How Do I Make The Flavours Mingle In My Vegan Chili?
June 5, 2011 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Vegan Chili Filter: Help me to make my chili taste like more than boiled beans with an overlay of spices! I've been trying to make a good vegan chili for a long time now, and will certainly try some of the great general suggestions I see here and here. However, I don't think they'll help my basic problem, which is that every recipe I try seems to taste like boiled beans with spices/flavourings added--even after I let it sit overnight, which is of course the magic technique for soups and some other dishes.

Here's what I do already:

- I always saute the onions in advance

- I don't use canned beans but always fresh ones which I pre-soak and boil (always kidney beans, sometimes with chickpeas added)

- I've tried using various combinations of herbs and spices (e.g. always chili powder of course, but also cumin, oregano, and various others)

- I've even tried doubling the amount of spices

- I cook it and let it sit overnight

No matter what I do, it's the same result: boiled beans with an aftertaste of the flavourings.

What on earth am I doing wrong? How can I get that perfectly-mingled flavour?

Thanks so much in advance for your help!
posted by purplesludge to Food & Drink (54 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You mention that you pre soak and boil your beans, but are you boiling them in the chili, or in water and then adding them? I soak beans and boil them right in the chili to soak up more chili flavor. Another thing to consider is adding some oil or something to add a little fat.
posted by advicepig at 7:48 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I make it by starting out with onions and oil and then I fry all my spices along with the onions and garlic, then I add in my beans and tvp along with the tomato sauce or whatever else I am putting in... I follow the same basic procedure as you and it always turns into a nice chili... it's not my favourite dish in the world but it seems to be well received among friends and it resembles meat chili if I use tvp. Using fresh spices will help a lot but that goes for everything I suppose.

I also pressure-cook my beans, but slightly under-done and then they finish up in the chili since it cooks for hours.
posted by glip at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2011

Seconding the fat, especially when you make it will a (faux) roux with corn flour/corn meal. It'll help thicken the chili, you can add a dash of vegetable broth for more cohesive-ness and the roux will thicken it right back up.
posted by kellyblah at 7:50 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A splash of vinegar and some red wine is a totally inauthentic but very effective way of lifting the flavour of a bland chili.
posted by caek at 7:51 AM on June 5, 2011

What are your other ingredients?
posted by thebestsophist at 7:52 AM on June 5, 2011

I always make meat-laden chili, but I do add a few extra ingredients that aren't always listed in chili recipes.

Liquid smoke, tabasco sauce, and fresh parsley. Tabasco sauce has a flavor that's more complex than just "spicy" already, fresh parsley is more punchy than the dried spices, and the liquid smoke (just a tiny bit, only a shake or two) gives it a cooked-on-a-campfire taste. I'm pretty sure tabasco sauce and liquid smoke are both vegan, but you should double check first.

I also add a could of handfuls of macaroni to my chili because I like that the noodles absorb a lot of the flavor themselves.
posted by phunniemee at 7:53 AM on June 5, 2011

Make your own chili base instead of using chili powder. I've (usually) got a little Tupperware container of chili base in the fridge that makes killer chili beans. The base is different every time, but it's more-or-less based on the Serious Eats recipe.

I usually just do 3 or 4 different dried chilis, tomato paste, cumin, star anise, soy sauce, a little cocoa, and whatever liquid is on hand (sometimes water, sometimes chicken stock, veggie stock, tomato juice).

I do eat meat, but I usually make the base without any animal products (that is, without meat drippings or stock). Cooked with (usually canned) beans, it's a solid, cohesive flavor right away.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:54 AM on June 5, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, some interesting suggestions already--the one about cooking the beans, at least partly, along with the chili is one that I'm embarrassed to say I had never thought of.

thebestsophist: you asked what else I put in the chili. For the recipe I use the most often (from Laurel's Kitchen), it's onions, garlic, oil, green pepper, celery, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, tomatoes, kidney beans, salt, oregano. Yesterday I tried the one from How It All Vegan and it had onions, carrots, oil, kidney beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste, mushrooms, corn, rice, chili powder, pepper, curry paste, and water.
posted by purplesludge at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2011

