Smokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili

When the theme was announced for this month’s Let’s Lunch on Twitter, the tone of the monthly virtual pot luck seemed to change instantly from congenial gathering to take-no-prisoners throw down.  You see, the theme is chili, and the Texans in the group were adamant: no beans.  There was suddenly unbridled bravado in the air.

Joe Yonan

joeyonan Joe Yonan

I have SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT CHILI. #texansuniteagainstbeans

geokaren geokaren

I warn you – I went to the HI state finals w/my chili!#letslunch 😀
Ellise Pierce

cowgirlchef Ellise Pierce


There was no way I could beat them, so the path of least resistance would have been to join them.  But me? I take the path of most resistance.  So when I spied a gorgeous bag of Rancho Gordo Vaquero beans, my recipe was revealed: a meatless chili suitable for cowboys and cowgirls, and safe for cows, too.  For those of you unfamiliar with the brilliant products offered by Rancho Gordo, it is a Napa, California company owned by Steve Sando, who is dedicated to preserving heirloom beans from the New World/Latin America.

Vaquero beans, also known as Orca beans, are a playful black and white, looking to me like a cow.  Rancho Gordo describes them as a cousin to the Anasazi bean.  They’re fun to cook with, because even after cooking and giving off an inky pot liquor, they maintain their dappled markings.  If you have trouble obtaining these lovely beans, pinto beans make a fine, though less exciting, substitute.

I serve this cow-friendly chili with cornbread, natch, and in keeping with my vegan, plant-based theme (sure to be unrecognizable by Texans), I am using an excellent recipe from Isa Chandra of the PostPunkKitchen.

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For other wonderful takes on chili, please see the other #LetsLunch Chili Posts, and check back later for more:

Cathy‘s Chunky-Style Cowboy Chili at Showfood Chef

Charissa‘s Clean Out Refrigerator Night Cassoulet, A “Frenchified” Chili at Zest Bakery

Ellise‘s Chicken Tinga Chili at Cowgirl Chef

Emma‘s Dave’s Chili at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Felicia‘s Low-Concept Vegetarian Chili at Burnt-Out Baker

Grace‘s Chinese New Year Chili at HapaMama

Karen‘s Hawaiian Chili at GeoFooding

Lucy‘s “Full of Beans” Chili at A Cook And Her Books

Cheryl’s Keema Chili at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Joe’s Texas Bowl o’ Red 

Pat’s Miso Chili Con Carne at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

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Smokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili 

Serves: 4-6


8 oz dried Vaquero beans, soaked overnight

1 14.5 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1-2 chipotles in adobo, finely diced

1/2 onion, finely diced

1/2 bell pepper, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp cayenne

5 cups water

salt to taste

1 oz dark chocolate

optional garnishes: chopped cilantro, shredded cheese


1.  After beans have been soaked, drain from soaking liquid and set aside.

2.  Prepare all vegetables and fry in a heavy pot with a tablespoon of canola oil.  Stir and fry for about 5 minutes until vegetables have softened.

3.  Add cumin and cayenne and fry for another minute.

4.  Add beans, tomatoes, water and oregano, and bring to a boil.  Then lower heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are soft.

5.  Add salt to taste.  Just before serving, melt in chocolate and stir well.

6.  Ladle into bowls and top with garnishes, if desired.  Serve with cornbread (recipe follows).

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Vegan Cornbread

from The Post Punk Kitchen, by Isa Chandra

Makes 12 to 16 squares


2 cups cornmeal

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 cups soymilk

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt


1.  Preheat oven to 350, line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or spray the bottom lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soymilk and the vinegar and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt).

4. Add the oil and maple syrup to the soymilk mixture. Whisk with a wire whisk  until it is foamy and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

5.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together using a large wooden spoon or a firm spatula. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into squares and serve warm or store in an airtight container.

15 responses

  1. Those may be the most gorgeous beans I’ve ever seen. And I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I like chili just fine with beans…and I also love vegetarian chilis, too. This one sounds great.

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous beans, thanks for introducing them and Rancho Gordo to us! I’m going to look to see if a local specialty store carries them. I love the idea of a cow-friendly vegan chili too, and yes those beans do look kinda cow-ish (or orca-ish if you side with the sea).

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