Mushroom Tofu Chili - Super Satisfying Vegan Recipe

There are few things in life I enjoy more than slow-cooked chili. Thick chunks of meat, beans, tomatoes, onions, and spices in a thick savory broth; it's a perfect cold-weather meal, and one that is amazingly flexible. You can serve it with beans or without, or add chilies, green peppers, corn, almost anything can go into the chili pot, but there's almost always one universal ingredient: meat.

What if I told you there was a way to get that savory, meaty flavor of chili, but without the meat, using a secret ingredient that you probably never thought of?

Promise you won't run away?


It's tofu.

Wait! You promised you wouldn't run! This actually works, and there's some science behind it, too.

As you may be aware, in addition to the classic quartet of known tastes our taste buds can detect – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter – a fifth one has recently been discovered, called umami, or savory. These taste receptors look for glutamate, which is found in protein-heavy foods, like meat, but also soy products. Soy sauce, for example, registers highly on the umami scale.

Soy sauce is, of course, made from soybeans. And you know what else is made from soy? Tofu. In addition to being high in protein and umami, tofu also has the ability to soak up flavors extremely well, making it ideal for marinades...but that's another article.

To keep this recipe vegetarian but really bump the umami up to 11, it uses mushrooms and tomatoes, which also register highly on the vegetarian savory scale, as well as soy sauce for a truly savory meat-free dish. 

Mushroom Tofu Chili Recipe


2 -3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, large, chopped

water (optional)

8 -12 ounces mushrooms, sliced

6 garlic cloves, large, chopped

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon oregano, fresh (or 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano)

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste)

2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with their juice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 (15 ounce) cans red beans, drained (or pinto beans)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or soy-free aminos based sauce for gluten-free)

12 -16 ounces organic tofu, drained and cut in cubes (medium or firm)

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat oil in a nonreactive wide Dutch oven over medium heat.

2. Add onions and saute 5 minutes; add 1 or 2 tablespoons hot water from time to time if pan becomes dry.

3. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute 2 minutes.

4. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and pepper flakes, stir over low heat 30 seconds.

5. Add tomatoes with juices and tomato paste. Stir and bring to a boil.

6. Add beans and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

7. Add tofu and stir gently. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until chili is thick.

8. Add cilantro, if using.

9. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

I recommend using firm tofu for this recipe, but medium works just as well. Ordinary button mushrooms are easy enough to find, but porcinis or portobellos also add an extra dimension of flavor if you are so inclined. I like the red beans in this recipe, but black, pinto, or Great Northern work well, too.

By Dave Meddish, Healthy Goods

Recipe courtesy of

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