If you're the kind of person to boil your own beans, you're probably also the kind of person to use fresh tomatoes over canned, but in case you're not: try the fire-roasted canned tomatoes.
posted by apparently at 8:04 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer:
Wow, some interesting suggestions already--the one about cooking the beans, at least partly, along with the chili is one that I'm embarrassed to say I had never thought of.
OK, save all these fancy-pants suggestions for another time. That's where you should start!
posted by caek at 8:08 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know what? I believe in vegan chili but I am lazy. I use Wick Fowler's super famous 2 Alarm Chili kit. It's all natural and I don't think there's anything not vegan in it. I'd honestly try that, see how you go, and then if you like it, duplicate that recipe and method.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2011

Your recipe is missing cocoa powder, which goes with chili like assault and battery.
posted by plinth at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you're the kind of person to boil your own beans, you're probably also the kind of person to use fresh tomatoes over canned

Have you tried using canned tomatoes? Oddly enough, they have more flavor than fresh tomatoes - they don't need to be those picture-perfect bland specimens we pick up in the grocery store. While using canned tomatoes can sometimes make something too tomato-y (I've experienced this a lot with Indian cuisine), after you let it sit out overnight the flavors really blend and the tomattitude recedes into the background.
posted by soma lkzx at 8:17 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh! I know why I didn't cook the beans with everything else! *feels huge relief that she is not quite the dolt she thought she was* I had read, and it had been my experience, that if you add the uncooked beans to a dish with tomatoes, the acid in the tomatoes would prevent them from cooking.

But I guess I could add the tomatoes last . . .
posted by purplesludge at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: Are you starting on a base of slowly sauteed onions with tomato paste and garlic added towards the end of the saute? Tomato paste is indispensable.

Canned tomatoes are better than fresh for chili.

Use one can pureed tomatoes and one diced (at least.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Roast whatever you can roast; the green peppers, the tomatoes, the garlic, the onions. Toast the spices in a nonstick pan until they're really fragrant. Both of those methods will boost the flavors of the ingredients, which will then boost the flavor of the chili.
posted by cooker girl at 8:20 AM on June 5, 2011

You can part cook the beans and then add them nearer the end of their cooking time while cooked but firm to suck up all the yummy flavours. The main problem from what I've heard (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that salt and acids (like in tomatoes) can stop beans from softening, but if the beans are mostly cooked that's not a problem.

I also find with dried beans/peas if I roughly mash up some of the beans a little once they are cooked it can help flavours mix better and thicken things up. I haven't tried this with chili, but with chick pea curry but I figure it would be similar.
posted by wwax at 8:27 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might try making it with pinto beans rather than red kidneys. Pintos seem to break down and release more starches into mixture thereby thickening it. The flavor will be more authentic as well (take it from a native Texan)...
posted by jim in austin at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

For heat, I'd suggest pick a peppa instead of, or in addition to, whatever other hot sauce you use. It has a much more robust, deep flavor.

If you're the kind of person to boil your own beans, you're probably also the kind of person to use fresh tomatoes over canned, but in case you're not: try the fire-roasted canned tomatoes.

Use muir glenn- best canned tomatoes. And, in fact, better than alot of the fresh tomatoes you can get during off season.

Also, don't add salt to the beans before they are fully cooked or else they stay hard.

As for cocoa powder- not a huge fan, and I definitely would not say it goes with chili like "assault and battery."
posted by TheBones at 8:34 AM on June 5, 2011

Caramelising the onions rather than merely sauteing them will improve the flavour, as will roasting the vegetables.

Also, Henderson's Relish is similar to Worcestershire sauce but tastes much better, is vegan, and would improve any chilli no end.
posted by emilyw at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: I add a couple of handfuls of toasted bulgur wheat, or, in a pinch, toasted oatmeal to my chili; it makes the texture a little more substantial. A roux of masa harina and butter or olive oil, too, adds a pleasant depth of flavour. I am a big fan of molé, and so I do like to add a tablespoon of cocoa powder or an ounce or two of baking chocolate (unsweetened) to my chili, near the end of the cooking process, but that's a personal preference thing that may or may not work for you.

