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Love chili but trying to eat less meat? 'Morning Edition' tests a plant-based version

Despite its name, Weeknight Meaty Chili is actually a vegetarian dish.
Joe Keller
/
America's Test Kitchen
Despite its name, Weeknight Meaty Chili is actually a vegetarian dish.

Nothing warms the bones and the soul quite like a hearty bowl of chili.

Best of all, recent breakthroughs in plant-based meat technology mean vegetarians can satisfy their carnivorous urges without the guilt. The veggie meats also allow genuine carnivores to snarf down on a meatless alternative that tastes as good as the real thing.

Jack Bishop of the PBS television show America's Test Kitchen has a vegetarian chili recipe that will both raise your taste buds and your eyebrows: Weeknight Meaty Chili.

It's from the new book from America's Test Kitchen titled Vegan Cooking for Two, which features more than 200 dishes designed for folks ranging from committed vegans to the veggie curious.

Jack Bishop is a celebrity chef, food author and chief creative officer of the PBS show <em>America's Test Kitchen</em>.
/ America's Test Kitchen
/
America's Test Kitchen
Jack Bishop is a celebrity chef, food author and chief creative officer of the PBS show America's Test Kitchen.

"This is a plant-based chili for people who love meaty chili but are trying to eat less meat," Bishop says. "I promise you when you're done with this, if you were to serve this to someone, they would think it was beef."

Morning Edition's A Martínez tested out the recipe in his Los Angeles kitchen as Bishop kept a watchful eye over Zoom from Boston.

The two last got together in July for a lesson on grilling the perfect plant-based burger. Martínez says that was his first plant-based meal, and he hasn't looked back since.

"I feel cleaner inside, if that makes any sense," he says. "It might be in my head, Jack. It might not be. It might be something real. But I feel like I am cleaner inside than I ever have been in my whole life."

But residents of Texans be warned! This recipe challenges some of the Lone Star State's most cherished beliefs.

Weeknight Meaty Chili gets a lot of its taste from the same ingredients that go into traditional chili; onions, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, chili powder. Plant-based meats from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have developed a faux ground beef that not only tastes like the real thing but it feels right too. Bishop says the companies put a lot of research into giving the veggie meats just the right texture and chew.

The fake meats fall short, however, when it comes to protein. Four ounces of ground beef has about a third more protein than veggie meat.

The America's Test Kitchen recipe gets around the protein deficit by adding red kidney beans.

They might taste yummy but nothing could be more offensive to a Texan than adding beans to chili. Real Texas chili has meat, meat and more meat. In other words, beans ain't welcome in these parts!

Bishop says it's pretty easy to fool a meat lover into chowing down on veggie chili. But perhaps the less said, the better.

This plant-based meat chili is one of many recipes in <em>America's Test Kitchen</em>'s new vegan cookbook.
/ America's Test Kitchen
/
America's Test Kitchen
This plant-based meat chili is one of many recipes in America's Test Kitchen's new vegan cookbook.


Weeknight Meaty Chili recipe

Serves 2
Total time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 ounces plant-based ground meat
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until
    shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5
    to 7 minutes. Stir in chili powder, garlic, and cumin and cook until
    fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in ground meat and cook, breaking up
    meat with wooden spoon, until firm crumbles form, about 3 minutes.

    2. Stir in water, scraping up any browned bits, then stir in beans and
    tomatoes and their juice. Bring to simmer, partially cover, and cook
    until beans begin to break down and liquid is slightly thickened, 20
    to 25 minutes. Off heat, stir in cilantro and season with salt and
    pepper to taste. Serve. (Chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

    Use What You've Got:
    Substitute other canned beans, such as cannellini, black, or pinto,
    for red kidney beans.

    Level Up:
    Serve with lime wedges, chopped avocado, plant-based sour cream,
    plant-based shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños, tortilla chips,
    hot sauce, and/or salsa.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tags
    Barry Gordemer is an award-winning producer, editor, and director for NPR's Morning Edition. He's helped produce and direct NPR coverage of two Persian Gulf wars, eight presidential elections, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. He's also produced numerous profiles of actors, musicians, and writers.