I Want a Chili Recipe that isn't too Tomatoey

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

I'm trying to make a vegetarian chili that tastes like nice thick chili, with more of a chili flavor than a tomato flavor. Do you have one?

Keep in mind that I don't normally cook. My first batch of chili is on the stove now. I followed the recipe I was given. But it's so tomatoey. I don't want chili that tastes like tomato soup or vegetable soup. I want one that tastes like chili. Does anyone have a good chili recipe that isn't too difficult and makes a nice, thick chili-flavored chili? I've found some canned chilis I like but I've yet to find a homemade chili that isn't tomatoey. I'd like to make a big batch that I can freeze in individual containers. Please help!


San Tan Valley, AZ(Zone 9b)


This is not a recipe but something you might try to get the flavor profile you're looking for.

Put some dried chilies (anchos or other of the larger dried varieties) in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover. Bring water to a simmer, reduce heat to low and let chilies steep until rehydrated...about 30 minutes. Put rehydrated chilies in a blender with a few tablespoons of the chili water and puree...adding a little more water until the consistency is about the same as tomato sauce. Then simply substitute this chili sauce for some or all of the tomato product called for in your favorite chili recipe.

This message was edited Jan 18, 2012 12:33 PM

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

This recipe was printed off Allrecipes.com It is similar to a chili served at Ike's Chili Parlor in Tulsa when we lived there. (I've lost my copy of their recipe the Tulsa World printed several years ago. Sniff.)

It has no tomato. I usually add an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, because I do like *some* tomato in mine. (I also add beans, which is heresy for some chili makers.)

2 1/4 pounds boneless beef chuck roast cut into 1-inch cubes (I use coarse-ground lean beef, usually marked as "chili beef.")
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dried oregano
28 ounces beef broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Heat the oven in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the beef cubes in the oil for 2 minutes (Since I use ground beef, I don't need the oil; I do drain the cooked meat.) Reduce heat to medium and stir in the garlic.

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin and flour. Sprinkle over the meat mixture and stir until evenly coated. Crumble the oregano over the meat and pour in 2 cups (16 ounces) of the broth.

Add salt and pepper; stirl together well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 90 minutes. Pour in remaining broth and cook until meat falls apart, anothe r30 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate to let flavors blend, then reheat to serve.

Since my mixture is a bit different in texture, I don't do the two-step process on the broth; it all goes in at the beginning of the simmering, along with the can of tomato sauce. Towards the end, I add one or two cans (drained) of pintos or chili beans. I serve this "three-way" style over spaghetti. Crackers on the side, some finely diced raw onion on top for those who like them, and a bottle of pepper sauce for anybody who thinks it needs a kick.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Thank you both.

I'll try your recipe Terry. I think beans are a must in chili. I don't like the meat. If a chili has meat in it, my dogs hang around knowing they'll be getting the meat chunks. LOL I do like the meat flavor though.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I didn't know that chili had tomatoes in it. Go figure.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Quote from steadycam3 :
I didn't know that chili had tomatoes in it. Go figure.

You Texans need to get out more... *grin*

Most of the midwest and the eastern half of the country typically puts tomatoes (gasp) and beans (!) in their chili. I grew up in SE Colorado - where chili came in red and green. No brown chili. No tomato, no beans. Just hot or hotter.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

The recipe I used called for TWO 28 oz cans of tomatoes, as well as a 1.5 cups of beer and a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar. I told a friend that we'd get drunk off the chili if I added the beer too! LOL I hate beer so I left it out. People just add the wierdest ingredients to their recipes.

I really like "chili dog chili". I like that flavor. It's just chili flavored. You can't tell it has tomatoes, if it even does. Wonder if it's got beer? I can't imagine why you'd put beer in it. But then I'm no chef.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I've been known to add that much tomato to my chili. It just depends on the mood I'm in, and if I'm wanting chili "soup" or chili.

I'll make Cincinnati Skyline-type chili every now and again - you might like it if you can find the right recipe. It's what I think of when I think of chili-dog chili.

I still want to be able to make the insanely hot red chili I used to get on an open-faced thin hamburger, topped with sizzling hot matchstick fries (fresh cut), and sprinkled with cheddar cheese. It cleared your pores and sinuses far better than sitting in a sauna for an hour, and it was out of this world delicious. My acid reflux would blow a gasket if I ate it today, but even knowing that, I'd give it a whirl and pay the price later.

