BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Take the Chill Off with Chili

29 Comments

When it snows, it blizzards. You’d think the east coast had never seen the powdery white flakes before, based on the panicked reaction that the most recent storm brought bubbling to the surface. Just short of mass hysteria, it’s true, it was not entirely unwarranted. Just the next town over from me, a few miles away at most, streets remained unplowed and impassable for a full week after the sky suddenly dumped three feet of frozen raindrops. Times like these call for a fully stocked pantry and a good instinct for comfort cooking.

Though this cranberry chili, equal parts spicy, tangy, and savory, could very well be the story of this harrowing tale, there’s just one small catch: I wasn’t home. In a fluke that couldn’t have been better timed had I known the forecast four months in advance, I managed to perfectly miss all the commotion while partying it up in Germany. The landing may not have been smooth on the return flight, but there were no delays, no disasters, and no damages for me to deal with. “Lucky” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Thus, my thick and warming stew of hearty beans was not made just for the occasion, but it very well could have been. Considering all of the additional flurries still threatening to darken our days, it’s a recipe that will undoubtedly see more good use before the winter is through.

Cranberries are clearly an odd-ball ingredient here, but suspend disbelief for just a moment and hear me out. Every fall and winter, when bags of the fresh bog berries are on sale, I snap up a handful and toss them in the freezer. Always on hand but rarely called for, they turned out to be the perfect addition to the complex layers of flavor in this classic stew. Adding both their signature tart flavor and incredible thickening powers, they pull the whole dish together, without overwhelming the palate. The combination of both beans and bulgur are sure to satisfy, and with a handful of scallions or vegan cheese to help it all go down, no one will walk away from the table unhappy, no matter the conditions outside.

Cranberry Chili

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion
1 Small Carrot, Finely Diced
2 Stalks Celery, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Ounce Dried Mixed Mushrooms,* Roughly Chopped/Broken, Re-hydrated in Water and Drained
12 Ounces (1 Bag) Fresh Cranberries
1 Fresh Jalapeno Pepper, Finely Diced
3 – 4 Tablespoons Chili Powder
26.5 Ounce Aseptic Box Chopped Tomatoes (or 28 Ounce Can)
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Cup Prepared Salsa**
4 Cups Cooked Cranberry Beans (AKA Roman Beans) or Pinto beans
1/2 Cup Coarse Bulgur
1/2 Cup Water
Salt, to Taste

Optional Topping Suggestions:

Thinly Sliced Scallions
Finely Diced Red Onion
Hot Sauce
Shredded Vegan Cheese
Vegan Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt
Crushed Tortilla Chips

*I used a combination of dried porcini, shiitake, black, and oyster mushrooms, but anything you’ve got will work just fine.

**Use your favorite! Ramp up the heat with a spicier choice or keep it more tame with mild salsa; it’s all good.

In a large stock pot, pour in the oil, swirling to coat the bottom of your vessel, and set over medium heat. Add in your onion, carrot, and celery, sauteing until softened and aromatic; about 5 minutes. Introduce the garlic next and continue cooking until the onions begin to look lightly golden brown. This should take between 7 – 10 more minutes, but you’re better off keeping an eye on it rather than timing it. Add a small pinch of salt if they begin threatening to stick.

Toss in the re-hydrated mushrooms next, along with the cranberries and jalapeno. Turn down the heat to medium-low, and let the cranberries soften a bit. After a few minutes, use the back of your spoon or spatula to crush the berries against the side of the pan, helping to break them down and release their pectin. Give them about 10 minutes, more or less, to get acquainted.

Starting with the lower amount of chili powder, sprinkle it in and stir well, incorporating it thoroughly with the other ingredients. Quickly add in the chopped tomatoes, liquid and all, to prevent those spices from burning. Scrape the bottom of the pan with your stirring utensil to properly deglaze and ensure that nothing is left sticking there. From that point, add in the rest of the ingredients except for the salt, taking care to first work the paste out so that it’s smoothly dissolved into the stew without any large blobs remaining.

Cover, reduce the heat just slightly again to keep it at a low simmer, and the chili gently bubble away for about 30 additional minutes. Stir and check for consistency periodically. Near the end of the cooking time, adjust the amount of chili powder and salt to taste. When it’s properly thick and the bulgur is tender, you’re good to ladle it up and enjoy! Top as desired, or of course, feel free to just eat it straight.

Makes 8 – 10 Servings (And Freezes Well!)

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

29 thoughts on “Take the Chill Off with Chili

  1. A wonderful & laternative chili! Yummy sounding too!

  2. It was pretty amusing seeing how radically people reacted to Nemo. Chili was certainly the perfect thing to make that weekend! I love the double cranberries in here…that must mean it’s doubly awesome!

