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Vegan Cherry Chili

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Cherry Chili
Last month I wrote about my conundrum of using fruit in savory dishes. I left out one of my favorite recipes and decided to write about it today.
Image of Dried Tart Cherries
About ten years ago, I was asked to develop ten recipes using a delicious tart cherry that is often dried, the Montmorency cherry. My project was for Choose Cherries, which provides recipes and information about Montmorency tart cherries. Some of my recipes were sweet; some were savory, all were unique: granola, scones, soup, a salad. My hands-down favorite was a savory chili recipe, “Cherry Chili.” I know it sounds odd, and I was really reaching when I came up with the idea, but it really worked. The recipe is all over the internet now (my name is not given), but it is usually credited to the Cherry Marketing Board. In fact, I usually just google it when I want to make it. It is the fastest way for me to locate it.

I’m going to share it with you today, both the original and an updated vegan version. Like most of my recipes, it’s incredibly forgiving and flexible. If you want to make the original version, which calls for ground turkey, you can also use beef, pork, venison or even chicken. But I’m going to make a few changes in the new vegan version that will open up a variety of variations that will hopefully provide an option for everyone. This is a scrumptious, easy recipe that I usually double and freeze. I have been making it for friends and family for more than ten years, and I plan to continue. I hope you enjoy it too! Happy cooking!

Original recipe with meat:

Cherry Chili
Yield: 2 quarts (8 cups)

Ingredients:

¾ cup or 4 ounces dried Montmorency tart cherries, chopped
2 cups fat-free low sodium chicken broth, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
1-pound lean ground turkey (or ground beef, bison, venison)
1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups diced fire-roasted* tomatoes
1½ cups black beans, cooked (or 1 16-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

*You may use regular canned diced tomatoes

Instructions:

Heat 1 cup of the broth.
Image of dried cherries in mixing bowl with broth
Place Montmorency tart cherries in a small mixing bowl. Add hot broth and set aside.
Image of ground turkey with onions
Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Do not brown garlic. Add turkey and cook until no longer pink.
Image of tomatoes and bell pepper with ground turkey
Add roasted bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, coriander, mustard powder and oregano. Cook mixture over medium-high heat, occasionally stirring for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and remaining cup of broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Stir in beans, Montmorency tart cherries and cilantro. Continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes or until the mixture is heated through.

Season with additional salt if desired.
Image of Cherry Chili

Vegan Cherry Chili
For a spice version, feel free to add your favorite combination of dried peppers too. I am going to add some roasted Hatch peppers today since they are in season. (Though I usually have some in the freezer as well).

Yield: two quarts (8 cups)
Image of ingredients for Vegan Cherry Chili
Ingredients:

¾ cup or four ounces Melissa’s dried tart cherries, chopped
2 cups fat-free low sodium vegetable or mushroom broth, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups fire-roasted* tomatoes, chopped
2 (8.8 ounces) packages or (2⅔ cups) Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley (black beans, white beans, garbanzos – any combo you favor!)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

*Used Muir Glen canned fire-roasted tomatoes for optimal flavor; may use regular canned chopped tomatoes

Instructions:
Heat 1 cup of the broth.

Place cherries in a small mixing bowl. Add hot broth and set aside.
Image of onions and garlic sautéing
Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Do not brown garlic.
Image of vegetables and dry ingredients for chili

Add roasted bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, coriander, mustard powder and oregano. Cook mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and remaining cup of broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes.
Image of beans added to chili
Stir in beans, Montmorency tart cherries and cilantro. Continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes or until the mixture is heated through.

Season with additional salt if desired.
Image of Vegan Cherry Chili
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