I don't add beer to my chili, although I do cook with alcohol in certain dishes. My MIL swears by adding a bottle of beer to pintos and hers are divine - they don't taste like beer, they are just perfectly cooked and have the best texture imaginable. I've never been able to duplicate hers.

Beer-can chicken is pretty tasty too - not boozy, just very succulent and flavored with whatever herbs you use to rub it down. (In case you're not familiar with it, you'll find there's another name for that dish, I chose the more polite term :-)

So don't diss the beer; it has its place. But I agree, it's not in chili. Of course, someone could come along with a recipe that proved me wrong, and that would be okay, too.

Columbus, OH

I don't care for beer, but it adds a good flavor that isn't tomato to veggie chili. You can try using crushed tomatoes rather than whole or diced, and if you absolutely hate beer...try mushroom broth.

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

Dann_L, that's a great tip about making a chili pepper sauce to sub for tomatoes. I'm going to try that.

Here's a recipe I picked up from one of our Plant Swap and Get Together's a couple of years ago. It's very good.

Vegetarian Chili
[from the 2008 fall swap – (tomatofreak)

One BIG eggplant, cut to half inch cubes
One large brown onion, diced
Several cloves garlic - to your taste - roughly chopped
One humongous (or 2 med) RED or YELLOW sweet pepper, diced @ 1/2 inch
3 or 4 medium Portabello mushrooms, stems removed and chunked

Warm @ 1/4 cup olive oil in large heavy pan over medium heat. Add eggplant and saute till shiny and soft. You may have to add olive oil as you go; eggplant soaks it up like a sponge. When eggplant begins to soften, add all the rest, stir and cook till onions and mushrooms begin to soften. At this point, add the rest of ingredients.

2 - 28-oz cans San Marzano whole or diced tomatoes w/juice (I used one of each.)
1 - 16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 16 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 or 3 roasted Hatch peppers*, seeds removed and diced
2 large or 3 small zucchini, diced

Mix well and add seasonings to taste: salt, cumin and chili powder. Start with about 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin and 1 tbsp chili powder. Mix and simmer for a few minutes before tasting. Add more as needed for your tastes.** When you have the seasonings down, simmer on low for about 30 - 45 minutes, adding water as needed. Then add:

1 can fresh-packed corn, rinsed and drained OR 1 # frozen corn kernels

I don't like to cook the corn very long; the kernels get gooey and lose their crispness. Heat (or cook) the corn for just a few minutes and turn the heat off. Let sit on stove till it cools a bit and flavors mix well.

* This time of year (Fall), Food City [local mexican supermarket] usually has fresh-roasted Hatch peppers. You can substitute with one or two fresh hot yellow peppers or a small can of diced jalapenos or a fresh habanero (if you like fiery chili!). For a whole different flavor, use a canned chipotle pepper and some adobo sauce. It will give the chili a smoky hot flavor.

** I didn't want to make the chili very hot, so I used mild California chili powder. You can use hot New Mexico chili powder or the dark, smoky pasilla molido powder. They all have different degrees of heat and different flavors. Experiment!

Other changes you can make:

Add a can of rinsed, drained hominy or garbanzos instead of white beans. Gives the chili some crunch. Or use pinto beans.

Use yellow squash or Mexican gray squash instead of zucchini. Don't have portabellos? Use canned or fresh button mushrooms.

Here, I would throw in a handful of chopped cilantro at the last minute. However, people either love or hate cilantro so I left it out. It's another flavor-changer.

Columbus, OH

I don't use a recipe for my chili, but here's what I do...(does this mean I won't try the above recipe? No it does not! lol)

I start off by peeling 1 large sweet potato, and dicing in 1/2" chunks. You can use pumpkin or any orangey winter squash if you prefer. Toss with a little light oil, then salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking dish and roast at 400 while you're making the rest of the chili. I'd say I roast them half an hour, tops. It just dries them out and gives them some texture.

In a small skillet, dry-toast some freshly ground cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder and smoked paprika, set aside. You can skip this step if you want, but it adds to the flavor signficantly.

