Smoky chipotle chilies, smoked paprika, and toasted cumin seeds combine with earthy black beans and tangy tomatillos in this soupy chili to make a tasty and complex (but not too hot) dinner. And, it’s super easy on the cook because it’s made in the crock pot. I give you, my Smoky Black Bean Chili Soup (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free).
My garden is still giving me lots of tomatillos. I’ve already made a big batch of green tomatillo salsa, chili verde stew, a pasta verde with them, and honestly, I’m getting kind of tired of the traditional ways to use the tangy little green orbs. So, I thought this black bean stew would be a great way to use them. They lighten the stew while the rest of the flavors are the stars.
If you haven’t tried a tomatillo (which is technically a fruit) before they’re great – light and tangy. Tomatillos have papery husks on them. Remove those papery husks, and you’ll have what look like small green tomatoes. The outside of the tomatillo is a little sticky once the husk is removed. Don’t worry, this is normal. Just rinse them under water to get most of the residue off.
And, this chili uses one of my favorite kitchen tricks! Chipotle paste. Chipotles are smoke-dried jalapeños, and they’re often sold in cans with adobo sauce (a spicy, dark red sauce made from ground chiles, tomatoes, and vinegar ). I take the whole jar of chipotles in adobo sauce and blend it all together to create a paste. It’s easier to use than a single chipotle that you need to chop, and way easier to store the leftovers. Read all about my chipotle paste here.
I like cooking with cumin seeds; I think they give things a little extra kick of toasty flavor. Check here for pictures on how the seeds look while they’re going through the toasting and grinding process. Now, if you don’t want to play with the seeds, no worries, ground cumin powder will work just fine. Just add it directly to the crock pot with the other ingredients.
If the addition of blue cheese to the top of your black bean chili seems a bit unusual, I can assure you that it is delicious! See, I had some leftover blue cheese crumbles, and so I thought I’d give it a try. Yep, the creamy strong flavor of the blue cheese totally works with the smoky flavors in the chili. Now, if you want to the chili to remain vegan, leave the cheese off or use a vegan cheese (maybe a vegan pepper jack would be lovely) as a garnish. I also think this would be great over your favorite rice.
- 3-4 cups tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, or light tasting oil of your choice
- 1 onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds or ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or ½ tablespoon fresh oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon chipotle paste
- 1 can tomato paste
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 Anaheim chili, seeds & membranes removed. and chopped
- crumbled blue cheese
- additional fresh oregano or chopped cilantro
- avocado slices
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, cook chopped onion until nicely browned, about 20-30 minutes, stirring often, and adding some water to the pot if the onion is beginning to burn. Once onions are caramelized, place them in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
- While onions cook, cut the cleaned tomatillos in half for small ones and in quarters for larger ones. Place cut tomatillos in the slow cooker.
- Heat a dry heavy skillet (like a cast iron or crepe pan) over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the hot pan, and toast, stirring the seeds constantly, being careful not to let them burn, until the seeds begin to turn golden brown and are very fragrant. Remove from pan when they’re a few shades darker than the untoasted seeds. Grind the toasted seeds with a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin between two sheets of waxed paper, and place them in the slow cooker.
- Place the remaining ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook until the beans are creamy and the tomatillos are soft, about 4-5 hours on high and 6-8 hours on low. I like to smash a couple of the tomatillos on the sides of the crock pot when they’re soft to help distribute their flavor.
- Garnish each serving with blue cheese crumbles, a sprinkle of fresh herbs, and some avocado slices.