I don’t have enough good things to say about the combination of vegan white bean chili with baked polenta fries topped with avocado salsa. This is a definite break from our traditional vegan chili fries, but hey, if it’s chili and fries you want, there’s always room for another new recipe.
Baked polenta fries
Let’s start at the foundation for our vegan white bean chili by talking about one of my favorite topics – fries. It’s true, I’ve given up oil and thus, frying, but that is absolutely no reason to stop eating fries. Although my normal fallback is always potatoes, I started thinking about my favorite recipes that use polenta (or cornmeal), namely tamale pie or corn fritters. With that in mind, polenta fries didn’t seem like such a stretch.
Simmer, then set for the best polenta fries
After several attempts, there are a few tricks I’ve discovered about making polenta fries. The first is that you need to cook the polenta in liquid. I like a mixture of vegetable broth and plant milk. I also highly recommend that you add nutritional yeast and any herbs or spices into the liquid before adding the polenta. Otherwise, it is a chore to get things equally distributed and who wants that?
Depending on your brand of polenta, you might need to stir it for up to 8 minutes to get it to thicken. This idea is that you want it thick enough that you can pack it into a baking dish. It’s important here that you line said baking dish with parchment paper. This makes it easy to get the polenta out in one piece so you can cut it into fries.
You can’t hurry fries, you’ll just have to wait
If you want polenta that you can ultimately slice into fries, then you need to exercise planning and a bit of patience. Allow at least two hours to refrigerate your baking dish with polenta before you cut and bake it. I’ve had the best success either making it the night before or first thing in the morning. Personally, the earlier I make it, the easier the entire cooking process becomes. I don’t feel like I’ve spent any time in the kitchen that way.
After planning and patience, practice caution
The first few times, I made polenta fries I kind of made a mess of things. I got into a hurry and treated them like potato fries. This was a mistake. No matter how chilled, your polenta can easily fall apart. There are two things I learned that help. First, don’t make them too thin. You want a little substance to hold them together. Also, once you cut them, gently just separate them. Don’t try to handle them too much. You’ll be able to space them out easily after they start baking.
Onward to vegan white bean chili
There is a simple secret to making great vegan white bean chili and that’s roasting the peppers first. Roasting gives your peppers a smoky, sweet taste that you won’t get from just sautéing.
I usually just core and quarter the bell peppers and then halve the jalapenos or you can leave them whole. If you cut the jalapenos first, just keep and eye on them as they may brown a lot quicker than the other bell peppers. Peppers are inherently messy to roast, so be sure to use either parchment paper or a baking mat that easy to clean.
Puree white beans for thicker chili
When we make red chili and other stews with a tomato base, we can rely on tomato paste to help thicken things up. White bean chili doesn’t have that luxury, so I use a thickening technique I first used when making red beans & rice with tempeh sausage. Simply enough, blend about half the beans (2 cups) with the vegetable broth and this gives you an instant thickening agent. You can do this quick step while the peppers roast.
Quick chili assembly
Once you have your chilis roasted and cooled, I usually peel any loose skin, dice them and then get to cooking. You need less than 10 minutes once you have everything in place. Just do a quick onion sauté, add the garlic, then the peppers, pureed beans and broth and finally the rest of your beans. The timing here is perfect. While you let that simmer, you can get on with the baked polenta fries.
Add a touch of avocado salsa
Like it isn’t good enough to smother this delicious chili over your freshly baked polenta fries, if you add a quick avocado salsa, you might just get to nirvana. I’m a big fan of loading up dishes with lots of toppings, and I won’t be opposed to adding some cashew sour cream at this point, but we’ve decided that a bit of crunchy, lime infused avocado with cilantro, tomatoes and onions. That’s all it takes to make this just about the perfect chili fries experience.
No matter how great our recipes, and how comforted we are by our routines, it’s a good practice every now and then to shake things up. Turns out, it doesn’t take much. You can ditch those potatoes we love so much and whip up polenta fries make a switch tomato-based chili to something with white beans. If you are beginning to explore new ways of eating, you might start with adding just one plant-based recipe a week and move on from there.
