From chuck wagon to roadside diner to epicurean cook-off, chili has been an all-American favorite for well over a century. Here at EatingWell, we haven't been making chili for quite that long--but we do have some recipes that date back to the 1990s. We have chili recipes made with beef, lamb, chicken, and even some excellent vegetarian chili recipes too. Many of these recipes involve long, slow cooking on the back of the stove--just what you want on a chilly (get it?) fall weekend. (Got more time? Make chili in your crock pot.) There are times, though--and tonight is one of them--when I want to go home and make chili for dinner. In 30 minutes. (In the mood for soup? Try these 30-minute soup recipes.)
Impossible, you say? Not at all. Here are tips for chili success from our collective years of experience.
Don't Miss: 8 Tricks for the Best Healthy Chili
Chili Trick #1: Season Boldly
Using generous amounts of spice in your chili is a great way to add flavor in no time without added fat or calories. Classic chili spices include chili and cumin (and cayenne for those who like it really hot).
Chili Trick #2: Use More Beans
You don't need to always follow the Texans and eat meat-only chili--use beans and make a vegetarian chili instead! Beans add fiber and are healthy and inexpensive. Yes, you can make chili with dry beans, but when you're in a hurry, canned beans are a fabulous option. If you're watching your sodium intake just be sure to look for a brand that has lower sodium or even no added salt. And you should rinse all canned beans before using to significantly reduce sodium levels.
Chili Trick #3: Add Whole Grains
If you're trying to get dinner done super quick and you don't have time to throw together cornbread or some brown rice to serve with your chili, here's another option: simply add some whole grains to your chili. Bulgur is a great option for this.
Chili Trick #4: Sneak in Extra Veggies
Beyond the traditional tomato base, it's easy to sneak extra vitamins into your chili by adding more vegetables. Depending on what you have on hand, try shredded sweet potatoes, zucchini, peppers and/or carrots. For less-sneaky (but still delicious) options, try adding frozen corn or frozen chopped okra.
True to its name, here's the fast, healthy, satisfying vegetarian chili you can make for dinner tonight.
Healthy Weight High Fiber Healthy Heart
Makes: 6 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each
Active time: 15 minutes | Total: 30 minutes
This truly tasty half-hour vegetarian chili is made possible by using convenient canned beans and tomatoes (no pantry should be without them). Whole-grain bulgur adds another layer of toothsome texture and nutritional heft. This chili is relatively mild, so it's a good crowd-pleaser. If you like it spicy, add extra chili powder or serve with hot sauce.
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 28-ounce can plus one 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed
1/3 cup bulgur (see Note)
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt for garnish
1/3 cup chopped scallions for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, jalapeño, garlic, chili powder to taste and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and carrot are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes with their juices, sugar and salt; cook for 5 minutes over high heat. Reduce heat to low; stir in beans and bulgur. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes.
3. Garnish with yogurt, scallions and cilantro, if desired.
Per serving: 217 calories; 3 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 1 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 13 g fiber; 697 mg sodium; 854 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (49% daily value), Vitamin C (43% dv), Potassium (25% dv), Folate & Iron (24% dv), Magnesium (20% dv).
Note: Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and coarsely grinding or cracking wheat berries. Don't confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which is simply that--cracked wheat. Since the parboiling step is skipped, cracked wheat must be cooked for up to an hour whereas bulgur simply needs a quick soak in hot water for most uses. Look for it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets, near other grains, or online at kalustyans.com, buylebanese.com.
What's your best tip for making a super-fast chili?
By Wendy Ruopp
Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.
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