Roasting peppers, garlic, and onions makes a huge difference. Roast (or broil) peppers until their skins begin to get black and blistered; put them in a covered container for a few minutes, then peel off the skins, chop them up, and add them to your chili. This does wonders for the flavor.
posted by Spinneret at 8:51 AM on June 5, 2011

When you saute the onions, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste (the kind that comes in a tube) at the end, cooking it long enough for it to darken. This helps thicken the chili and adds some extra sauce-y punch.

Also, Cook's Illustrated ran a big article about making your own chili powder by grinding various dried peppers - it looked very promising but unfortunately I don't have it to hand.
posted by Frowner at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The main problem from what I've heard (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that salt and acids (like in tomatoes) can stop beans from softening, but if the beans are mostly cooked that's not a problem.

This actually is not a problem. In the above-linked Serious Eats column, the author (who is a former writer at Cook's Illustrated) proves that salt does not thing to affect the texture of beans. While he doesn't say anything about acid, his recipe has you add the 28 oz can of tomatoes along when the beans still have 3 hours of cooking to do.

I used to believe the "no acid or salt with beans" myths, until I realized that usually what was messing up my bean cookery was just the age of the beans - dried beans that are more than 6 months or so old are usually pretty inconsistent, and can be very tough. I'd encourage you to try a salty, acidic bean recipe with a fresh package of dried beans and see what happens... you may be surprised.
posted by rossination at 9:17 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cooking the beans in the chili is key, but if you're also missing the flavors of the other veg, you might also try sauteing them with the onions: celery, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic will all benefit from this, and you'll definitely want to add your various spices during the saute part of the process. (Roasting them also sounds exciting, though!)

I am definitely on team cocoa powder (or bittersweet chocolate), but if that sounds too crazy, you might try a bit of cinnamon instead; it will also complicate the spice profile in ways that are hard to identify because unexpected. If you want to add a smoky flavor without using liquid smoke, try chipotle seasoning or smoked paprika. Both are delicious.

Also, my primary chili cooking tip: just add stuff til it tastes good and don't worry about recipes. Get the basic ratio of beans/tomatoes (and yes: canned! muir glen!) from a recipe if you're nervous, and then expand upon that to your heart's desire. This will ensure that it's delicious on day one and even better on day two. Most chili recipes are pretty simple, but you can add just about any veg that appeals to you, and there's no need to limit yourself on spices either. Also: adding a splash of beer or red wine can be tasty.
posted by dizziest at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of the spices that go into chili (cumin, chili powder etc.) work best when bloomed in oil. So when you're sweating your onions make sure you have more oil than you think you need and put the spices in first. Cook the spices for a minute or two until you can really smell them and then add the onions immediately so they don't burn. This really deepens the flavor and helps keep that grainy or raw flavor from happening.
posted by Kimberly at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm a big believer in dried beans, but I use canned to make chili. My secret is this: cook the sh&*^& out of everything except the beans, and then dump them in at the end.

I.e., saute onions and garlic and bell peppers and hot peppers. Add the cumin, chili powder, cayenne -- whatever dried spices you're using. Let them sautee for a couple minutes too. Then dump in the canned tomatoes/puree. Cook that for a good, fat, long time. Until it tastes like *chili*, not canned tomatoes. Then add in the beans.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would add some canned chipotles to get that spicy/smoky flavor and slightly greasy mouthfeel. Untried, but this recipe at Serious Eats looks really good.
posted by Houstonian at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been making chili with canned tomatoes for as long as I've been a vegetarian (20 years at this point, starting at age 15) and it does not keep the beans from cooking. Other suggestions.

