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President Barack Obama’s Chili With a Vegan Soul

February 3, 2016
What would Barack Obama take to a potluck? That was precisely the question asked of him in a 2008 interview with the North Coast Journal about food politics and a farm bill, back when he was running for president.
His answer: “Chili.” Obama has long been known to make a seriously good chili, even back in his college days. 
In the interview, he gave away most, but not quite all, of his recipe. Senator Obama said at the time, “I can't reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it’s just got the right amount of bite, the right amount of oomph in it, and it will clear your sinuses.”
This recipe may not strictly qualify as soul food, but it does have soul. The President's chili makes for a tasty winter comfort food. It's perfect for making in a big batch, and taking to your next potluck. I have made some substitutions, to make it vegan and to fill in the blanks in President Obama's secret recipe. It still has commanding flavors, true to the original. 
En hommage to President Obama's last year in office, here is my vegan version of the first chili, one I am confident even the first lady would like:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large, sweet yellow onion (like a Walla Walla), chopped
3 big garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 can pinto beans, rinsed
1 can diced, plain tomatoes (or fire roasted if you can find)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
salt to taste
a kettle of hot water as needed
sliced scallions & diced avocado for garnish
1. Sauté onions, garlic, and pepper in oil till soft, on medium heat.
2. Add balsamic vinegar, stir and wait till most of the liquid is absorbed.
3. Add sweet potato, spices, dried herbs, and salt, then stir.
4. Add all the beans, add hot water till the mixture is covered, raise the heat, and let it come to a boil.
5. Simmer until sweet potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
6. Add tomatoes, and let the chili thicken until the tomatoes cook down.
7. Taste. Adjust salt and red chili as needed (and if you like it spicy). Garnish with scallions and avocados, and serve with hot rice or corn bread.
Images courtesy of Mohini Patel Glanz.

Mohini Patel Glanz

Mohini Patel Glanz is a freelance photographer and creator of where she shares stories of food and culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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