Sweet and Smokey Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili With Cornbread Croutons

Sweet and Smoky (Vegan) Chili With Cornbread Croutons

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I don’t know about you, but vegetarian chili usually leaves me wanting more—but not with this recipe. Sweet potato takes the place of a meat because it’s hearty and filling. For that perfect balance of sweet and spicy, throw in smoked paprika, cayenne, and chili powder. Topped with the easiest cornbread croutons you’ll ever make, and you’ve got a delicious vegan chili ready in under a half-hour.

Sweet and Smokey Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili With Cornbread Croutons

Serves: 2 (for dinner), 4 if smaller portions, like for an appetizer

Time: 30 minutes

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (the “orange ones”), peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • ½ tablespoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 tablespoon of the stuff in the jar—I won’t tell)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (preferably no-salt added)
  • Prepared cornbread (store-bought or homemade—I used Thomas’ Corn Toaster R Cakes. Keep in mind most types of premade cornbread are NOT vegan, although you can definitely find it or make your own!)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

What to Do:

  1. Start by heating about 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet. When hot, add chopped shallot. Sauté the shallot for 1 to 2 minutes, until soft and near-translucent.
  2. Next, add the diced sweet potato along with the chili powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt (less if the tomato sauce contains salt). Sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes, just until everything is well combined and the spices are fragrant.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine, making sure to scape up any bits of garlic or shallot that may be stuck to the skillet.
  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cover with a lid. Cook until the sweet potato is fork-tender, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on how thick your potatoes are.
  5. Meanwhile, start making your cornbread croutons. Cut your cornbread into bite-size chunks and line up in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toast in either a conventional oven (375 degrees) or toaster oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until just browned and crispy.
  6. Add the black beans and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for another minute.
  7. As your chili simmers, keep tasting to adjust the spices as you like. I usually end up adding another dash of salt and cayenne for heat.
  8. Time to plate! Top chili with a handful of cornbread croutons and any of your other favorite chili toppings, such as fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, or cheese. Enjoy!
  9. (P.S. the leftovers are excellent. Let cool and transfer to containers to store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Best reheated in a skillet on low to medium heat.)

Perfectionist Tips:

  • This recipe makes a thick, stew-like chili. If you like your chili a little more on the soupy side, feel free to add another half-can of tomato sauce, or a few splashes of vegetable stock or water. Just be sure to simmer a few extra minutes so that the extra liquid absorbs.
  • I add the black beans last because I want to give the sweet potatoes as much space as possible to cook in the tomato sauce. Since the beans don’t need to really cook, they just get in the way. Plus, I like the beans to hold up their firm texture. They start to break down if they stew in the tomato sauce for more than a few minutes.
  • When dicing your sweet potato, keep in mind that the smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook. But don’t dice them too small or you will miss out on that hearty bite. Trust yourself and eye-ball it.
  • Feel free to omit the shallot if onions in general gross you out. I understand. When cooked down, the shallot lends a terrific subtle sweetness that balances the acidity of the tomato sauce and plays really well with garlic.

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