- Yes, a thousand times, cook your beans with your tomato stuff of choice. That's what'll get those flavors to meld and not seem like an overlay.
- A la Cook's Illustrated, soak your beans in brine for better flavor. (Salt, like acid, is not the problem that it's sometimes made out to be)
- Fry your spices in oil; much of their volatile compounds will be more apparent that way, especially when it comes to cumin. Cumin can be downright acrid if it's not fried in oil (in Indian cooking, this is called a tarka or tadka)
- Powdered ancho chilies have a great combination of mild heat and intense flavor; fry the powder briefly too.
- If you're using tomato paste, fry it also with the onions once they're well-colored. Dark tomato paste has a far more complex flavor than if you just dump it into the mix.
- Use Muir Glen Fire Roasted canned tomatoes
- Use canned chipotle chilies for part of your heat. The smoky flavor is perfect here.
- Throw in some bulghur for chew, if you like. It'll also help thicken things.
- Another option for chew is texturized vegetable protein
- Mashing some of the beans will also help with texture. This'll make it less like bean-and-tomato stew.
- Some toasted maseca is great for thickening, too, and adds an interesting flavor dimension
- If you like cilantro, chopped cilantro at the end, at the moment you take the pot off the heat, is great.
- I always put some lime juice in at the very end, too. Its brightness helps balance the sugars in the tomatoes and all those heavy cooked vegetable flavors.

On preview, I see that some of these have been mentioned by others. All of those items go into my chili preparation, and I think mine kicks ass.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Good advice above! (Using canned tomatoes and simmering the beans in with the chili seem like th most important.)
The thing that is 'missing' from vegan chili is that umami flavour that often can come from caramelized meat. Really caramelizing your onions thoroughly (in the same pot that you're going to cook your chili in, so you benefit from all the browned-ness on the bottom of the pot), adding mushrooms and really caramelizing those with the onions, and a few splashes of worsteshire sauce all combine to create some of the richness and depth of flavour you may feel is missing. (Without creating a ton of extra steps or requiring you to buy a bunch of new ingredients.)
posted by Kololo at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2011

I cooked competitive chili for years - but that require lots of choice meat and no beans.

All of the suggestions above are good ideas.

Here's a "trick" that not many people are aware of, though:

Good chili has a "burn" - it can be a little or a lot depending on your preference. You need to use both black and white pepper. Black pepper burns "on the front", meaning you taste it first. White pepper is slower and burns "on the back". It's a subtle thing that can really make good chili great chili.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:26 AM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

You gotta have fat. All those nummy spices are fat-soluble, and they have to have somewhere to go. And the very best vegan chili I've ever had included, of all things, a can of friggin' PEACHES. The chili didn't taste sweet or fruity at all, it was just delicious.
posted by KathrynT at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Agree with many suggestions. But worcestshire sauce contains anchovies- so it would really deveganize your chili!
posted by holyrood at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2011

Do you add enough salt? Just asking, because alot of people will try to leave salt out, or use very little, because they are trying to avoid it for one reason or another. Then they wonder why their food is bland.
posted by cabingirl at 11:57 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've started adding some pureed sweet potato (actually, yams are nicer) to my chili. It adds a nice can't-quite-place-it sweetness, and fixes things if the chili is not thick enough. Looking above, though, I bet peaches do the same thing even better!
posted by kitcat at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2011

Oh yeah, I've also added masa or cornmeal in the past, which definitely adds thickness and a nice flavor, and okra is great for thickening and chewiness.
posted by kitcat at 12:24 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: One thing that will turn vegetable bean soup into delicious chili is mashing up some of the beans (not all of them, but just enough to thicken the liquid). It helps everything blend together better. That, and cumin. My friend swears by putting creamy peanut butter and half a bottle of beer in, but I'm still undecided about all that.
posted by zoetrope at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: I kinda feel sheepish for offering "obvious" advice, but are you sure you're using enough chili powder (particularly in proportion to your other spices)? I tend to use about 3 times more chili powder than other dry spices combined.
posted by antonymous at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tempeh adds a nice meatish chewy texture that improves the chili. I saute mine with the onions until just lightly browned before chucking into the pot..
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:29 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not all chili powders are created equal, in fact, the ones called 'chili powder' are usually the least interesting. Try ancho chili powder and experiment with spices made from other specific chilis. You may need to go to a culinary store to find these.

