Kick It Up All The Notches

In my home, we like it hot. I mean, my husband is somewhat of a zealot about it, but I can hold my own with those boasting, not one, but five or more varieties of dried chili peppers in their spice cupboard. And when I want some hot chili, I turn to my favorite vegetarian chili to make it happen:


In a world in which the word "chili" calls up images of steers in Texas and the like, a vegetarian chili rarely gets a second glance. That said, when it comes to delivering heat and complex flavor, I've found that vegetarian chili does it best for me. I like a foundation of sweet potatoes (to counter the heat), black beans (to give it heft), and corn (to add texture). To that, a swirl of fire-roasted tomatoes, vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if I don't have good vegetable stock on hand), and sautéed aromatics give a variety of seasonings and dried peppers a place to bloom and call home. After a surprisingly short time on the stove, dinner is served!

Because this is a very spicy chili, I highly recommend choosing a good variety of toppings, a glass of milk on hand to put out any fires, and copious amounts of warm, homemade sourdough or cornbread to sop up every last drop of it. Yes, it's that good.

All the Alarms Veggie Chili

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 dried peppers (use the variety you prefer; we favor habaneros for a lot of heat)
  • 3 cups diced sweet potato
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (I like to use fire-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot. Add the diced bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until the peppers soften and the onions become translucent.

Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, and dried pepper(s) and cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the sweet potatoes, black beans, frozen corn, diced tomatoes, and vegetable or chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

Lower the heat, bring to a simmer, and cook (covered) for about 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are very tender. Remove the lid and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the chili has thickened slightly.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve with toppings of your choice. Great choices include shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, and sliced green onions.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About an hour