A lot of vegan chili recipes call for some sort of fake meat, like tvp, Boca crumbles, or something comparable. I tend to like fake meat products, but for some dishes like this I think it's best to leave out processed stuff when you can. The role of meat in this dish is played by the diced mushrooms. I prefer crimini mushrooms (as I love the flavor they add), but any mushroom will work. Note they are diced, not sliced! For one thing, having little cubes of chewiness is preferable to having large slices for the same reason that having smaller pieces of meat would be better than having large strips or chunks of meat in your chili. If you absolutely must, you can use a meat substitute, and for some things (like gumbo) it's kind of unavoidable to use something processed like that, but I like to avoid it when I can. One day I might experiment with dicing some seitan that I make myself, but i don't see it topping mushrooms.
I also don't like majorly non-traditional stuff in my chili -- no celery, no squash, and certainly no fucking carrots. This is not something that is supposed to be a montage of good healthy ingredients, or even stuff that you happen to like. It's supposed to be simple, flavorful, and robust. It's there to kick your ass, not be your artistic medium of culinary expression you fucking hippie. This is chili, not vegetable soup.
Another note -- the prep time for this chili is at the least two and a half hours, so keep in mind this is not something you can just whip up at the last minute.
- Two medium onions, diced
- One large green bell pepper, diced
- One head (that's right, a whole head) of garlic, minced
- 16 oz of mushrooms, diced (I prefer criminis)
- Several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Red pepper flakes, however much you think you can handle (no more than 3 tablespoons unless you are really bad ass)
- Chili powder, 5-6 tablespoons
- Brown sugar, 4 tablespoons
- Salt, not too much (you can always add salt; you can't take it out)
- Large can of crushed tomatoes
- Large can of diced tomatoes
- Three cans of beans (I used one each of black, red and navy)
- A 12 oz. bottle or can of beer
Get a good sturdy pot and coat the bottom with your olive oil. Saute your onions and green pepper over medium-high heat. While doing this add at least some of your red pepper flakes. I like to get the heat going in there early. (I like to add more a little later after tasting for a sort of layered effect of the hotness, but that's not necessary at all.) After the onions are getting translucent cut the heat down to medium and add the garlic. Continue the saute for about two minutes and then add the mushrooms.
Keep the saute going until the mushrooms cook down and are saturated with moisture. Then turn up the heat to high and add the beer. Any type of non-flavored beer works, and will do slightly different things to the chili. I've tried IPAs, lighter wheat ales, darker ales, lagers, and they all work. During the colder months I like to use Schlafly Oatmeal Stout. Bring that up to a boil and add the chili powder and brown sugar. Keep this boil going for three or so minutes. Be sure to stir it to make sure nothing sticks.
After this add all the tomatoes and the beans. I don't drain the beans, I just pour the whole can in there. (Now you can use cooked beans of your own if you want of course, but you will need to add some water.) Bring it up to a simmer.
If you happen to do a quick taste at this point don't expect much. It won't taste great. You're going to have let this simmer for at least a couple of hours before it's ready. Make sure to stir it at least every fifteen minutes, scraping the bottom well so nothing sticks for too long. A little sticking will probably happen though, and that's no big deal at all, but you don't want any charring. During this time you can also give it an occasional taste to see if it needs anything, like more chili powder (as all chili powders are not created equal), or more red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper if you want).
So after a few hours you will have a pot of kick ass chili. I like to eat mine over thin spaghetti noodles, also known as chili-mac (which is probably the Midwest's sole positive contribution to Western civilization).