We call it chili, shortening the name from its original, chili con carne, the dish chuck wagon cooks in the Southwest made to feed the he-man appetites of cowboys working cattle at the ranch and out on the range. We expect it to be hearty and filling, whether it is hot, hotter or hottest from liberal seasoning with ground dried chile peppers.

Until fairly recently, most people also expected chili to be meaty. In addition to arguing over the relative virtues of personally blended secret seasonings, and if it was acceptable to include beans in chili, rather than accompanying it, they also debated whether great chili could be made using ground meat, or if it had to be finely chopped by hand. What no self-professed "chilihead" ever considered was leaving out the meat.

In fact, beans help make vegetarian chili as satisfying as those using meat, and a far sight healthier. Although it is so much leaner and cholesterol-free, pitching meatless chili to anyone but committed vegetarians used to be a hard sell.

This changed when the world discovered the black bean chili Deborah Madison made when she was the chef at Green�s restaurant in San Francisco in the 1980s. She proved how profoundly flavorful, yet simply sophisticated, vegetarian dishes can be. This chili inspired the rest of us to develop more pleasing meatless chilis, like the one below, which is crammed with summer vegetables and perfect for a summer day, sunny or rainy.

More from our magazine:  Healthy Chili Recipes Using Chicken, Turkey, Pork and Beef

I find that pintos � the soft, creamy bean that usually accompanies Texas-style chili con carne � the least satisfactory for a vegetarian chili. I think black beans are best, staying firm yet creamy and giving a pleasing contrast to the other ingredients.

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I especially like them combined with roasted vegetables, which remain pleasantly al dente, while adding the layers of flavor that make an exciting chili like this one.

Black Bean and Roasted Vegetable Chili

Makes 8 servings.


  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 large zucchini, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
  • 1 small eggplant, about 1 pound, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle chili
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • One can (28 oz.) whole plum tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 packed cup cilantro leaves
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream, for garnish
  • 1-2 Tbsp. lime juice, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the squash and eggplant on the sheet. Generously spray the vegetables with cooking spray and toss to coat them all over. Spread them in one layer. Roast until the eggplant is lightly colored and soft but holding its shape, 20-25 minutes, turning the vegetables after 15 minutes. This can be done up to 4 hours ahead.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saut� the onion until translucent, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the onion is soft, 3 minutes longer. Mix in the chili powder, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chili. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of their liquid. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon. Simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and roasted vegetables. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more tomato liquid to keep the chili moist but not soupy. When the zucchini is soft but not mushy, remove from the heat. Mix in the cilantro and cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide the chili among 8 bowls. Mix the sour cream with the lime juice, and garnish each bowl with a dollop.

Per Serving:
150 calories,
3 g. total fat,
0 g. saturated fat,
25 g. carbohydrate,
8 g. protein,
8 g. dietary fiber,
340 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges:
1-1/2 Bread/Starch
2 Vegetable
1 Low-Fat Meat