It’s our first Whole30 recipe!
Jay is a little more than a week into this endeavor, and is powering through like a champ because “it’s a work competition, don’t you ever just like to challenge yourself?” Not at avoiding dairy and carbs, no I don’t. But! Jay’s doing it, so I’ve made our meals that we eat together as Whole30-friendly as possible, and he in turn isn’t huffy when I have a cup of pasta on the side of my protein and roasted veggies. Because balance.
This chili, though, needs zero help or additions; it is PERFECT just as it is. I made it this weekend for Jay’s mom and grandmother, and was fully expecting them to politely eat the weird chili and move on with their day. But no. They raved. Had seconds (these are teeny women we’re talking about). Went on and on about the flavor, and trust me, I was with them all the way. Truthfully, I created this chili for Jay and expected to eat it once, but I loved it way more than I expected to and am already planning to make it again for another gathering.
Sweet potatoes show up in tons of Whole30 recipes, and I wanted to offset the sweetness with chipotle to keep the dish super savory. I’ve seen people use walnuts in place of taco meat, and while I haven’t tried that, the thought of softened walnut pieces in a super savory broth with soft sweet potato chunks just seemed to work in my mind, and work it did. The walnuts seem weird but they aren’t at all; they soften just a bit but still keep a bite after they simmer for a long time, and they add a great nutty flavor to the chili that alllllmost mimics meat. You can use any kind of stock you like for this, but to keep the dish vegan grab a box of vegetable stock and get to it.
Besides the walnuts and sweet potatoes, we have onion, garlic, green bell pepper as the base of the chili. Then it’s canned diced tomatoes, chipotle in adobo (I mash up an entire can at once and keep it in the fridge, then use spoonfuls whenever I want a chipotle essence to a dish), chili powder, oregano, and cinnamon. Stock brings everything together, and you’ll need salt to flavor everything once it’s in a pot together.
To start! Heat a big soup pot over medium heat with some olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Let the veggies cook for about 5 minutes, stirring as you go until they start to soften.
When the veggies are soft, add the spices and chipotle paste to the pot. Stir the seasonings into the vegetables for one minute until they coat everything evenly, then add the rest of the ingredients to the pot: walnuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and stock.
Stir the chili together and give the soupy part a taste, add a few sprinkles of salt at this point. Then, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Let the chili simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time. Remove the lid and let the chili simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes or more to thicken, until the sweet potatoes are very soft and the walnuts have softened somewhat.
As you cook the chili, taste it every once in awhile and add more salt as you go; the potatoes will absorb salt as they cook and I ended up adding close to a tablespoon of salt to the dish by the time I served it. You can adjust the spice as you go as well; I found that 1 tablespoon of chipotle was great for this big pot, but I served extra at the table for swirling in and a few spice-lovers added more to their bowl for extra heat.
BOOM. I mean. I know this looks like regular old chili and sounds strange with the walnuts, but trust me when I say how wonderful it is for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It is so delicious, so special tasting, and a dish that will make you feel good from the inside out; it’s so packed with filling, healthy ingredients. The chipotle and cinnamon work so well together to be really warming, and the walnuts give texture and flavor that keeps the dish so interesting while tasting familiar at the same time.
Whole30 or not, make this ASAP and then let’s think of what else we can do with walnuts!
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo (the juice from the can and a few chopped pieces of the pepper)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups chopped walnuts (not toasted)
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes in their juices
- 3-4 cups stock, any kind you like
- salt, to taste
Preheat a large soup pot to medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes, stirring as you go.
Add the chipotle, oregano, chili powder, and cinnamon. Stir to coat the veggies for one minute, then add the sweet potatoes, walnuts, tomatoes, and stock to the pot with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Add 3 cups of stock first and the 4th later if needed.
Stir the chili and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Adjust the heat during this time so the soup is simmering but not bubbling very hard.
Remove the lid after 45 minutes and let the chili simmer uncovered for 15 minutes more to thicken slightly. If the chili is too thick add the remaining cup of stock. Taste as you go and season with salt; the chili should be very flavorful by the time you serve it.
For extra heat, stir in more chipotle paste a teaspoon at a time, or serve extra for swirling into individual bowls.
Vegan if vegetable stock is used!
Can be made in advance and kept on the (off) stove for a few hours before eating or in the fridge for a few days. This gets better as it sits!