Earlier this month, a couple dear friends flew into town for a ski trip. Anguel and I took the opportunity to head up to Whistler for the weekend to see them – because now that we live on the other side of the country, visits like these are all too rare. It was a pretty sweet weekend filled with fresh snow, lots of food, and plenty of laughs. There were definitely moments when it felt like nothing had changed. It was like we were all back together again – living in the same shared downtown apartment, spending a disproportionate amount of our weekend chatting with food and drink in hand. We missed you, friends.
This recipe was inspired by the quick lunch we enjoyed on our ski day. Whistler/Blackcomb is a beastly mountain, and the food options are plentiful. The prices are a bit egregious – but hey, I guess we're all willing to pay a premium for some warm food and respite from the snow, even if it's served on a cafeteria tray. Chili is a classic choice, of course. And since there was a vegetarian chili on the menu, we were most definitely down. Our group also shared a single order of fries, which we took turns dipping into our respective bowls of chili. I can’t' recall the last time I had chili fries prior, but that day's combination of crispy potato goodness put them back on my radar. Fast forward to the Superbowl, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Apparently a bunch of you liked it too, so I decided this one should go up on the blog.
Chili fries are known to be indulgent, ridiculous and downright dirtyy. They fulfill a lot of cravings – starchy potatoes turned into crisp fries, a warm hearty chili keeping everything cozy, and then a fun sprinkling of toppings to finish it all off. My version is vegan. It's a whole heck of a lot healthier than regular chili fries: the fries are baked, chili is loaded with bean-y protein, and the avocado cream provides a hint of creaminess (without any actual cream). The end result is a heck of a lot healthier – and so flavorful! So, when you demolish a bowl of this for dinner…there's no need to get upset about it. In fact, you'll probably be pretty pleased with yourself.
The chili itself is pretty straightforward to pull together. I have a few more elaborate chilis up my sleeve, but I opted for a simple one in this dish. It brings the smokiness and spice, without requiring a ton of specialty vegetables / spices. In fact, I bet you'll have most of these ingredients in your pantry! The exception is probably the chipotle peppers, which add a great amount of depth to this dish. Not to worry though, canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are pretty easy to find. Just check the ethnic / Mexican section of your regular grocery store.
I call these "party fries" for a couple reasons. Mostly because it's a bunch of regular potato + sweet potato fries, all tossed together in yummy spices. And second, because they're a lot of fun to serve at parties. Apparently I'm not the only one sick of choosing between "regular fries" or "sweet potato fries" on a menu. Why choose when you can have both?! The recipe is adapted from my Spiced Sweet Potato Fries recipe. The coating of rice flour and spices helps deliver and extra punch of flavor while helping imitate the crispiness one would get from a deep fryer. I know it seems a bit crazy to insist on spreading the fries out into a single layer of non-touching fries, but it’s a method that's never failed me. Do it for the crispy fry, ok?
Plating up the chili fries is a lot of fun. A generous drizzle of the avocado cream adds a pop of color to the dish. We typically sprinkle jalapeno slices, chopped cilantro, vegan sour cream, and a slice of lime on top. You can use store bought sour cream, or make your own. I included the recipe for the vegan sour cream we usually make at home. It's adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. Serve this dish immediately and get your fork ready – your vegan chili fries dreams are about to come true!
Vegan Chili Fries with Avocado Cream
Easy Chipotle Chili
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1 white onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 (28 fl oz/796 ml) can whole tomatoes
- 2 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) cans kidney beans, rinsed
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 3 chipotle peppers, minced (from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Fine sea salt (to taste)
- 3 tablespoons brown rice flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1¾ lb russet potatoes and sweet potatoes (about half of each)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 avocado
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup water (more if needed)
- Vegan sour cream, optional (store-bought or homemade, see note 1)
- Sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers, optional
- Chopped cilantro, optional
- Preheat: Put the oven racks in the upper- and lower-thirds of the oven; preheat to 425°F (220°C).
- Start Chili: Heat grapeseed oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno, and cumin. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Simmer chili: Use your hands to squish the tomatoes as you add them (and their juices) to the pot. Add beans, vegetable stock, chipotle peppers, and bay leaves. Stir to mix. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 30 minutes (or until you're ready to assemble). Season with salt (to taste)
- Mix Spices for fries: In a small bowl, whisk together rice flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Make fries: Cut potatoes into long fry-sized strips (¼ to ½-wide). Line two baking sheets with parchment. Divide fries over the baking sheets, drizzle with oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle the salt, then the spice mix over the fries. Toss to coat. Space out the fries as much as possible on the baking sheet. Bake until fries are golden brown, about 30 minutes, flipping half way. Season with more salt, if needed.
- Avocado cream: In a blender, combine avocado, lime juice, garlic powder, salt, and water. Blend until smooth. If needed, add small increments of more water, pausing to scrape down the sides.
- Assemble: Pile fries in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with chili, drizzle with avocado cream, and add toppings of your choice.
- How to make homemade vegan sour cream: Quick-soak ½ cup raw cashews until soft (about 30 minutes in hot water). Drain and add cashews to blender, along with ¼ cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if needed (you may also need to add a splash of extra water). Recipe adapted from Angela Liddon, The Oh She Glows cookbook ("Cashew Cream").