Saute together: One large diced onion, one red bell pepper (roasted if I'm feeling fancy), however many green chiles you like--I like mine hot, and use two anchos and a few habaneros or ghost peppers, and a couple cloves of garlic. Once the veg start to take on color, I add one 28 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, one whole 12 oz. beer--something with body, preferably (I hate beer, go with me on this, it is good, and the alcohol cooks out), and I add 1 cup each of cooked kidney beans, pinto beans, and black eyed peas. Do you want to sub hominy or garbanzo beans or use two 15 oz cans of drained beans of your choice? Go ahead! I dislike the texture of canned beans, but if you like 'em, use 'em. Now, add your seasoning... I know how much I want, so I just dump the skillet into the pot, but maybe start with half of your mixture and salt to taste, and see what you think. Correct seasoning. I also add some Mexican oregano, which is really better NOT toasted. I add water to adjust the texture if it seems to need it.

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, and taste to correct seasoning. By now, your sweet potato or squash should be roasty-toasty brown, which is what we want. Add this to the chili, and a cup or so of corn. I use frozen, but as the previous recipe mentions, don't cook that corn for too long, or it develops an unpleasant texture. I add lots of chopped cilantro, if you like it, and cook till the corn is cooked through. You can really add most any veg you want, I sometimes add a diced zucchini with the onions and peppers at the beginning.

I serve this with sliced green onions, cheese, and diced avocado. Sliced habaneros in a separate dish for the brave garnishers ;)

You can make this a green chili by dialing down the red powders, adding more green peppers (I roast them for green chili) and substituting tomatillos for tomatoes. I thought the squash might look unappealing in green chili, but it doesn't, and it's pretty tasty.

Missouri City, TX

If you want no tomato, but still have a "Texas Red" -
Use 3/4 pound of Ancho (dried Poblano) peppers Cascabel is an alternative choice, but changes the flavor a bit
Remove the stems and most of the seeds, place in a 3-5 qt saucepan
Bring to a boil
Drain the liquid into another saucepan
Refill the original pot (with the peppers) and repeat the boil and drain (may be repeated a third time depending on how much chili you are making)
Toss the spent peppers into the compost
Reduce the second pot to about 1/3 of its original volume.

There is your "Red Base"

Many of the previous suggestions can be added to this to get the flavor profile you want.

We do use a heavy Stout or Porter or IPA beer for flavor, and as stated by others - the alcohol will be cooked out.
Fresh Cilantro and Italian Parsley are good additions chopped fine
Tri-color Bell Peppers add a sweetness
Onions and Garlic are must-have items for ours
Cumin (ground or toasted whole then ground)
Black pepper
Mexican Oregano
If you want some tomato - crushed canned or fresh chopped and cooked.

I recomment sauteing all the fresh veggies (except the Cilantro and Parsley) and adding them to the "Red".

If you want beans - I prefer cooking them separately so I can add them for those that want them and leave them out for the rest of us.
Pintos with bacon and onion and garlic are great, but not cooked into the chili.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Y'all have given me some great recipes to try. That Skyline Chili you mention, Terry, sounds a lot like what I'm looking for. I plan to try it first. I've been to Sam's and two other grocery stores to get all the ingredients I need for several recipes. So surely I can cook up something delicious this weekend.

I'm also going to try some carribean stir fry, some chicken dishes and other meals I can freeze. I bought about 30 small plastic containers this morning so I can freeze individual servings in the freezer I bought a couple weeks ago. I decided that if I can build my own house with my own two hands, I can learn to cook healthy meals. I can even watch Food Network and see how the Barefoot Contessa does it. So that's my New Year's resolution--become a half-way decent chef.

Have y'all ever made Tagine, a Morrocan dish? You can do it so many different ways with so many different spices and herbs so it can be a unique experience each time. A friend of mine made some recently that is just awesome. And he gave me several recipes that he's used to get different flavors. So I'm going to try some of that too. I'm just going to be cooking all weekend. I have to; I don't have cupboard space for all the food items I've brought home. LOL

If y'all have any other healthy recipes to share (doesn't have to be chili), you're welcome to post them here. I want to freeze a variety of foods so I won't get bored and head off to some fast food joint.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Terry, I just made a big batch of your Real TX Chili, but I substituted sausage for the beef. And it's very good!! That may be my new chili recipe! My brother tasted it and he really liked it, so he got a bowl all for himself.

