Mar 4, 2015

Real Chili con Seitan

Unless you’re from here you may not know that Monday (March 2nd) was Texas Independence Day. We’re no longer the Republic of Texas, but every March 2nd I still like to do something especially Texan. That usually just means eating something really delicious! This year I resolved to finally attempt a great vegan Texas Chili, or what I’m calling Chili con Seitan.

Chili is the official state food of Texas, and people around here take that so seriously. 
I’m sure you’re well aware of the bean vs. no bean controversy. The rule of thumb is that Chili con Carne does not contain beans. Texans like their chili straight up: chili peppers, meat (which I’m obviously against), onion, garlic, tomatoes, and cumin. They like it simple, and I get that. However, things get nasty when folks start saying things like “Real Texans don’t put beans in their chili.”


First of all, good luck telling a born and bred Texan that they’re less Texan for something so trivial. “Real Texans don’t put beans in their chili” is especially ridiculous because Real Texans usually do whatever the hell they want. Sometimes that means putting beans in their chili.

In my parents’ house sometimes we ate beans in our chili, and sometimes we didn’t. I’m not sure why, but I imagine it had to do with whether or not we had enough carne to make a full recipe. Beans are a great filler when you’re broke, and you know what? Sometimes Real Texans are broke.

I’ve been enjoying beans in every chili I’ve made since going vegan, but I figured it was time to get back to basics for this recipe. I love beans in my chili, but I don’t have to have them. This is my recipe for delicious, straight up, no frills, vegan Chili Con Seitan. It’s a little bit spicy, and packed with great chile flavor thanks to ancho and chipotle. By including these two ingredients you get a much deeper chile flavor than if you just used chili powder on its own. I’m a big believer in making my own flavored seitan for chili and stews so this recipe requires a bit of time. Using plain seitan or Gardein Beefless Tips is great, but those don’t absorb thoroughly and they impart their own (sometimes distracting) flavors. The homemade seitan for this chili is really easy to make, but it requires a couple of hours in the oven. Just something to keep in mind!

Real Chili con Seitan

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder blend, store bought or homemade 
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin, ground 
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried (preferably Mexican)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeds removed 
  • 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste) 
  • 1 2lb loaf Homemade Chili Seitan (Recipe below), cut into 1/2 inch cubes 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina (optional)
Garnishes (optional)
  • Hot sauce, store bought or homemade
  • Diced white onion, or scallions
  • Pickled jalapeños
  • Vegan Queso Blanco
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a dutch oven (or large pot) over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Transfer the onions and garlic to your blender or food processor. Add the chili powder, ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, chipotle chile, tomatoes and salt, and puree the mixture until smooth. Set aside for later.
2. Heat the remaining oil in that same pot over medium heat, and add the seitan. Cook until the seitan is mostly browned. The oil will probably be absorbed pretty quickly, and that’s ok. Add the tomato puree and water to the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil before lowering it to a simmer. Allow the chili to cook for 30 minutes, or until it has reduced to your desired thickness. The seitan should absorb a bit of the liquid. If it doesn’t thicken to your liking stir in the masa harina, and cook for another 5 minutes until thickened. 
3. Salt to taste, and serve with your choice of garnish and a side of cornbread or saltines if you wanna get real.

Note: This chili will thicken as it cools and the seitan absorbs the liquid. Adding more liquid to leftovers is fine, and should not water the chili down.

Chili Seitan
  • 3/4 cups white beans, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (same used in chili recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a small cake pan with parchment paper. Make sure you have a slightly bigger pan that your cake pan will fit into. You’re going to be baking the seitan in a water bath.
2. In a large bowl mash the beans with a fork until they’re smooth. Add the oil, tomatoes, water, and soy sauce to the beans, and stir with a spatula to combine.
3. In another bowl whisk together the vital wheat gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. The mixture should come together into a wet dough.
4. Pour the dough into the prepared cake pan. Place the pan into a larger pan, and pour enough water in the outer pan to go halfway up the sides of the seitan pan. Cover the seitan pan with greased foil, and bake for 2 hours – until the top of the seitan is firm. Allow to cool completely before handling.

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