Hard Times Cafe Vegetarian Chili

This recipe was also in my recipe box from 20 years ago that I just started digging through. I had never made it before, and we eat at Hard Times A LOT, so I was curious to see if it was the real deal. IT IS! This is not a dish that you can decide an hour before dinner you want to make. You need to make it the day before. I left out the jalapeno because I didn’t want it to be spicy (sometimes Hard Times Chili is spicy and sometimes it isn’t), but I did leave in the crushed red pepper flakes. Still spicy. If you have been to a Hard Times, you know that you can get your chili all sorts of ways, like by itself in a bowl, on top of spaghetti noodles, on top of Fritos, or my favorite, on top of Tater Tots! So that’s how I served this: on top of cooked tater tots, topped with shredded Cheddar and some sour cream (Tofutti!). We all thought this was really good, and next time no red pepper flakes!

rating: 9

Hard Times Cafe Vegetarian Chili
(source unknown)

serves 4


3 3/4 cups lightly seasoned plain tomato sauce
3 ounces tomato paste
1/4 pound mushrooms, diced
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 small-medium fresh jalapeno pepper, stemmed and chopped (I omitted)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp salt or more to taste
1/3 cup pure chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/3 tsp ground allspice
1/4 cup water
1 cup tvp (textured vegetable protein)
2 tsp whole dry roasted peanuts (I added 3 times this)


Place all of the ingredients, except the soy protein and peanuts, in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Stir. Add the soy protein, stir again, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until lightly thickened, about 2- 2.5 hours. Cool the chili, then store in refrigerator to “cure”, allowing the flavors to meld. Reheat the chili. Add the peanuts and serve.

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One Response to Hard Times Cafe Vegetarian Chili

  1. Jackie F. says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe! I used to live near a Hard Times Cafe in Raleigh, NC and loved their veggie chili – even more than their Cincinnati chili, which is saying a lot since I’m from and now live again in Ohio. I just taste tested this recipe, and it’s delicious! It has the texture I remember. The only things I did differently were to add less chili powder; and, since I couldn’t find the exact textured tvp, I used a tube of tvp by cooking it and breaking it up, then chopping it into crumbles with a veggie chopper. I also used a 28-oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes cooked, crushed, and slightly sweetened (2 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp baking cocoa).

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