I found a recipe for Skyline Chili and it's on the stovetop now. When it's done, I'll try it and maybe I'll like it too.

I also made some vegetable soup but it has a wierd flavor. I can't decide if I like it or if it needs some other spice. I'll have to get someone else to taste it and tell me what it needs. My brother didn't care for it at all.

Thomasville, GA(Zone 8a)

I don't use tomato but I use V8 juice as my liquid.

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

Quote from Terry :

You Texans need to get out more... *grin*

Most of the midwest and the eastern half of the country typically puts tomatoes (gasp) and beans (!) in their chili. I grew up in SE Colorado - where chili came in red and green. No brown chili. No tomato, no beans. Just hot or hotter.

OMG---I have always lived in Oregon. Mother from Or and father from WA. My mother made chili with lots of her home canned tomatoes, very few chili's, hamburger and beans. We thought it was delicious. Think we are wimps?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I love all kinds of chili from almost-sweet and tomato-y to sear-your-brains hot. It doesn't make you a wimp to not like it hot, nor does it make you tough to eat spicy foods :-)

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

Thanks Terry. I don't want to be wimpy or tough. LOL

Columbus, OH

Hrmph. DH has put crime scene tape on "my" salsa because it was so hot. lol

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I was looking for a recipe to make with boneless chicken thighs when I noticed this chili thread. I love all the talk about chili. I love all the variations of how to make chili - tomatos/no tomatos, beans/no beans, etc. I like adding cumin to mine and recently replaced tomato sauce with salsa. Recently watched Big Guy make chili with Italian sausage, small piece of chuck and ground beef. He roasted peppers for this recipe too. Seemed like a lot of work but I bet it was a chili to die for. Think it was called Dragons Breath. I think I have all the meats to make this chili. I might give it a try.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Oh, Dragons breath sounds good.

I don't like ground beef, so I make my chili and lasagna and stuff with breakfast sausage. I love it! It gives that extra spice and Italian flavor to it. I also add a little cumin to my chili. I may try it with the salsa instead of the tomato paste. Having it chunky is a bonus.

Columbus, OH

Does the salsa make it too acidic? With meat chili, you have the meat and its fat to mellow that, not so much with veggie chili.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Hard to visualize 'chili' as we know it with Italian sausage or seasonings. Midwest chili here... lots of beans and yes, I agree with Bubba_MoCity ~ pintos are the best bean in our opinion.

DH abhors tomatoes in cooked form or flavor so the only tomato I add is a portion of tomato paste. I recently found tomato paste in a tube so am excited. Normally have frozen or tossed the leftover paste cans.

We like our chili sweet and I add brown sugar to blend right before it is finished. Just our preference.... Kristi

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

I don't use Italian sausage. I use regular breakfast sausage, like Jimmy Dean. There's so much chili seasoning in chili that it doesn't make chili taste Italian, just a little more flavorful. I use mild sausage, but you could use hot sausage if you prefer the kick.

In lasagna, it's wonderful! It contains just the right spices to spice up the sauce. Yummy!!!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Sorry N, not you...

I mentioned the I sausage because of Roseraries' comment above

Recently watched Big Guy make chili with Italian sausage, small piece of chuck and ground beef.
I read that and my tastebuds immediately went on strike. lol

Columbus, OH

I like a mix of pinto and black beans, and BEP if I'm not adding diced roasted pumpkin or winter squash. No one from Texas kill me, it's veggie chili.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I started making chili with Italian sausage after I met a woman in the grocery store and we started talking about chili and she told me she always makes hers with Italian sausage. I use whatever is in the house. I'm addicted to chili. I tried Cincinnati with cinammon but I must have done something wrong because it was inedible. I must have put too much cinammon. That is the only batch I ever threw out.

High Springs, FL(Zone 8b)

All these variations sound yummy!

If I have the time, and inclination, I make chili without tomatoes using a technique similar to the ones posted above using dried ancho chilies which are first dry roasted in an iron skillet. The addition of masa harina (Mexican cornmeal) helps thicken the chili, and a tablespoon of cocoa powder adds a wonderful dimension of flavor that combines well with the peppers.

