Old West Style Vegan Chili

Chili versus chile: What’s the difference? Chili with an “i” is what you serve in a bowl and what I am serving up to you with this chili recipe—or it’s a combination of spices used in said bowl of chili, known as chili powder. 

Chile with an “e” is either the fruit of one of the various kinds of chile plants popular in Sonoran and Mexican cuisine, or a South American country. Chili powder, which I am not using in this recipe, usually contains at least one variety of chile. I, on the other hand, am using chile powder, made from dried chiles in my chili.

plant based beef chili with vegan cheese and sour cream in a glass bowl on a patterned glass plate on a black background
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Old West Style Vegan Chili
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Jackie Alpers
I had a childhood fantasy of the “Old West” that was fueled by Looney Tunes cartoons and ground beef and bean chili flavored with tomato sauce and a packet of dried seasoning mix. The chili I grew up eating in Ohio isn’t all that different than the cowboy chili of yore.
Arizona chili recipes originated from meals cooked on the range from chuckwagons stocked with canned tomatoes, beans, dried chiles and herbs. If a cow happened to die on the trail, the cowboys working on the range ate it. These days, that same resourcefulness can be applied to using the ingredients you have on hand. I’ve updated the concept a bit with the addition of fresh mushrooms, plant-based meat, and dairy. Ground chocolate and cinnamon add complexity to the flavor.
So this was specific to the Southwest during the frontier days? Is there a way to differentiate the Southwestern frontier from the rest of the “Old West”?


Dried Herbs and Spices

Wet Ingredients

For Serving


  • Sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil over medium heat, in a large Dutch oven or soup pot, until the onion starts to soften and brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the red wine, then plop in the plant-based beef, breaking it up with a spatula or wooden spoon as you mix it in. Then, fold in all of the dried spices until well combined with meat mixture.
  • Next, pour in all of the wet ingredients, stir, then let cook for 5 minutes and taste and see if you need any more salt or pepper and adjust the seasoning as needed. If you are not using any fish sauce there is a good chance you will need to add more salt.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes more.
  • To serve, ladle the chili into bowls then scoop in a dollop of sour cream and an handful of shredded cheese. Garnish with chopped green onions or chives and crushed chiltepin chile if you want your chili even spicier. Enjoy!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Sonoran
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