealthy thing about this sweet potato chili, and I’ve been unsuccessful. Unlike some other soups, there’s no pasta in it to fill up the belly with carbohydrates. There’s no fatty meat. There’s not even any high-sodium broth. Now, whether or not the end user chooses to alter the dish by adding some luscious cheddar cheese shreds on top or an extra-large square of sugary, buttery cornbread on the side . . . well, that’s not any of my business. And, whether I’ve actually done either of those things myself, will remain a secret.
When I first began experimenting with making a meatless chili, I used a frozen bag of crumbled vegetable protein (fake meat), which did give the chili a meaty texture that successfully fooled my carnivorous father.
This sweet potato chili was born (like most successful recipes are born) as the result of running out of the frozen fake meat one day. The vegetable protein was all gone, but a big sweet potato was staring at me from the pantry.
It turns out that the texture and flavor of a sweet potato is a wonderful complement to the ingredients in a traditional chili. It creates a classic contrast of sweet and spicy, soft and crunchy, and there’s not a single unhealthy part of it (until the shredded cheese begins to melt on top and a hunk of butter melts down the side of the hot cornbread).
Makes six servings
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 carrot, diced
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in puree
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Soften the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot and sweet potato over medium heat with a teaspoon of oil in a large soup pot. Add the remaining ingredients, including spices (which can be adjusted to accommodate individual tastes). Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes then simmer with lid on for an additional 30 minutes.