While traditional green chili relies on pork for that delicious, smoky flavor, I have a vegetarian option that’s just as delicious and will have even meat-lovers going in for seconds!
Out of all the 100+ posts on The Healthy Toast, this recipe was by far the most researched and thought about. One of my best friends, and Man of Honor at my wedding, has a phenomenal family recipe for traditional New Mexico pork green chili. A couple months back we were sitting in his backyard, eating bowls of the pork green chili and started talking about making a vegetarian version. While this may seem simple – just nix the meat — we wanted to keep that depth of flavor that you get from the pork. And I’m happy to report that we were successful!
But before I jump into how we accomplished our mission, I want to give a brief introduction to green chili for anyone who isn’t familiar. When you hear “chili” my guess is that most of you think of a combination of meat, beans, possibly vegetables, sometimes beer, and always chili powder. Something that can be made in a slow cooker and is often served over French fries or hot dogs. Well this is not that kind of chili. It’s also not that gravy-consistency green sauce that you might find at taco chains or more American-style Mexican restaurants.
Traditional green chili is more thin than other chilis and does not contain any chili powder or beans. For those of you from the Southwest, you are probably familiar with the dispute over Colorado Green Chili vs New Mexico Green Chili. From what I’ve been able to find, the only real difference is what type of chili you use: in New Mexico it’s the hatch green chili and in Colorado it’s the Pueblo chili. Both of these chilis are usually found around the end of August and beginning of September. We found ours at a local Farmer’s Market where they were roasting the chilis on the spot.
For both recipes, the basic ingredients are roasted chilis (either Hatch or Pueblo), pork, chicken stock, tomatoes, and cumin. There’s also usually Mexican oregano, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to find so I used thyme (with the okay by my green chili-expert friend). One final thing: you don’t make green chili in a slow cooker. The key is to slowly build and deepen the flavors. Also, please, please don’t used canned chilis!
Okay, so I started to elude to it above, but there are a few key pieces to building just the right flavor for green chili:
- Roasted green hatch or Pueblo chilis. I bought medium heat chilis and this was still on the spicy side.
- Keep the skins on! Some recipes will say to peel your chilis, but the charred skins really give a good smoky flavor.
- Use better than bouillon to make your veggie stock (or use a homemade stock).
- Good-quality smoked paprika.
- Finally, and most importantly, build your flavors in steps – do not just throw everything in a pot and expect the same depth of flavor.
To keep these traditional, serve your green chili over a bed of refried beans (I used my healthier refried beans recipe) and scoop up using home-style tortillas rather than a spoon. For crunch, you could use tortilla chips instead.
After the first bite we were all in heaven. Seriously, this chili is so full of flavor that you won’t believe there isn’t any meat! You can bet that I’ll be buying a bunch of roasted hatch green chilis to freeze so that I can enjoy this chili all year long!
So here’s a toast to traditional green chili and not needing the meat!
New Mexico-Style Vegetarian Green Chili
- 1 Tbsp olive oil not extra-virgin or use canola oil
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp dried thyme or Mexican oregano
- 1 14.5- oz can diced tomatoes not drained
- ~8-oz roasted hatch green chilis diced and seeded
- 6 cups water
- 4 tsp better than bouillon vegetable base
- 2 Tbsp warm water
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Refried beans and tortillas for serving*
- Place oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add paprika and diced onion. Cook until onions start to soften and paprika is fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.
- Next, add in garlic and cook ~30 seconds. Add coriander, cumin, and diced tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes or until spices are fragrant.
- Add roasted chilis and stir. Finally stir in water followed by bouillon base. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for ~45 minutes or until broth has slightly reduced down.
- While chili is cooking, combine 2 Tbsp warm water with 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Add slurry to simmering chili at final 15 minutes of cooking.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. To serve, place a spoonful of refried beans in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle green chili over beans and serve with homestyle tortillas. Drizzle with lime juice and enjoy!