February 12, 2011

Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes

It is solely thanks to this chili that I have not turned into a popsicle. With temperatures dipping into the low twenties at night and hitting a scorching thirty-something degrees during the day, this weather is definitely a departure from what I’m used to, even during the winter. Usually, Houston’s frosty atmosphere settles itself somewhere in the forties during these months, necessitating little more than a warm coat. For the past couple of weeks, however, we have all been blindsided by these freezing temperatures. (Anyone who lives north of, well…Dallas, feel free to chuckle at my version of “freezing”).

The point is, Houstonians have been brought to a standstill by this weather. Between schools that close their doors at even a hint of the possibility that there might, maybe, perhaps exist the improbable chance of snow, to the news crews who make special breaking announcements the second they see a snowflake waft down from the overcast heavens, people tend to overreact. They dress really funny, too. From the girls wandering around my school in Ugg boots and short shorts, to the guys in short-sleeved polos, to the occasional ninny shivering in summery sandals (guilty), this cold snap sure does provide for some hilarious people watching. Granted, they tend to wise up and drag some warm coat out of the back of the closet after a day or two, so it’s best to strike while the iron’s hot with this sort of thing.

Suffice it to say that after a good week of freezing temperatures, icy winds, and my ever-present Snuggie, it was time for something to warm things up. When it comes to foods that give you that warm, roasty-toasty feeling, nothing does it better than chili, especially if that chili is full of yummy veggies and savory-sweet spices. On that score, this bowl of deliciousness definitely fits the bill.

Beyond the general happy tummy factor that this chili provides, it also brings with it some seriously awesome health benefits. Between the colorful bell peppers, two kinds of beans, and filling sweet potatoes, this dish is super duper good for you. It’s pretty much antioxidants-a-go-go in there.

If you plan on giving this recipe a try (which you totally should), I have garnered a few tips to smooth out the journey, along with how I learned the hard way.

  • If the chili looks too thick, add some water.
    • Mine started out closer to some sort of pot pie filling consistency, since I added double the veggies than the original recipe.
  • Use canned beans.
    • I spent 48 hours soaking, draining, and cooking two bags of beans, only for them to turn to mush because I used too little water. Save yourself the headache and go with the canned stuff.
  • This recipe has a slight Indian spiciness to it, thanks to the cinnamon and cumin, so add a pinch of garam masala if you would like to amp up that flavor.
    • A fact I discovered would taste amazing…after half the pot was gone. Still, you can obviously see that it’s delicious either way.

With that, I will send you on your merry chili-making way. You have my blessing and my best wishes for a non-freezing week. If it is freezing…well, just don’t wear sandals. That will take you far.

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili

Recipe adapted from “Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes” from Real Simple

Printable Recipe

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 red onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

32 ounces canned, diced tomatoes (I know this is a weird measurement, but it can be accomplished with one 28-ounce can and a little less than half of a 14.5-ounce can)

3 cups water

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

big pinch of cayenne pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and bell peppers, sautéing for several minutes until softened. Add the beans and potatoes, stirring well. Pour in the tomatoes and water, again stirring to combine. Finally, add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Give it a good stir and allow it to come to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Check the potatoes for softness after 10 minutes, depending on how large or small they were cut.

Serve chili warm with sour cream, chopped scallions, tortilla chips, or avocado. Or all the above.

Just a little side note: I happened upon a chili/soup contest that was offering up some truly lovely prizes, so I'm including some required lines in this post to enter. So, if you wish, Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury, and Westminster Crackers.


  1. I'm from New York and I totally agree with your definition of freezing! Agh I hate the cold! Chili is the perfect remedy though. I recently made some for the superbowl. I love how yours is completely vegetarian and I really like the addition of sweet potatoes--smart!

  2. This chili was delicious and I loved the different tastes from your spices. It tasted a bit like an Indian dish and we made great chili nachos with some of the leftovers. You are my alltime favorite blogger.

  3. That sounds delicious! It looks so hearty and filling and healthy and WARM.

    My patch is fairly moderate temp-wise, though we do get it a bit chillier. But not today ... looking at the weather page, it seems it's warmer. Oooh. I'll still take a bowl of that chili though. Ta. :D

  4. Ugg boots and short shorts made me laugh - it's the triumph of hormones over common sense!

    Your chili really is a Super Bowl. I have vowed to eat more vegetarian food and this would make a great start. Beautiful photos as always.

  5. i love the veggie chili and the photos are so beautiful (love the blue bowl!!!!) I can almost feel the chili warming my belly from here!!!! cozy cozy cozy! stay warm bella

  6. This soup looks excellent!! I love that u rock the snuggie. I have thought about buying one a few times!

  7. I'm trying to be better about eating more sweet potatoes since they are so healthy and this dish sounds like a wonderful way to incorporate them into my diet! What a big pot of flavors. Love it!

  8. What a great concept! Hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day!

  9. This looks great! I'm trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet. I can't wait to try this!

  10. Wow! This looks delicious! Your photos are great!

  11. This looks great. I've only just discovered your blog, but look forward to have a proper look around and finding more recipe ideas.

  12. Me again.. I'm featuring you today! Hope you can stop by!


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