April 8, 2010

Tempeh Chili Con Frijoles

by IsaChandra

Serves 6 to 8

Photo from Jugalbandi.

A hearty, luscious and flavorful chili, brimming with the goodness of tempeh and rounded out with the greatness of beer. I like to serve it with a mound of guacamole and thick slices of cornbread. Some finely chopped red onions sprinkled over the top wouldn’t hurt either.

1 package (8 oz) tempeh, diced medium
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
1 green bell pepper, diced medium
1 large carrot, diced small
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Couple of generous dashes fresh black pepper
15 oz can pinto beans, drained
1 cup good dark beer (I use Negra Modelo)
15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water or veg broth
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (about a cup, lightly packed)

In a large pot, cook onions, green bell pepper and carrots over med-high heat, until tender and a little brown (15-20 minutes) stirring occasionally.

At the same time, put tempeh in a large frying pan and fill with water until it is almost covered. Add 2 teaspoons soy sauce and let simmer over high heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. When water is mostly absorbed, mash tempeh with a fork, so it’s crumbly but still chunky. Lower heat to medium and add 2 teaspoons olive oil , saute for 15 more minutes.

At this point, the twenty minutes for your veggies should be up. Add garlic and saute one minute, then add salt and spices (except cilantro, you add that last) and saute a minute more. Add beer and deglaze the pot. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, beans and water. Your tempeh should be done cooking so add that as well. Lower heat to medium, stir it up and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook 30 more minutes stirring occasionally. Add maple syrup, lemon juice and stir it up. Add cilantro. Serve!

  • November 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm: holly

    When do you add the carrot? And what if you don’t have dark beer… any substitute suggestions? Thanks!!

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm: Erik

    I added the carrot with the peppers and onions. Also, in the instructions it says to add tomato sauce, but I assumed that meant the 18oz can of diced tomatoes. I used Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for the beer, which is probably ludicrous to cook with, but I think it really gave it a rich flavor. All my meat eating friends loved it too. soooo good!

  • February 9, 2011 at 11:19 pm: Timberly

    This was insanely delish and seems like one of those stews that will taste even better after sitting in the fridge a couple days. It was perfect with some of cornbread.

  • April 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm: Skinnie

    Thinking of substituting Coffee for the beer (like a Cincinnatti Chili) to make it child friendly and maybe add some cocoa powder too!

  • April 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm: Poppy

    has anybody tried to freeze this? if so, how long does it last?
    have some tempeh i need to use up and i can’t eat all of this on my own!

  • April 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm: Marie-Claude

    I freezed it without problem. I thawed it in the fridge for one day. It was as good as fresh.

    As for the recipe per se, I love it.

  • May 27, 2011 at 2:12 am: mikey

    Made this using samuel smith’s imperial stout, and added about 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, as well as a teaspoon of chocolate extract for the sake of experimentation. Turned out delicious, one of the best chili recipes ever.

  • September 23, 2011 at 5:50 am: Simon

    @Skinnie, how does adding coffee instead of beer make this child friendly? The alcohol will cook off, the caffeine wil not.

  • October 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm: chelsea


  • November 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm: Coilamg

    O’Doul’s works, too. I’m still having trouble with the carrot part. This isn’t the only recipe I’ve had where she doesn’t tell you when to put in every ingredient. . . I’ll try putting it in with the onions and peppers: thanks for the suggestion, Erik!

    Also, are any of you able to find an 18oz can of tomatoes? I have done 15 and 28 both with reasonable success. I’ve also had success with black beans instead of or in addition to the pintos.

    • November 29, 2011 at 1:06 am: IsaChandra

      Sorry, I updated the recipe! Should be 15 oz tomatoes and the carrot goes in with the other veggies.

  • November 29, 2011 at 4:39 am: Coilamg

    Thanks! You do say “veggies,” so I was probably being unsure for no reason. . . Thanks for answering back!

    I’ll look over the recipe I was making the other day where I wasn’t sure when to add something so you can look it over if you want to. I think it’s for the potato kale enchiladas, but I don’t know how much it matters since it’s in a published book and not a website (Veganomicon)

  • December 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm: Lesley

    This is my go to chili recipe. So good and warming this time of year!

  • January 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm: mosaurus

    this is delicious, added chopped celery and used an IPA instead of dark beer. will make this again and again and again all winter long

  • January 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm: casey

    I made this and it smelled/ looked great, and then I added the lemon juice and destroyed it completely. I read quickly as “half cup of lemon juice” instead of juice of 1/2 a lemon. I’m still not sure how much juice 1/2 a lemon would be… Anyway, now it tastes completely like lemon juice and is very sour! Is there any way to save my chili, or should I make it all over again?

  • February 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm: limburger

    Erik, ‘meat-eating friends’? Trade them in; they don’t last as long :)

  • February 24, 2012 at 11:37 pm: Mike Bhoy

    I made mine with barley wine instead of “beer” proper… good, dark and mmmmmm. I think I just enjoy cooking with booze. :)

  • February 27, 2012 at 1:36 am: Shannon Mackie

    It says tomato sauce but there’s no sauce listed in the ingredients. I’m going to assume this means diced tomatoes since tomato paste is already listed?

  • March 27, 2012 at 12:58 am: Zil

    Does anyone know how much chili this makes? Or how big the servings are? I want to make this for a pot-luck sort of thing at work, but I need a certain specific volume.

