By Stephanie K.
Tempeh never ceases to amaze me with its versatility and chameleon-like ability to absorb and take on different flavors. Whether it’s the spicy zest of chimichurri or red hot of Frank’s, tempeh proves time and again that it can stand up to the culinary task. That’s why I turned to it when preparing a vegan slow cooker chili in anticipation of the Blizzard of 2015 (and plan to make it again for Superbowl Sunday). Tempeh is a reliable team member and never disappoints. Vegetarian chili is one thing, but protein-packed tempeh chili is another. Add some seasonal root vegetables, beans, and spices, and you have a hearty, filling chili even meat eaters will down by the next down (I couldn’t help myself..)
This slow cooker tempeh chili is packed with a colorful medley of root vegetables – beets, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots – and the combination of earthy and sweet flavors results in a meatless chili with a surprising depth of flavor. The earthiness of the beets and rutabagas plays against the sweetness of the carrots and sweet potatoes, the cinnamon-y taste of the parsnips dancing in between. The turnips (er, referee?) balance the two contrasting sides with a subtle flavor. And you thought vegetables couldn’t be fun!
When preparing the chili, I layered all the root vegetables on the bottom of the slow cooker to give them a jump start on the cooking process. I then layered the cubed tempeh on top of the vegetables, followed by the vegetable broth and can of diced tomatoes. Kidney beans and black beans, which don’t need much cooking at all, were last on the pile.
After two hours, I added half the seasoning and gave the chili a good stir. Even on Low temperature, the root vegetables already started to soften. To ensure the spices weren’t dulled in the cooking process, I added the remaining half towards the tail end of cooking four hours later. After a total of six hours on Low setting, the root vegetables were tender, the tempeh soft, and the whole texture of the chili like a velvety stew.
As a final garnish, I topped the chili with a handful of Daiya cheddar style shreds (which melt wonderfully), a dollop of vegan sour cream, and chopped parsley. If you are serving those who prefer not to eat fully vegan, you can certainly swap out the ingredients mentioned above for regular cheddar shreds and sour cream (or Greek yogurt). You can tell them about the tempeh later…
What is your favorite slow cooker dish? What are you serving on Superbowl Sunday? Please share in the comments or on Twitter!