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A New Kind of Vegan Chili + How to Make Vegan Cheese at Home

Want to recreate the texture of classic chili, without the meat? Here's how.
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Every other Thursday on Food52, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: Want to recreate the texture of classic chili, without the meat? Here's how. Plus, McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped makes a cheesy, cheese-free spread that you can eat on anything from salads to potatoes to sandwiches.

Whether you knew it or not, there’s a good chance you’ve had meatless chili before. Chilis made with beans (for example, black bean and sweet potato chili) are fairly ubiquitous, and most of us have crossed paths with them at some point or another. But tempeh chili? Well, that’s another story.

Unlike its fellow soy product, tofu, tempeh remains a somewhat exotic ingredient in American kitchens. This is a shame, because tempeh is versatile, nutritious, and satisfying in ways that some other meat substitutes are not; it has a dense, chewy texture and a nutty taste. And when you grate it on a box grater, it takes on a texture that is not unlike ground beef. Could anything be more perfect for a pot of vegan chili?

More: Looking for more vegan chili recipes? Try Gena's smoky black bean and sweet potato version.

This recipe mixes grated tempeh with kidney and pinto beans to create a perfect, hearty chili that’s full of flavor and spice. I like to brown the tempeh before adding my beans and liquid; this adds an extra layer of flavor and makes for a more authentic chili texture. Even if tempeh hasn't impressed you in the past, I bet it will be hard not to fall in love with this recipe.

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow or white onion, diced

One 8-ounce package tempeh, grated on the largest setting of a box grater or crumbled finely

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 large stalk celery, diced

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup puréed tomato sauce

One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)

One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup green onions or scallions, chopped

Photos by Gena Hamshaw

Cashew cheese is perfect for dairy-free living -- and for anyone who wants to try something new. Not only does is this creamy, cheesy spread made using gluten-free and vegan ingredients, but it comes together quickly and it's endlessly versatile. Non-dairy lovers, rejoice!

This “cheese” has been a staple of mine in the kitchen since I stopped eating dairy. What makes this recipe especially delicious is the nutritional yeast, which contributes to the cheesy flavor and also, yes, adds nutrition.

More: Nutritional yeast is also the magical ingredient in vegan pesto.

Consider this fair warning: cashew cheese is so delicious you may find yourself wanting to consume the whole bowl. If you’re looking for creative uses for cashew cheese, here are a few ideas:

  • Dollop it onto baked potatoes, salads, fresh pasta, or scrambled eggs.
  • Use it as a dip for vegetables, fruits, or crackers.
  • Make a quick salad dressing with a tablespoon of cashew cheese and a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
  • Make a cheese sauce with 1/4 cup cashew cheese, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, and 1/2 cup of almond milk.
  • Simply spread it onto sandwiches, cracker, wraps, and toast.

More: So you've ate your fill of cashew cheese and crackers. Now, make vegan chocolate pie for dessert.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white wine

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Soak the cashews in 1/4 cup of water for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until thick and creamy.

Use at room temperature or chill for at least 20 minutes. Store the cashew cheese in an airtight mason jar or container and enjoy it for up to 1 week.

Photos by McKell Hill

These articles originally appeared on A New Kind of Vegan Chili and How to Make Vegan Cheese at Home

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