    • March 27, 2012 at 1:06 am: IsaChandra

      Maybe like 4 quarts or so? It makes quite a bit.

  • June 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm: Mlle

    I made this tonight. I loved it! I’m glad I found a new way to use tempeh. I usually find it too smelly and fermented for my taste but here it’s perfect and the consistency is lovely. I forgot the beer so I added some of the wine I was drinking, and it turned out really nice.

  • October 8, 2012 at 1:32 am: cee

    what about substituting miso for the beer? If not miso, what else?

  • October 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm: Chelsey

    I’ve been meaning to say this for a while: this is the veggie chili recipe I’ve been searching for all my life. Thank you.

  • October 18, 2012 at 7:54 am: John

    I reckon 3 tablespoons of chili would be a bit much for most people – I’d start with a teaspoon full and work up from there, if i were you. Great recipe though.

    • October 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm: IsaChandra

      Chili powder, not like cayenne or anything!

  • November 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm: Brittany

    Has anyone tried to make this recipe in a crockpot? I would love any suggestions. I’m planning to make this for my husband’s meat eating family, wish me luck! :)

  • December 13, 2012 at 7:46 am: angela r.

    I left off the cilantro, the maple syrup and the lemon juice. And instead of tempeh i used TVP, which worked really well. I also added one jalapeno. Mm spicy. Great recipe, very tasty. I used Black Butte, but since you can’t even taste it at the end i’m sure you could replace with a cup of broth, water or the leftover water from cooking beans, if you have that handy. Great served over polenta!

  • December 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm: mer

    I have been using this recipe for years!!! Discovered this site back in college. I have experimented with it a lot because it is such a flexible recipe. I really like using kidney and black beans in addition to the pinto and I throw in whatever veggies I have around and it always comes out great! When I first discovered this site years ago, someone had commented that they used half chili powder and half red curry powder. I always opt for this combo. So good! Thank you so much for this site and this recipe. You helped learn how to cook!

  • May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm: stephanie

    i’m really interested in this recipe, but am relatively new to tempeh. i’ve been buying and using Trader Joe’s tempeh, which is precooked. when this recipe calls for boiling the tempeh in water and soy sauce, is the purpose to cook the tempeh, or to just flavor pre-cooked tempeh? i’m wondering if you’re using an uncooked type of tempeh that i don’t yet know about. thanks.

  • May 17, 2013 at 8:26 pm: Garlic Breath

    Stephanie, three cheers for TJ’s tempeh! I understand the purpose of pre-steaming tempeh is primarily to get rid of a bitter undernote that tempeh often has. But with TJ’s tempeh, I never bother with this because unlike other brands of tempeh I’ve tried, it never has that aftertaste anyway. On the other hand, I’ve heard that steaming tempeh with something other than water, like beer, can make it extra-flavorful and delicious, and I imagine that’s what Isa is going for by adding the soy sauce. So my thought is, you will probably end up with extra-wonderful chili if you go ahead and do that step, but you probably don’t need to if you’re pinched for time. Happy tempeh-devouring!

  • June 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm: Valerie

    Made this tonight – very very flavorful!! There’s something special about it, unlike other veg chili recipes.

  • June 17, 2013 at 3:52 am: mandee

    This was so good! I added a couple jalapenos to make it extra spicy, but this recipe is fantastic! I will be making it again, for sure. Thank you, Isa!

  • September 25, 2013 at 11:56 am: JenB

    First time cooking with tempeh and this was def the right recipe to choose. Absolutely delicious…everyone loved it including my two children. Oh, I used miso paste intead of beer, I have coeliac disease!

  • November 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm: Becky

    best chili of ALL TIME

  • December 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm: Kaitlin

    I made this chili and it came out so salty! Maybe it’s because I used water instead of beer? Anyway I think I’ll skip on adding the salt next time. I love this chili other than that.

  • January 29, 2015 at 10:47 pm: Steve

    How dark can I go with this beer? Scotch Ale.. Porter.. Barleywine.. Stout? What about a bourbon barrel-aged beer?

  • January 29, 2016 at 12:51 am: Jill

    I always have trouble with the tempeh in this recipe, the part after boiling, cooking for 15 minutes it sticks to the pan and gets mushy. What I love about this is there us plenty of time to whip up a corn bread while the chili cooks.

  • July 16, 2016 at 8:16 am: Cat

    Yum. Notes for self: 2 normal size tins of tomato work well; great with aubergine, red capsicum and mushrooms thrown in (I pre-baked the aubergine for a while); better when I skipped the beer; black beans worked well.

  • September 24, 2016 at 2:39 am: GracieB

    I’ll start out by saying im not strictly veg…but I love me a good post punk kitchen recipe! Being mexican, I’m always suspicious of “Chili” recipes. However, if you remove yourself from the idea that there’s an “authentic” one and only mexican food, you have so much more fun in the kitchen. This is a great way to use tempeh! Especially after trying many a veg version with beans and winter squash. Instead of bell peppers, i used roasted Hatch chiles, adding them in with the garlic. I also used a New Mexico ground Chimayo chile along with the chile powder (1 and 2 tbsp respectively). The New Mexico chile will give the dish a deeper, earthy flavor. I used a Lagunitas Maximus IPA for the beer. As other cooks stated, this stands up to any meat based chile, and without the health issues ;)