Change isn’t always and all-or-nothing ultimatum and it can be approached gradually. You are the person in choice and if you open a new door, you can choose to charge through or walk lightly and have a look around. Sometimes you might even walk back out only to re-enter later. My point here is that the walk and the path is yours alone. Peace.Print
Vegan white bean chili smothered over crispy baked polenta fries and topped with quick avocado salsa might be the perfect chili fries recipe ever.
Vegan white bean chili
- 1 green bell pepper, roasted and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced
- 2-3 jalapenos, roasted and diced
- 3 – 15 oz. cans white beans (Great Northern, Cannelloni, Butter beans, etc.), drained and rinsed
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or 4 cups water and 2 veggie cubes)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lime, juiced (or 1 ½ Tbsp. lime juice)
Baked polenta fries
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup plant milk
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 ½ cups polenta
- 1 ripe avocado cut into small cubes
- 1 cup diced tomato
- 1 small red onion, diced small (about ½ cup)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
Timing tip: You will start the polenta at least 2 hours before as it needs to refrigerate. Get the chili to the simmering point and then prepare and bake the fries. Make the avocado salsa while the fries bake. Keep an eye on the chili so that is stays hot but does not reduce too much.
Baked polenta fries
- Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan heat the vegetable broth and plant milk until it begins to simmer.
- Whisk in the nutritional yeast, thyme, chili powder and salt and start slowing adding the polenta as you continue whisking. Be sure to keep the heat low so that the polenta doesn’t start to brown. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture gets very thick.
- Add the cooked mixture to the baking dish and spread it evenly. Place the polenta in the fridge and allow it to set for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- To make the fries, preheat the oven to 4000 F (2200 C)
- Once the polenta has set, use the parchment paper to lift it out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board or baking tray.
- Cut the polenta into long strips widthwise and then cut the strips into fries.
- Transfer the cut fries onto a baking sheet and gently spread them apart, being careful not to break them. Note – you can further break them apart once you turn them, so don’t worry if they don’t have too much room to begin with.
- Bake the fries for 15 minutes or until they start to brown. Before you flip the fries, be sure to fully separate them so they don’t break. Gently flip the fries and bake another 10 minutes until they are brown.
Vegan white bean chili
- Preheat the oven to 4250 F (2200 C).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Cut the green and red peppers into quarters and remove the core and seeds. You can either cut the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds or leave the whole for roasting.
- Place the peppers and jalapenos, skin side up on the baking tray and bake until the skins become dark brown (about 20 minutes). Flip the jalapenos about halfway through if you are roasting them whole.
- While the peppers roast, drain and rinse the beans and add 2 cups of the beans plus the vegetable broth, cumin, oregano and cayenne into a blender and blend until the beans are broken down. Reserve the remaining beans.
- Once the peppers are done, allow then to cool before you dice them up. If you have left the jalapenos whole, you’ll want to slice them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds if you want to reduce the heat.
- To make the chili, heat a medium soup pot and add the onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes until they start to become translucent. Add water a tablespoon at a time if they begin to stick.
- Next, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the diced peppers, the blended beans and broth and the remaining whole white beans. Bring the pot to a slow simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Continue allowing it to simmer while you bake the polenta fries.
- Stir in the lime juice before serving the chili.
- In a small bowl, combine the avocado, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and lime juice.
To serve, place a serving of fries on each place and ladle the white bean chili over them. Top with avocado salsa and dig in.
- Most of the prep time is for setting the polenta. The time allows for at least 2 hours or overnight. Also included in the prep time is for prepping the chili. The cooking time includes simmering the chili and baking the fries simultaneously.
- Along with the polenta, you can prep several elements of this recipe beforehand, including roasting and dicing the peppers. Just store them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.
- Reheat the polenta fries in the oven by covering or wrapping them in foil to prevent them from overbrowning.
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Vegan white bean chili with baked polenta fries