Also try dried whole chilis. Here again, anchos are great for depth of flavor. Soak 1-2 whole anchos in hot water for 1/2 hour. Pull out the stem and seeds, puree in a mini food processor, and add to the stew early in the process.
posted by stp123 at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2011

I do a few things to my veggie chili that I haven't seen mentioned:
1. for the umami flavor, I use beer. Look for a vegan one. Use it after sauteeing the onions to deglaze the pan and reduce it a bit.
2. also for the umami, find a package of "fake beef" flavored vegetable broth concentrate, either powdered or cubed. Look in the soup aisle, or the Jewish section. Manischewitz matzo ball soup mix is actually vegetarian (verify that before you use it).
3. For having something else besides beans in the mixture, I use a vegetable mixture: carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms pulsed in the food processor til it's about the size of bits of ground beef. Total about 2 cups. This should no longer be recognizable as vegetables - it's just little tiny nuggets. Sautee with the regular bits of chopped onions.
posted by CathyG at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2011

Try a little bit of balsamic vinegar, cloves (powder), and pungent baking cinnamon. Not so much that these flavors jump out. They should stay hidden, but they do add depth, I find. Penzy's has awesome spices, including a good Chili con Carne mix (you obviously don't need to add the Carne).
posted by zachawry at 3:13 PM on June 5, 2011

It seems to me that a recipe I use for 'vegetarian chili' is vegan.

1 lg onion, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbsp of olive oil
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
12 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper
2 - 16 oz cans whole tomatoes
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 - 16 oz cans pinto beans
Tabasco to taste

Cook onion & garlic in oil until tender. Add the fresh vegetables & stir for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes & seasonings. Break up the tomatoes with the spoon. Bring to a boil, cover & simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender but crisp. Add beans & heat to boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add tabasco to taste.

The zucchini provides a nice texture and the whole tomatoes make it a thicker chili.
posted by miscbuff at 3:27 PM on June 5, 2011

* Don't forget to drain the pinto beans.
posted by miscbuff at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2011

First, I'd lay money on you needing more fat. You need fat in your skillet to keep the onions from sticking, sure, but the animal fat in non-veg chili does a whole lot more than that in terms of flavor and mouthfeel.

What kind of oil are you using to saute the onions? I don't think vegetable oil brings much to the party for vegan dishes -- I use olive oil instead. It doesn't need to be super-fancy stuff -- decent supermarket olive oil is fine. Saute the onions on lower heat over a longer period of time. But my secret ingredient in vegan chili is peanut butter or any other sort of nut butter -- nuts are legumes, after all. It won't taste peanuty! if you only use few tablespoonfuls, but it adds another type of fat to meld those flavors.

Also, simmer your beans in veggie stock rather than just water. If you don't make your own stock, well, that's another AskMe, but I can enthusiastically recommend the store-bought "Better Than Bouillon" veg stock. (I make my own stocks and still generally keep a jar of their veg stock in the fridge to boost veggie dishes.) I also will take a small cupful of the cooked beans, puree them, and stir them back in to thicken things up a bit.

I also agree with the suggestions to use more salt while cooking, and using soaked dry chilis to add complexity.
posted by desuetude at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2011

Use stock (veg in your case) instead of water.
posted by matildaben at 4:39 PM on June 5, 2011

Just to give you another option, this is a recipe I found recently here. It's very easy, healthy, and I've never felt like it merely tasted like boiled beans with spices:

* 1 can black or pinto beans, drained
* 1 can kidney beans, drained
* 1 can diced tomatoes
* 1/2 onion, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 bell pepper, diced (any color)
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1/4 cup vegetable broth
* 2 tbsp chili powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp pepper
* dash cayenne pepper (optional)
* dash red pepper flakes (optional)
* 1/2 cup TVP + 1/2 cup water (optional)

In a medium to large soup pot, sautee the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the olive oil.

