Fall Vegetarian Chili

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, 
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, 
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,— 
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 
Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” 
― William Shakespeare

 Who else is cooking up something deliciously bewitching for All Hallows Eve? Sans the eye of newt and toe of frog of course…This time of year has me craving soups and stews and anything that qualifies as comfort food really. I’ve been dreaming of fall recipes I’d like to make all year long. I’d love nothing more than to launch into a monologue about crisp autumn weather, bleak skies, cold wind, and fading daylight. But sadly—or rather, annoyingly—it is well over a hundred degrees here today. The skies are blue and cloud-free, the Santa Ana winds are dry, sweltering, and harsh, and I’m blasting the AC to counteract the heat of any cooking I might do.

In fact it’s the air conditioning that allows me to enjoy fall dishes like this vegetarian (almost vegan) chili. A Carlson family ritual that pays homage to October’s end. I’m not sure when the tradition manifested itself. Was it my dad, my mom, us kids who initiated the annual fall/Halloween chili cook-off? I can’t recall. All I do know for sure is that every year, my family and I—whether together or apart—make a huge pot of chili to enjoy on Halloween.

Over the years the recipe has evolved from humble ground beef, tomatoes, and beans, to stewing beef with an ever evolving list of add ins; bacon, tons of onions, herbs, countless spices. Last year my brother and sister made a vegetarian option and I decided to follow suit this year. Never mind that it is literally 100°F out as I type this. Or that it has been so hot that cooking in my little apartment feels like a tango with hellfire. Halloween is next week and that means chili must be made! October wouldn’t feel the same without it.

This year’s batch is full of fall flavors. Butternut squash, lots of spices including garam masala, dark lacianto kale, sweet potatoes, a splash (or two) of bourbon. I used mushrooms and soy chorizo (I love the Trader Joe’s brand) to really give this veggie chili a robust flavor and some heat. Simon and I didn’t even notice there wasn’t meat in this. And technically, if you omit some of my toppings, this chili is vegan as well.

On the subject of toppings…in recent years this element has become almost as important as the chili itself. I enjoy a lot of variety when it comes to toppings as chili tends to be a pot of delicious albeit identical textures and flavor. I’ll always go for a bit of sour cream, some cheese, some diced raw onions. This year I used sweet and spicy pecans, cinnamon Asiago, homemade chimichurri, roasted peppers, and a splash of lemon. I loved the layers of flavor happening here but if you or your friends and family think I have way too much going on, go with what you prefer. This dish is healthy, easy to put together, and even easier to adapt and include or omit anything you’d like! And its good enough to eat in any weather!

What is your favorite fall soup or stew?

Do you have any fall/October rituals you indulge in?

Leave a comment below!

Fall Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6-8


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 24 oz. crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 12 oz. soy chorizo
  • ¼ cup bourbon (optional)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 3 (15 oz.) cans beans of your choice (I used kidney and black beans)
  • 32 oz. vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 cups Lacitano kale, torn into pieces
  • salt and pepper

Topping Ideas

  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheese
  • Diced cilantro or parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  • Diced red onion
  • Chopped spiced pecans (I bought sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joe’s)
  • Chimichurri (recipe below)


  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add in garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Sauté until mushrooms reduce in size, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Add in soy chorizo and break apart. Cook for another 3 minutes.
  5. At this point deglaze the pan with bourbon if using. If not continue to the next step.
  6. Pour in tomatoes, stock, squash, potatoes, beans, and peppers.
  7. Add in all the spices and sugar.
  8. Bring to a gentle simmer, taste test and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Partially cover and cook for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender.
  10. Turn off the heat. Add in kale and stir until wilted.
  11. Serve with whatever toppings your heart desires and enjoy!

Simple Chimichurri

This isn’t traditional by any means, just something I threw together. I like it vinegary and spicy.


  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1 ½ cups cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ¾ cups olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Calabrian chilies (or you could use 1 tsp. red pepper flakes)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine everything but the salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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2 Comment

  1. This sounds incredible!! We love the idea of cooking chili on Halloween! Also, “a tango with hellfire” sounds like an amazing album title.

    1. Christine says: Reply

      Thank you! It was a great batch of chili, full of flavor! And Haha it would make for a great album title! Or the name of my memoir.

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