  3. Those cranberries would balance out the spice combination wonderfully adding the “vinegar” quotient needed to keep them tempered. Your chilli certainly looks scrumptious and although cranberries are something we Aussies only get in a jar at Christmas time, I might have to mess about with some of the locally available “berries” to see if I can’t replicate the flavour…perhaps the Oregon Grape berries that I learned were edible (jam worthy even) this year? Or maybe the barberries? We are up to our necks in blackberries at the moment and the bliss of walking the dogs and eating fists full of delicious sun-warmed berries before breakfast is a totally decadant feeling. The likelihood of blizards coming our way is about the likelihood of us winning the lottery (and we don’t buy tickets ;) ) but despite the havoc it wreaked, it was lovely to look at and is something that the Europeans deal with most winters :). Glad you managed to escape to Germany on cue…if I ever DO buy one of those lottery tickets, I might get you to predict the numbers for me… ;)

    • Grape berries? Barberries? Totally new to me! There are so many wonderful, wild berries out there… I just wish they weren’t quite so delicate, so they might actually survive the journey to my neck of the woods.

      When it comes time to buy that ticket, you know where to find me… As long as we can spit the winnings. ;)

      • Those grape berries are actually an American fruit and are called “Oregan grapes” and the barberries are American as well if I am not mistaken. We just so happen to be very lucky and to have had someone prior to my dad who put a bit of thought into what they wanted to plant. After 20 years of neglect they are still alive so I might actually rescue them from the birds next spring and make some jam/dried fruit etc. with them :). You would be amazed at just what you guys have over there that is wild and edible! I get very envious sometimes reading some of the U.S. wild food (foraging) blogs that I read.

  4. Oh, this is like how I threw cranberries in my dal recently! I’m in :) Stay warm love.

  5. Cranberry chili? How intriguing! I’m a sucker for new chili variations and I think this one looks golden. Definitely adding to my go-to chill recipes.

  6. What an incredibly unique idea to incorporate fruit into a chili! The flavor of tanginess often doesn’t come through in chiles, and I can see how the cranberry is a perfect source for that. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Oh man, I haven’t had a good homemade chili in far too long! This recipe sounds great–so packed with beans and grains. And cranberries? SUPER interesting.

  8. This looks absolutely mahvelous! Can’t wait to try it out in my kitchen. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love cranberry beans! This looks delicious! PS- I think you should offer a how-to for-fee photo course for those of us who have a major learning curve. I would totally pay for it and I bet other bloggers would as well! :) Your photos are always beautiful and inspiring.

    • Aw, thank you so much! I’d absolutely love to off that kind of class some day, I’m just not sure exactly how… Someday, maybe I can figure out a webcam-based group class. Definitely something to think about! :)

  10. i usually throw the cranberries out.. this is agreat idea to add them to chili or stews.. that tart flavor would be wonderful

  11. it looks so delicious :)

  12. Cranberries in chili – sounds interesting, fun, and yummy! I wouldn’t have thought about that on my own! Awesome!

  13. Fantastic! I can taste the chili heat and then the sweet cranberry tang now. Love this recipe.

  14. Watching some U.S. news station made it seem like there was mass hysteria going on in preparation of the snow, I was beginning to wonder if there was any truth to it or is they were just looking for ratings.
    Cranberries in chili sounds very intriguing. Not something I would have ever thought to combine and yet now I really want to make it!

  15. I love chili, especially on cold blustery days like the ones we’ve been having lately. I stockpiled cranberries this year when they were in season after pining for them all year when they were unavailable at the store. I can’t wait to try this chili out. Are the cranberries easily detected? I love them but my husband seems to think fruit/berries don’t belong in savory dishes.

  16. this looks like a perfect dinner for a chilly winter night!

  17. spicy pinto beans so comfort food through rainy days…
    nice shoots!

  18. Cranberry chili sounds good any ol’ time. :-)

  19. Such a unique chili, I would have never thought of using cranberries but now I am so curious as to how this would taste! Thanks!

  20. That is the most beautiful bowl of chili I’ve ever seen Hannah! A little jealous out here, we are dreaming of snow, but it has been such a mild winter.

  21. I’m really diggin this chili. Not a huge cranberry fan butIts feel like they work here!

  22. You can’t get better than chili in this frigid winter weather we’ve been having. I love that you used cranberries in this, what a great idea! Your photographs are beautiful, as always!

  23. I love the use of caranberries in this chili! I always feel bad bcaause I’ll buy a bag that I only need half of and the rest sit in the freezer, forgotten. I will definitely give this a try!

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