Smoky Soy Curl & Two Bean Chili

Smoky Soy Curl & Two Bean ChiliFor a period during my childhood my dad worked the 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm shift at work.  Usually he’d come home long after I’d gone to sleep, but one of my first memories happened when I was somewhere around the age of four.  I don’t know if the car was in the shop or someone was borrowing it, but for whatever reason, we had to go and pick him up at work.  My mom piled me into the truck cab, still in pajamas and drowsy from being awakened in my bed.  We parked on the street, just outside of the plant where my dad was clocking out.

As we waited in the darkness, my mom pulled out the dinner that she’d brought him – a couple of homemade chili dogs with a pickle wedge and potato chips.  From the inside of the truck, I could smell the fragrant chili.  I’m sure I’d eaten hours before, but now the only thing I could think about was making one of those chili dogs my own.

“Can I have a bite of the chili dog?” I asked.

My mom was surprised but agreed.  Who can refuse a four year old in footie pajamas?  I’d never had a chili dog before, and it was typically the kind of thing I didn’t like.  At that point in my life, I didn’t want foods to even touch on my plate, let alone be smothered in each other.  When we were having spaghetti, the noodles needed to be separate from the marinara, and the green beans on the side couldn’t co-mingle with any of the aforementioned.  Even peanut butter sandwiches had to be served as slices instead of sandwiches.  And after all of that, I was still teased by my family that I did more stirring around of ingredients on my plate than I did actual eating.

But now the warm chili with crisp, cool pickle was winning me over as the smells of garlic and onions filled the truck.  The chili dogs were wrapped in individual plastic baggies, and the heat from the chili steamed the buns inside of them.  It made the buns warm and soft to the bite.

Soy CurlsWhat was supposed to be just a taste was soon two and then three.

“Can I have the whole thing?” I asked.

And with a nod, I finished it off in a satisfied gulp and wished there were more left so that my dad and I could both have seconds.

I guess it wouldn’t be a surprise that years later, chili was one of the first things I ever learned to cook.  It was the culinary answer for cleaning out the fridge.  A little spaghetti sauce left in a jar goes in with any remaining spoonfuls of salsa.  Scraps of onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos from Taco Tuesday are added to a couple of cans of beans from the pantry.  In those days I added a taco seasoning packet with a few cupfuls of water, and no matter the humble leftover beginnings of the ingredients, the spicy stew was savory perfection topping tortilla chips, rolled into a tortilla, or eaten by the hot spoonful.  It was far better than the sum of its parts.

I don’t use taco seasoning packets anymore or wear footie pajamas, and obviously my chili and dogs are always of the veggie variety.  But is it any wonder that regardless of the tweaking of the ingredients, there’s something about chili that just feels like coming home?

Smoky Soy Curl & Two Bean Chili

Smoky Soy Curl & Two Bean Chili

Serving Size: 6-8

Smoky Soy Curl & Two Bean Chili

This hearty chili is wonderful served with grilled garlic bread, tortilla chips, or smothered over veggie dogs. If you don’t have access to Soy Curls, it’s still delightful without it. (Not sure? Click here to find Soy Curls in your area.) You can simply omit the Soy Curls altogether, or if you’d prefer, add a cup of chickpeas or black beans.


  • 1 cup Soy Curls
  • 1 cup water (Plus 2 additional cups for soaking Soy Curls)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups pinto beans
  • 2 cups red kidney beans
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (or to taste)


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, cover Soy Curls in 2 cups of warm water and set aside for ten minutes for them to hydrate. After they have hydrated, drain them in a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much water as possible. Then roughly chop the Soy Curls into chunks. Set aside.
  2. In a soup pot, warm extra virgin olive oil to a medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant, five to ten minutes. (Lower heat if the garlic begins to burn.)
  3. Add the fire roasted tomatoes with their liquid, 1 cup of water, pinto beans, red kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt, and Soy Curls to the pot. Raise to a medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
  4. Once it is simmering, turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through. If the liquid burns off too much or you’d prefer to have a more soup-like chili, add more water to the pot and adjust seasonings according to taste.


  1. says

    Soy Curls!!!

    But, really, that’s an awesome story about you and your dad. And I never thought to add tons of leftovers to chili, so THANK YOU for that!

    Also, this looks mighty tasty, and reminds me that it has been ages since I’ve made chili. Mmm..

    • says

      I know! After Portland, the blogosphere has Soy Curl-fever!

      I sometimes forget about chili too, and then I make it again and wonder why I waited so long!

    • says

      That’s too bad about the rain and wind! I’m glad to at least provide a little bit of warmth your way, even if it is only in story-form. I hope it warms up for you soon! :)

  2. says

    I love your story! I’ve never tried soy curls, but I keep hearing more and more about them. Weirdly the only place to buy them in Iowa is at a winery in Cedar Rapids…maybe I’ll make my dad swing in on one of his next business trips. He will be beyond confused :-).

