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  • Writer's pictureellencdonker


An easy way to explore plant-based cooking

By this time of the year, my family and I have usually eaten our combined weight in chili. I love keeping chili in our weekly dinner rotation because it’s an easy-to-make, one-pot meal that can be thrown together with just a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes, beans and whatever vegetables we happen to have around. It’s simple to make a double or triple batch and freeze the extra for no-food-in-the-fridge nights. It’s basically a busy parent’s secret weapon.

There can be too much of a good thing though, and inevitably by a certain point each winter, my family starts to say, “Chili…again?” when we sit down for dinner.

Enter: Plant-Based Mushroom and Tempeh White Chili.

Unlike traditional chili, the base is made with coconut milk, without a tomato in sight. Potatoes, white beans and tempeh make it extra hearty and filling. The end result is an ultra creamy, veggie and protein-packed meal that tastes so delicious you’ll forget it’s loaded with good-for-you ingredients.

This recipe is always a hit with friends and family members who are skeptical of anything labeled “vegan.” I love recommending this to folks who are interested in exploring plant-based cooking but don’t know where to start. It’s also a simple and extremely delicious introduction to cooking with tempeh and different varieties of mushrooms. I like to combine a few types of mushrooms in this chili, such as oyster, chanterelle and enoki, for a more interesting texture, but you also can’t go wrong with grocery store staples like cremini or portobello.

Before you head to the market to grab what you need to whip up your own batch of chili for tonight’s dinner, here’s a rundown of a few ingredients you may not be familiar with:

Tamari is gluten-free soy sauce, and you can use it to add a rich, savory flavor to just about anything. Feel free to substitute regular soy sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, or coconut aminos in any recipes that call for tamari.

Nutritional yeast is a dairy-free secret weapon that easily adds a cheesy flavor to any dish, plus it’s full of vitamin B12. I like to use it in sauces or sprinkle it on top of salads and pasta as a Parmesan cheese substitute.

Tempeh is similar to tofu, but it has a heartier texture and is often used as a meat substitute. It has a slightly nutty flavor and makes for an easy protein addition to any meal.

Ilene Moreno is the owner of Colorful Dinner Delivery, a plant-based dinner delivery service based in Maplewood, and the author of the Colorful Kitchen cookbooks and blog. Connect with Ilene at

Mushroom and Tempeh White Chili

Total time: 30 minutes

Active time: 30 minutes

Makes: 4 servings


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (13-1/2-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups vegetable broth

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (4–5 medium potatoes), chopped into 1-inch pieces 

3 cups sliced mushrooms 

1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled

1 cup packed chopped kale

1-1/2 cups cooked white beans (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon tamari

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce or omit for less spice)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Optional Toppings:

Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

Vegan sour cream


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5–7 minutes, until lightly browned.

2. Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

3. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, and tempeh, lower the heat to medium, and simmer until everything is tender, 15–20 minutes.

4. Add the kale and stir for 1–2 minutes, until it wilts. Stir in the white beans, nutritional yeast, tamari, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 3–4 minutes, until everything is warm. Serve warm, with desired toppings.

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