Cool Chili

A vegan version of chili so good you won’t miss the meat

Roy Elam grew up just outside of Saint Louis. Home-cooked meals, summers on his grandma’s farm and later years spent living just outside of Portland, Oregon all shaped his culinary vision.

As the former honcho of SunCafe in Studio City and now as a chef at Plant Food + Wine in Venice, it is no surprise Roy won the annual vegan chili cook-off—a competition of some of the city’s most revered plant-based chefs—at Tony’s Darts Away
in Burbank.

He says what distinguishes his Sweet Potato and Bourbon Vegan Chili recipe is the layering of all the flavors—“the sweetness of the corn in the bourbon, the smokiness of the sweet potatoes, the seasoning of the beans and the subtle sweetness of the sorghum,” Roy explains.

The recipe calls for smoked Japanese sweet potatoes, which have a dark red skin and light yellow flesh. “Smoked sweet potatoes are one of my favorite ingredients. Japanese ones work the best. They are smoked slowly with applewood for about an hour. We have been using them a bunch at Plant Food + Wine. Currently they are in our Smoked Sweet Potato Tamale and Florentine,” says Roy.

The recipe also has home-cooked pinto beans and utilizes the resulting broth. “You could use canned beans but cooking them yourself and seasoning the broth is definitely the way to go. Using the bean broth instead of water or stock gives you a full-bean flavor and enhances the finished product.”


Smoked Sweet Potato & Bourbon Vegan Chili

Makes approximately 2½ quarts

Olive oil
2 medium onions, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bourbon
1 box or can of diced San Marzano tomatoes
2 medium Japanese sweet potatoes, smoked and chopped bite-size (if you don’t have a smoker, roast and add smoked paprika)
3 cups pinto beans precooked (recipe below)
3 cups bean pot broth
2 tablespoons sorghum
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano, dry
1 tablespoon fermented hot sauce (recipe below)
Corn chips, cilantro, cheddar sauce (recipe below) for garnish

Heat a stockpot over medium high heat, then sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add bourbon and allow it to reduce by heating for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, bean broth, sorghum, chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano and hot sauce. Cover the pot (lid slightly off) and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Pinto Beans

Dry pinto beans (3 cups)
2 quarts water
12 sprigs thyme
1 onion, sliced in half and peeled
2 chipotle peppers
3 bay leaves

Place ingredients in stockpot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1½ hours, checking the firmness of the beans along the way. Season with salt. Save broth.

Fermented Hot Sauce

3 Fresno peppers, de-stemmed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups white vinegar

Pulse the peppers. Add the kosher salt. Transfer the mixture into a fermenting jar. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 3-7 days (or as long as a month). Blend that mixture with 2 cups of white vinegar and you have amazing hot sauce! If you don’t want to make your own fermented sauce, buy one with the least ingredients possible.

Cheddar Sauce

3 cups cashews
2½ cups water
¼ cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon + 1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

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