During the cold, winter months, there’s nothing I love more than spending an evening making soup in my pajamas. If this sounds like an idyllic evening for you too (or you’re just hungry), then this soup is your perfect match.
This soup is a cross between tortilla soup and a non-traditional, bean-laden chili. It’s filling, hearty, and since it’s vegan, everybody can enjoy it — major plus. The soup begins with charring a polano pepper, enhancing the pepper’s flavor and giving the soup a hint of smokiness. Canned beans are used, making it something you can whip up in under an hour. While the chili is simmering on the stove, I strongly urge you take that time to bake up some homemade cornbread. I can’t think of anything more comforting.
Vegan White Bean Chili
1 large fresh pasilla chile
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes (in juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup of cubed butternut squash
1 15-ounce can of Great Northern beans
1 15-ounce can of white navy beans
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder (If you’re sensitive to spice, add 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
2 tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 limes, cut into wedges
1. Turn your gas range to medium heat and toast the pasilla chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for about a minute, until it’s completely charred on both sides. (If you lack a gas range, you can transfer the chile to a dry pan and place it over medium heat. Press the chile against the pan for a few seconds, rotate it, and cook until the pepper is charred.)
2. Moving quickly, transfer the chile to glass or stainless steel bowl. Pierce it a few times with a knife, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. This will create steam, making the pepper’s skin fall off easily. Allow it to stand for 1-2 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, and using a knife, scrape off the charred bits and discard. Cut the pepper up into chunks, discarding the membrane and seeds.
3. Transfer the chile to the jar of a blender, along with half of the can of tomatoes. Pulse until completely smooth. Set aside.
4. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion and diced red bell pepper and cook until translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes. Next, add the garlic atop the onion mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. To the pot, add the rest of tomatoes, the pasilla/tomato mixture, cubed butternut squash, the vegetable broth, great northern white beans, navy beans, apple cider vinegar and spices: cumin, paprika and ancho chile powder. Mix the entire chili together and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately bring the heat down to medium-low, cooking it at a simmer for about 45 minutes, adding more broth along the way, if needed.
5. While the soup is simmering, pour about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. When oil is hot, add the tortilla strips and fry until crispy. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain. Top with a sprinkling of salt and set them aside.
6. At the 40 minute mark, salt the chili to taste. (I added about 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt.) If you like, add more ancho chile powder to taste in 1/8 teaspoon increments. Stir in the corn and allow to cook for 5 more minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with tortilla strips. Serve with lime wedges.
All photos by Adrianna Adarme.