The term chilli can be very confusing. When I was first introduced to the Tex-Mex chilli, I was bewildered. I thought, “huh, having the chilli pepper as a meal?!” with the image of the pepper fruit in mind. This is because in Southeast Asia, chilli refers only to the spicy fruit, from Thai birdseye chilli to long finger chillies. Later on I learnt that the Tex-Mex chilli is a short form for chilli con carne, or literally, chilli with meat.
Chilli con carne is a thick stew made with minced beef, onions, laced with a large dose of chilli, cumin, and other spices, and often eked out with red kidney beans. In the style of classic chilli con carne, this raw, meat-free, chilli sin carne is hearty without frills. There are many iterations of raw vegan meat based on walnuts only. However I find that too nut heavy and not easy on the digestion. This lightened version employs mushrooms, peppers, celery, and walnuts (or beans / tempeh if you like), which are high glutamate ingredients, and can stand up to the task of replacing the savouriness of meat. The ingredients are diced up small and briefly dehydrated to soften and concentrate the flavours. The ingredients are then stirred into a tomato sauce and seasoned with homemade Taco Seasoning that contains all the essential spices for Tex-Mex cuisine – chilli, cumin, paprika, and oregano.
This dish tastes best if it is allowed to sit for at least one hour, or best, overnight in the refrigerator. So it is best to plan ahead and prepare early. Serve the chilli in tacos or as part of a Mexican salad bowl with avocado, slaw, sour cream, and cilantro.
If you are not into taco spices (chilli, cumin, paprika), you can replace the Taco Seasoning with your favourite spices. For example, to turn it into Hungarian Paprikash, use a mix of hot sweet and smoked paprika instead.
Raw Vegan Mushroom Chilli with DIY Taco Seasoning
Robust raw vegan Mexican chilli made with mushrooms, celery, peppers, and walnuts / tempeh in a taco-spiced tomato sauce.
- 155 g (2 cups) mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, and/or oyster), medium dice
- 75 g (1/2 cup) celery, small dice
- 75 g (1/2 cup) bell pepper (any colour), seeded and small dice
- 40 g (1/4 cup) red or brown onion, minced
- 15 g (1 1/2 tbsp) cold-pressed olive oil
- 60 g (1/2 cup) activated walnuts, chopped (can sub cooked beans or cooked crumbled tempeh for nut-free)
- 64 g (1/2 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and drained
- 120 g (2 medium) tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 5 1/4 tsp DIY Taco Seasoning (recipe follows)
- As needed, filtered water
- 1 tbsp tamari (to taste)
- 1 pitted Medjool date (to taste)
DIY Taco Seasoning (makes approximately 1/4 cup)
- 2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder (use homemade to avoid caking agents - see Notes)
- 1 tsp garlic powder (use homemade to avoid caking agents - see Notes)
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or gochugaru
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
For the Mushroom Chilli
In a mixing bowl, combine the diced mushrooms, celery, bell pepper, and onion. Add the olive oil and mix until the ingredients are well and evenly coated.
Spread the mixture on a dehydrator tray lined with Paraflexx sheet and dehydrate for 30-45 minutes. This step is not essential but it helps to concentrate the flavours of the vegetables and give a more traditional chilli flavour.
Once the vegetables are briefly dehydrated, place them in a bowl and add the chopped walnuts (or cooked beans / cooked crumbled tempeh). Set aside while you prepare the sauce.
In a blender, combine the rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, and taco seasoning, and blend on high speed until smooth. Add the tomato mixture to the vegetable mixture and fold together until combined. Taste and adjust the seasonings and texture. Add water to desired consistency, and add tamari if you prefer a deeper, more savoury chilli.
This dish tastes best if it is allowed to sit for at least one hour. So it is best to plan ahead and prepare early. Serve the chilli in tacos or as part of a Mexican salad bowl with avocado, slaw, sour cream, and cilantro.
Homemade onion and garlic powder. I try to make my own dried spice powders if possible to avoid anti-caking agents in commercial ones. To prepare onion and garlic powder, slice onion and garlic thin, spread on dehydrator sheets, and dry in the dehydrator for 24 hours or until completely dry. Put the dried onion / garlic in a spice grinder and blend until a powder. Onion and garlic powders are prone to clumping. To avoid this sticky situation, add a few grains of dried rice or beans, which will help to absorb moisture, into your storage container.
Variation - Hungarian Paprikash. Replace the Taco Seasoning with 1 tbsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika.