While a hot cup of beef chili smothered in cheddar cheese can be just the thing on a cold fall day, a good vegetarian chili can be equally as hearty and delicious – and a lot healthier. After seeing this tasty looking chili from Cookie and Kate a few months ago, I knew I had to come up with my own version. Several batches later, I have a recipe I truly love. Roasting the sweet potatoes separately and adding them to the chili at the last minute ensures that you’ll have sweet, crisp-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside bites of sweet potato all throughout the bowl. Add to that the subtle smoky heat of chipotles and paprika, the creamy richness of sliced avocado, and the hearty bite of black beans, and you won’t even miss the beef!
1.Prepare the beans: If using dried beans, rinse the beans thoroughly then place them in a bowl and cover with cold water at least 8 hours before serving time. Let soak until you begin to prepare the rest of the chili, then drain, rinse, and add to a large saucepan. Add clean water to the pan to cover the beans, bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the beans are mostly tender (they’ll continue cooking in the chili). Drain and set aside. If you’re using canned beans, you can skip all this – just make sure to rinse the canned beans thoroughly before using!
2.Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl, toss together the cubed sweet potatoes, 2 TBS of the olive oil, the paprika, and 1 tsp salt, thoroughly coating all of the sweet potatoes with the oil and spices. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 35 minutes, turning potatoes over with a spatula halfway through to prevent burning. Set aside.
3.Cut the stems off the dried chipotle chilies, slice in half, and use a spoon or butter knife to scrape out the seeds. Discard the seeds, and place the chilies in a heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then pour over the chilies and let steep for 5 minutes, or until chilies have softened. Once the chilies have rehydrated, chop into small pieces. Save the water the chilies soaked in. (Careful – you should wear rubber gloves or otherwise protect your hands when handling chilies!)
4.Heat the remaining 1 TBS of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, oregano, diced chipotles, and 1/2 tsp salt, and let cook 1 minute longer. Then add the crushed tomatoes, soaking water from the chilies, the vegetable or chicken stock, the bay leaves, and the prepared beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Five minutes before the chili is done, stir in the sweet potatoes. Taste for seasoning and add salt as desired.
5.Ladle the chili into bowls and top each serving with half of a diced avocado and a spoonful of sour cream. Serve hot.