The dried pepper we like best in almost anything is Turkish Biber from Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Ave., NY, NY. It's not *too* hot and it adds a lot to the taste. Not all spices are equal.
Also a possibility would be dried cranberries, which I often put into a bean salad. Perhaps only for special occasions, given the added sweetness.
You don't mention here what kinds of beans you use?
roughly crushed cashews. they add wonderful texture and a touch of depth to the flavor. yum!
or whole ones! my cousin uses these and it adds so much.
Cocoa powder (Not really a secret) and cinnamon
I second the cinnamon. I put it all of the Latin-inspired spicy foods I make at home.
It's not a secret ingredient, but I like adding garbanzo beans. If you simmer long enough, they can help to thicken the chili. As a shortcut, you can always puree the beans and add them to thicken.
I have a new slow cooker veggie chili recipe I've been dying to try. I think I'll make it for your visit to Chicago. (It has cocoa!)
I like masa for thickening; my partner uses corn starch.
I've converted to making custom chile blends for my chili, although I do make them with beef, turkey or venison. I do a sweeter chocolate-coriander-chipotle version that has a kind of mole vibe to it, and also a more traditional oregano-cumin type blend.
Flavor profile 1:
4 to 5 medium dried ancho chiles (stemmed, seeded, reconstituted in hot water, and puree'd in a blender or with an immersion mixer); 2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded chipotle in adobo sauce (comes canned this way); 1 rounded tablespoon smoked sweet paprika (or half smoked, half sweet); scant palmful ground cumin and ground coriander (each); 1-2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder; tiny pinch ground cinnamon; 1/4 cup tomato paste; 12 oz beer; onion, 4 cloves garlic; to about 2 pounds of proteins (beans and / or tofu / seitan / tempeh)
Flavor profile 2:
3 ancho, 3 cascabel, and 3 arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced; 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds; 2 tablespoons garlic powder; 1 tablespoon dried oregano; 1 teaspoon smoked paprika; 1 teaspoon sweet paprika.
Toast chiles and seeds in a dry nonstick skillet until they start to release fragrance, then throw everything in a grinder and blend to powder. Use 2 Tbsp (or more or less to taste) per pound of protein for chili, plus canned tomatoes with green chiles, beer, onion, and bell pepper.
Fresh tangerine peel, or dried peel (as used in Chinese cooking?)
2012-02-20 06:31 pm (UTC)
not a chili, but a pairing dish...
If you want to keep the ginger fresh, throw it in a ziploc then toss it in the freezer. It's super easy to grate and shave thin when it is frozen.
As for secret ingredients, 1/2 a can of La Morena chili in adobo - that spices anything up
I will second the chipotle in adobo. I puree the entire can in a food processor, and store the resulting paste in the fridge in a small tupperware container with a little canola oil poured over the top to keep oxygen from getting to it. It keeps forever this way. If you need some, pour off the oil, use a teaspoon or so, then pour the oil back over it. It is good in EVERYTHING, but it is especially good mixed with ketchup and served with those trader joe's soy corndogs.
Ginger is actually my secret ingredient for all bean dishes. It helps prevent the "musical" side effects of beans. ;)
2012-02-20 09:20 pm (UTC)
Question from a non-vegan
My one problem with vegetarian/vegan chili is that every recipe I've tried has a sweetness to it I find really off-puting. How do I combat that?
2012-02-20 09:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Question from a non-vegan
i guess i'd have to see what ones you'd tried and what was different in the recipes apart from meat in them. mine wasn't sweet at all. though the usual answer to "too sweet" is probably "add salt". lean ground beef has about 20mg of salt per ounce.
2012-02-20 09:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Question from a non-vegan
I did not know that fact about ground beef and it never occured to me to add salt. Next time I try a recipe I will try it with a little extra salt. I always wondered if it was some of the vegetables I used or if it was using vegetable stock (one recipe called for that). The last recipe I tried called for tempeh - which was meh- and peanut butter, which killed it for me.
Forgot my manners: Thank you.
Edited at 2012-02-20 09:58 pm (UTC)
Around Christmas time, I was trying to make vegetarian soup because I had forgotten to buy pork. I googled vegetarian pork flavoring, because I had always liked the flavor the pork added (the recipe only takes a smidge; it truly is there mostly for flavor) and saw one site that recommended Marmite for adding a porky flavor to vegetarian dishes. Don't know for sure if it's vegan (though I think so?), and haven't been brave enough to try it yet (though mostly because the only Marmite I've been able to find costs more than a dollar an ounce). But if what they were saying was legit, I could see that adding an *excellent* flavor to your chili.
See, yeasty/salty makes me think maybe I should really try Marmite just in general, even though it seems to be an acquired taste. (Maybe it would cost less at one of the international groceries than it does at the big box store? I can certainly get better deals on Nutella elsewhere.) I wonder if the saltiness could go along with Kyle's "add salt" comment above.
I randomly had truffle oil and was too lazy to look for my olive oil. It added interesting depth.
I've been cultivating a chili recipe for about 25 years now. I've seen a lot of secret ingredients come and go. (Hershey bars, masa flour (careful, if you keep it in the cabinet too long, it goes rancid,) pecans, butternut squash and kale.) But I really like my current chili. It has two secrets:
About 2 to 4 Tbs preserved black soy beans with ginger (you can find that in chinese groceries.) It adds saltiness and an almost ham-like flavor.
I also started using 2 cups of red wine in chili recipes rather than beer. (Because in Cali, ounce for ounce, good red wine is cheaper than beer, and I almost always have a partial bottle on hand...Plus it's a good excuse to open a bottle if I don't have a partial bottle on hand...) I found it to be a great change from the classic recipe. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor that is hard to pin down unless you know what it is.