Add tomatoes, vegetable broth and chili powder and stir.

Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Stir occasionally and cook for at least 20 minutes. Add TVP and water 10 minutes before done cooking. Of course, the longer you cook chili the better, but if you're pressed for time, 20 minutes is fine.
posted by JenMarie at 5:18 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: Eggplant! No one has mentioned eggplant? I eat meat, but the best vegetarian chili recipe I know calls for one whole eggplant, cubed, kosher salted and left to drain over a colander for 20 mins. or so. Then sautee in olive oil along with onions, garlic, chosen spices (heavy on the cumin) and garbanzos/chickpeas (canned are fine) kidney beans, canned tomatoes and you're almost there.

P.S. I soaked and cooked beans for ten plus years, now I am a can convert.

And don't forget the FRESH parsley and cilantro, essential.

Vegans eschew sour cream and cheddar, but anything that can substitute adequately for those will finish things nicely. Happy chillying!
posted by emhutchinson at 6:08 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: I used to be a professional cough*cough chili builder for a joint here in Seattle.
The ultimate secret for getting your chili to taste like chili and not beans in some wet sauce has already been mentioned here, but I'm going to point it out again so you never forget: cook them beans in the sauce!

Or at the least let them finish cooking in the sauce. We used to also add red wine or a dark beer to the stuff. Brown sugar is fun, too. But it really is all about cooking those guys together.
posted by artof.mulata at 10:20 PM on June 5, 2011

It's funny, I've tried some canned vegetarian and vegan chilis and they also have that flavor that you're talking about, but my chili tastes just fine to me even though it's vegan too (until I throw cheese or sour cream on top if it comes out too spicy). I don't understand what the difference is. :|

I never make mine exactly the same way twice, but there are a few things I almost always do. I usually cook diced onions and chopped garlic in olive oil until nearly caramelized. I sometimes add some refried beans to thicken it up, or mash a few beans in the pot ... Add some chipotle powder or minced chipotle for smokiness (and sometimes ancho as well)... Vegetable broth for depth ... I never put in bell peppers because I don't think they add anything, but YMMV. And I add cumin toward the end.

I usually used diced tomatoes from a can, though I'm planning to use fresh ones this summer. We'll see what happens.

It doesn't seem to matter whether I use cans or cook them (usually with the quick-soak method). I've never cooked the beans completely in the sauce, but I guess I finish them in the sauce...
posted by wintersweet at 10:39 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: From everything you mention, I second that you need more umami in your chili. If you were making a chili with beef in it, it would have those savory umami flavors of browned and caramelized beef. But you're making it without the beef, so you need to incorporate more umami into the chili in a vegan-friendly way. Here are some examples:
Fermented foods such as soy sauce, miso, balsamic vinegar, and wine; dried shiitake or matsutake mushrooms; sea vegetables; green tea; vegetarian bouillon; tomato juice and other tomato products. Browning foods by sautéing, grilling, and caramelizing also produces umami compounds. (From here.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:51 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: People, thank you *so much*!

I will try all of the suggestions here (although not all at once!). However, I'll start by using canned beans and cooking them with the rest of the ingredients right from the beginning. And I promise I will use only canned tomatoes :)

(The suggestion of canned peaches sounds both quirky and fascinating, btw)

You guys rock.
posted by purplesludge at 4:57 AM on June 6, 2011

Just try this recipe. It's wonderful:
posted by mbarryf at 5:42 AM on June 6, 2011

Best answer: No, no, canned beans from the beginning will fall to mush! If you use canned beans, I highly recommend the basic technique I mentioned above, adapted to whatever spices & exact recipe you use.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:49 PM on June 6, 2011

Response by poster: It worked, everyone! Thanks so much--adding the beans right from the beginning was the key.

kestrel251--I only cooked the chili for 30 minutes, and then let it sit overnight. The beans were fine, but the flavours were combined.

I added cinnamon and some brown sugar as well. I think I'll keep doing both of these.

Next time round--peaches!
posted by purplesludge at 5:16 AM on June 10, 2011

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