A few nights ago my husband, Luke, wanted to take over the kitchen, and frankly, I didn’t resist – not even a little bit. For starters, he’s a mighty fine cook, and he’s pretty awesome about throwing down vegan meals that I can enjoy. So even though he’s still a hardcore omnivore, he’s open-minded about vegan food and has no trouble putting it away (or setting it up). On this night it was getting late and we needed supper on the table quickly, so he decided to fall back on one of his old favorites – a remake of Wendy’s restaurant chili. Although I was never a huge fan of the original, I like this cruelty-free recipe, which is a tasty and improved version.
The backbone of the original Wendy’s chili is their ground hamburger. To replace this in a vegan version, Luke prefers to use Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles, which come in frozen pouches ready to heat-and-eat. Boca crumbles are made from soy protein (they have a non-GMO version) and wheat gluten, so a serving packs in 13 grams of protein and only 0.5 gram of fat. There are a couple of other fillers you could try here – texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or crumbled tempeh, for instance – but for us, the Boca crumbles are quick, available locally, and pre-seasoned so that they taste remarkably “beefy”, which works well when you’re figuring out supper at the last minute. From there, it’s the simple addition of onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, beans, and chili seasoning. Admittedly, this recipe uses a lot of canned and convenience ingredients – but it’s easy to throw together and it doesn’t require a four-county manhunt to track down any single ingredient, which can make it your best friend on busy nights or when you’re low on energy.
This chili is sweet and mild, with a thinner consistency that most, but it’s a good imitation of the Wendy’s version. Like any chili, it’s incredibly versatile to serve – sprinkle with vegan cheddar, add a little jalopeño sauce, dab on some homemade vegan sour cream, or pour it over brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat wide noodles to stretch it further.
Cruelty-Free Wendy’s Chili
Serves: 6-8. Prep time: ~15-20 minutes.
Accessibility notes: Requires mild chopping, but much wrestling with a can opener.
- 2 -12 oz. package of Boca Veggie Ground Meatless Crumbles
- 2 tsp olive or canola oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 – 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
- 4 – 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
- 1 – 15 oz. can black beans
- 1 – 15 oz. can pinto beans
- 1 – 15 oz. can kidney beans
- 1 – 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chiles
- 1 – 1.25 oz. package McCormick mild chili seasoning (an accidentally vegan food)
1. Break up the Boca crumbles in a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tsps of oil and stir until thawed.
2. Add the onion, bell pepper, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, diced tomatoes, and chili seasoning and stir well. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until onion and bell pepper are softened but tender-crisp. Remove from heat and serve with an assortment of hot sauce, shredded vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, or sliced scallions.