    • says

      Thanks, Kelly! Vineria in Cedar Rapids is an awesome wine shop owned by two vegans. (That’s where my husband and I shot our wine-themed Vegan Test video.) In addition to Soy Curls, they also have Punk Rawk raw cheeses from Minnesota, which are outstanding, Wayfare bacony bits and spreads, and Vegan Vine wines. You might want to make a list for your dad! 😉

    • says

      Excellent! If you need more than one idea and are into bacon-y flavors, the Smoky Soy Curls from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner are also top notch.

  3. says

    I loved reading your childhood story and could picture little Cadry tucking into her first chili dog.

    Your chili looks delicious, I make a batch fairly regularly and love chucking in vegetables from the fridge that need to be used up. I hope that Soy Curls make it over to Australia one day, I really want to try them!

    • says

      Thanks, Mel! I’m glad to know there’s another fridge cleaning chili-maker out there. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends, and once you’ve added spices, almost anything is fair game!

      If you ever want to do some kind of package swap for American specialties to Australian specialties, let me know! :)

  4. says

    what a great story! when i was younger, my dad would go through periods of working the overnight shift(he was a construction worker), so i totally know where you’re coming from. i never ever had a chili dog, but i think i’d love a veggie variety now. this meal looks delicious!

    • says

      Oh, that’s sweet that you had a similar background! Since you’re gluten-free, you might be interested in making a carrot dog. There’s a place in LA that makes veggie dogs using an actual carrot. They cut it to size, marinate it, and then cook it so that it’s no longer crisp but not to the point of being mushy. I’ve never tried one personally, but I’ve heard good things. Another friend of mine often uses a carrot as the dog and said once toppings are involved, that it really works. I’ve been thinking about trying it for a while. It could be worth looking into!

  5. says

    Mmm I love a good chili, even in the summer. The co-op near my house has soy curls, but I’ve never had any ideas about what to do with them. Now I do! Yay!

    • says

      Absolutely! Chili is typically thought of as a winter meal, but once grilled veggie dogs or grilled garlic bread are involved, it legitimizes it as a summer meal! :)

      In addition to chili, there are so many tasty options with Soy Curls, like Smoky Soy Curls from Vegan Diner and Courico Tacos in Vegan Brunch. It’s definitely worth buying a bag and giving them a go! Plus, they keep forever in your refrigerator, and so you can use them at your leisure.

  6. says

    Yum! I’ve never heard of soy curls and now I want them (though I don’t see any near me, darn it). I made a chili just the other day and used the Chipotle Seitan Strips from Sweet Earth. That worked really well.

  7. says

    Yep, chilli is one of those things that keep on giving – both through tastiness and the ability to turn all those going-off-a-bit veggies in the back of the fridge into something pretty delicious. Now can someone post me some soy curls?!

    • says

      Clearly, we need to have some kind of Soy Curl exchange program! I was surprised that so far Soy Curls aren’t sold anywhere in Europe!

  8. says

    I love that story. Thank you for the story. It makes me miss my own parents dearly, but in a sweet/bittersweet/mmmmchillismoky way. xo

  9. says

    Mmmm, this post had me salivating all the way through and it’s not even close to lunch time. I have been craving chili “hotdogs” lately so this has definitely pushed me over the edge. I bet the addition of soycurls is amazing! I need to get a bag of that stuff.

    • says

      Thank you! I think it’s so cute too. My mom scored 12 of them at a garage sale, and I nabbed four from her. Got to love a good bargain on cute kitchen stuff!

  10. says

    Soy Curl chili sounds fantastic! I just used up the ones I bought while we were in Portland. I think I’ll be ordering a case soon. 😉

    My first experience with chili was on a hot dog too! My mom is an insomniac and would usually sleep from around 7 or 8 am until she had to get me from school. She would often take me out to eat then so she could have breakfast and one of her favorites was the chili dog at Weinerschnitzel. I would always just get fries, but once I tried hers. I don’t remember whether or not I liked it but thinking that my mom was weird for having that for breakfast. :-)

    • says

      A whole case? You have some serious Soy Curl needs! I’m surprised that you can’t find them locally. It seems like in SoyCal, there should be Soy Curls for sale on every corner by now. :)

      That is a highly unusual breakfast! No wonder your mom couldn’t sleep. 😉 I remember eating at Weinerscnitzel a number of times when I first moved to LA (and wasn’t vegetarian or vegan yet obviously). I was impressed that a person could put chili on anything. Perhaps next on my list of to-do’s, I should use this chili for a batch of vegan chili cheese fries in remembrance! :)

  11. says

    My sister used to be the same way, if anything on her plate touched then there’s no way she would eat it, lol. I’m actually surprised that I’ve never had a chili dog before, it’s something I know I would definitely like, I like hotdogs, I like chili, it only makes sense to combine the two :) I’m loving the idea of putting soy curls in chili, plus a smokey version sounds incredible!

    • says

      That’s so funny that your sister and I had the same aversion to touching foods! I remember my family trying to convince me by saying, “It’s all going to end up in the same place anyway!” Then when I’d go to school and see kids mixing up everything on their lunch trays, it made my stomach turn!

      You’ve never had a chili dog? Wow, you totally need to remedy that! Since you like both chili and hot dogs, it’s sure to be a win. The flavors and textures go really well together.

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