In a fun thread on Vegan Twitter a couple weeks ago, there was a claim about how expensive vegan chili was to make. That making a pot of chili cost $36. It turns out that other costs, such as gas and utensils were included in the financials. However, it made me realize that I should add a vegan chili recipe to the website, as it's a dish I regularly make (because of how inexpensive and easy it is, in fact). And no, you don't need to add the cost of the utensils or gas to a store in your calculations, as those costs are relevant regardless of whether the dish includes meat or not.
i made a vegan chili the other day and spent $36 for everything to make it, had the proper means to go get the shit, had the TIME to cook the dish, and have the necessary tools to make it with no issue. that is a privilege.
— — 𝖚𝖕𝖕𝖊𝖗 𝖒𝖔𝖔𝖓 𝖙𝖜𝖔 💋⛓ (@bbsekhmet) October 23, 2019
So here is a recipe for an inexpensive yet flavorful common sense vegan chili that is easy to make. It will leave you with a ton of leftovers too. After the recipe, I will break down the cost to demonstrate how inexpensive this meal is after the recipe below.
Cheap Vegan Chili
- 6 cups diced tomato Diced. Fresh, or about 2 large tins, or 4 small tins of diced tomatoes.
- 4 cups kidney beans (cooked) This is from about 1.5 cups dry beans, and would be roughly 3-4 tins. Can sub other beans, such as pinto, navy, or black.
- 2 cups corn Frozen or fresh.
- 1 cup mushrooms Diced or sliced, fresh or frozen, any type.
- 2 onions Medium size, chopped
- 1 bell pepper Any color
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
Meat substitute: (Optional)
- 2 cups mushrooms sliced (about 4-5 large button mushrooms)
- 2/3 cup dry lentils cooked
Spices and Flavorings:
- 3 cups vegetable broth Recommend low or no sodium. Can substitute water if desired.
- 6 cloves garlic Or use minced (jar).
- 2-3 Tbsp chili powder I used a combo of ancho chili + chipotle for mine - add this to taste (desired spice level).
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup Optional. I used brown sugar for this one.
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 bay leaves Optional
- 1/2 tsp salt Optional
- Cook the beans and lentils (if making from dry)
- Add onions to the pot with about 1/4 cup of water or vegetable stock. Reduce the onions until slightly translucent.
- Add the lentils and diced mushrooms to a pot, and mix well until resembles "meat". Alternatively you can blend in a food processor. This will make a thick mixture.
- Add all vegetables and spices to pot, and then the "meat" mixture, and mix well to combine. (Everything except your toppings)
- Wait to come to a boil, and then reduce heat to low to simmer. Allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until you are happy with the thickness of the chili.
- Optional: If you would like your chili to be thicker, remove about 2 cups of the chili and add to a food processor or blender and blend well. Return to the pot and stir well.
- Serve with rice, or over a potato. Or, you can add rice or potato to the chili if you prefer. Top with some of the optional toppings listed in this recipe, or with your favorite alternatives.
Vegan sour cream
There are many suggestions for toppings, but this vegan chili is pictured with some sour cream on top. Here is the easy to make recipe for vegan sour cream. It's also low fat and oil free, of course, and made using whole food ingredients.
Cost of vegan chili
Where you live obviously has a big impact. I am going to work out the cost of these items on Amazon.com, which is accessible to most people (and hey, you wouldn't be using your own gas!). The cost was using Amazon Grocery for my old zip code in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of publishing. The cost can be reduced by shopping around locally, using items on sale, being in a different Amazon zip code. and so on (using frozen produce instead of fresh, for example - which is just as healthy). So do note that this cost is most likely somewhat higher than what you could actually achieve by shopping locally, on sale, at a discount store, or even at a regular price from a regular supermarket. I assume that you already have your utensils... that you use to eat regardless of your diet preferences.
Note: I am including the optional "meat substitute" in these calculations. I am making a rough yet generous estimate for the dry spices/flavorings. Do note that these spices can absolutely be customized to what you have on hand, and many can be left out while still achieving a flavorful meal.
Checking the exact cost of each item at the quantity used, the entire massive batch of chili only costs about $15 to make, even if you need to order in your ingredients from Amazon. 8 Servings (of eat least 3 cups each) is quite generous, as this is a massive pot of food. Your serving is well over a whole cans worth of chili if you were purchasing a processed product. However, it still only works out to $1.90 per serving at Amazon calculations for Northern California.
Pretty darn reasonable at your probable "worst case scenario" pricing.
Make it even cheaper, please!
The most costly item in this chili is the mushrooms. To omit the mushrooms, you can use more of just about anything here. For the "meat blend", you could use some cooked beans or carrots instead and mash them with the lentils. The texture will be affected, but you'll still have a hearty and thick chili with the same flavor profile (pretty much).
Know someone who says vegan food is too expensive and inaccessible? Share this recipe with them!
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