When I'm REALLY lazy and in a hurry, I get by with the store-bought seasoning packets. Hey, when you've got a bunch of hungry people waiting for dinner, it's no time to be picky! LOL

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I made a recipe off the back of Quaker Barley called Chicken Barley Chili. I thought man, this sounds good and healthy so I doubled it. Very bland and no one likes it so I froze it one containers in the hopes that I will eat it up myself. I like the barley but it is way too tomatoey.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Rose, saute various veggies, add some herbs and garlic, add stock and then a portion of the chili mixture to create a nice barley veggie soup.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I ran to the store to get some more stock. I'm going to try a variety of vegetables. I packed them in indiviual containers so I could heat them up later but this will allow me to try different variations too. I really like the barley and the texture so guess it's not a total loss.
Thanks for the suggestion.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

You are welcome. Most bad dishes can be revived if they are reinvented. I usually store bad dish ingredients as is, so as not to take up space in the freezer and then add them to a new creation.

Milwaukee, WI

No matter what Chili recipe I use, I always top my Chili
with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. Ohhhh
so good !

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)


Niles, MI(Zone 5a)

You can use tofu in place of the meat, just grate using firm tofu and a large hole grater

Annabelle’s Chili
1 pound coarse ground buffalo meat, (can use ground beef)
1 large sweet onion diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans drained and rinsed
˝ cup chopped celery
4 tbs mild chili powder
1 tea cumin
1 tea salt
2 tea fresh ground white pepper
2 tbs crushed res pepper (optional)
1 tea cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tbs cocoa powder
Sauté onions, garlic and celery until soft, add chill powder, salt, pepper cumin, add meat and brown, drain off any fat.
Add tomatoes and beans simmer 15 minutes.
Add crushed red pepper and cayenne to taste.

Serve with fresh-diced onions and shredded cheddar cheese.

The flavor is best 24 hours after making.

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

Thank you, Annabelle. I'll try that recipe too. The chili I've been making and freezing seems to be my favorite thing in the freezer. I've been bypassing the stir fries and lasagna I've made and I've eaten about all the chili I've made so far. So it's about time for a new batch. So I'll try this one and see how I like it. Thank you!


DISH, TX(Zone 8b)

Hi, I can give you my recipe and then I think you might just want to play with all or some of these suggestions and come up with your perfect chili. Everyone has a preference of how they want Chili to taste.
My recipe:
Either Chili meat or Ground meat 1 1/2 - 2 lbs
Kidney, or pinto beans 1lb or less
small can of tomatos
1-2 cubes beef boullion
approx. 1/3 c chili powder, or more to taste
" " 1 1/2 T. cumin
salt to taste
1- 2 cloves of garlic (minced) or garlic powder 2-3 T
1 t oregano
a pinch or two, of celery seed or flakes or whatever
1 T basil
2 to 3 roasted jalapenos
1-2 t cayenne pepper
a little flour, or cornstarch if you prefer it thick, cornstarch requires smaller amounts than flour approx 2 T of flour makes it plenty thick
this recipe is approximate, I hardly ever measure except in the palm of my hand
just adjust it to your taste, that is what it is all about. That is why we all have Chili cook offs. lol

Mount Pleasant, PA(Zone 6a)

My DH is going to be in heaven when I start trying these. :) He loves chili. I always make "add it to the pot" style chili. I start with ground beef, tomato paste, onion & garlic then anything that strikes my fancy gets "added to the pot" I don'y use kidney beans but do like black beans. For some reason I can't stand the kidney beans. Mushrooms usually end up in there too. I like to use chipolte peppers & some mexican chili powder. Hmm next door neighbor just gave me tomatoes i may have to go make a batch.

Mount Pleasant, PA(Zone 6a)

My DH is going to be in heaven when I start trying these. :) He loves chili. I always make "add it to the pot" style chili. I start with ground beef, tomato paste, onion & garlic then anything that strikes my fancy gets "added to the pot" I don'y use kidney beans but do like black beans. For some reason I can't stand the kidney beans. Mushrooms usually end up in there too. I like to use chipolte peppers & some mexican chili powder. Hmm next door neighbor just gave me tomatoes i may have to go make a batch.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I made a Creole Chili recipe from a Rachel Ray cookbook that I found at a garage sale. No beans or tomatoes. Everyone was looking for beans or tomatoes so won't be making that one again. It was a very meaty chili with ground pork and cajun sausage.

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