Bento no. 51: Vegetarian chili and mini muffins


Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 550 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 5-10 minutes in the morning with pre-made components

Type: Vegetarian, not Japanese (Southwestern)

This is a very simple, all-make-ahead bento. It consists of a vegetable-rich spicy vegetarian (vegan really) chili with kidney beans, plus healthy carbs in the form of homemade muffins. The basic pattern can be varied almost infinitely by changing the chili part and the muffin part. Here I have used non-vegan pumpkin yogurt muffins, but you could very easily make this a vegan combo by selecting a vegan muffin. And you could just as easily make this an omnivore’s feast by adding some lean ground meat to the chili.

The mini-muffins were taken straight from the freezer and popped into the containers. They defrosted nicely by lunchtime.

I packed the chili in a thermal jar type bento - the first time I’ve featured one here on Just Bento. I have to say I am not the biggest fan of thermal jar bentos (like Mr. Bento) because they are a bit heavy and bulky compared to regular bento boxes, but for something like a chili or stew that need to be eaten hot, they are essential if you don’t have access to a microwave at the office or school. To ensure that the chili is as hot as it can be at lunchtime, you way want to microwave it for a couple of minutes in the inner container with the lid off because popping it into the outer thermal container.

On the other hand, I prefer to pack soup into a regular Thermos-type bottle (I have a half-litre one from Sigg). I can get more in there, and because of the very secure double-lid I have no fear of liquid spilling out all over (not that it ever has with a thermal jar bento, but I have that irrational fear it will.)

This type of bento is just a bit removed from a brown-bag sandwich lunch really, but much more interesting and comforting. This comment by Emily to my post about bento teasing really pained me…but I know that some people can be cruel and thoughtless, not to mention narrow minded. If you are a bit shy about bring a full-on Japanese style bento, maybe try something like this first!

The recipe for the South Western style vegetarian chili is from JB reader Stephanie, and is delicious. Thanks Stephanie!

Recipe: Stephanie’s Vegetarian Chili


Stephanie says: “One of my favorite dishes is vegan chili, I think that a drier version works perfectly for bentos and is very much like your curried kidney beans.. I soften all the vegetables (by sautéing them in the olive oil) before adding the liquid and spices.”

  • Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 large onion (diced)
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 can 16 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans (each can is about 8oz or 440g) kidney beans, drained
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1/2 Tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • cayenne pepper to taste

After sautéeing the chopped vegetables in the oil until they are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes or longer. You can vary the amount of cayenne to taste.

This makes about 8 cups of not-very-wet chili. The chili really should be made ahead and re-heated in the morning - it tastes better that way! (If you plan to freeze this, I’ve found it freezes better without the beans, which can just be added when you reheat it.)

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Turmeric and coriander? Is this chili or curry?! I’ll have to give it a try.

I make something like this as an emergency lunch, since I always have onions and canned tomatoes and pinto beans around.

Chili powder is just oregano, cumin, salt and cayenne. Just use the base ingredients, not some mixed spice, especially since there is redundant cumin and cayenne in the recipe. With curry powder the convenience is worth it given the number of spices involved, but not for chili powder.

The proper name for this dish is Chili Non Carne. “Vegan Chili” is just a free ad for PETA.

I don’t usually comment on

I don’t usually comment on other folks’ comments but this one seemed excessively rude! I think that she can call the dish whatever she wants and why start out with something snarky like “is this a curry or a chili”? Maki works pretty hard to keep the site updated and it seems to me that if you have an issue (especially such a petty one) it’d be much better for all involved if you just skipped the site!

I’ve been thinking about

I’ve been thinking about investing in a Mr. Bento (or similar) but since I have a microwave at my office, I think I might invest in a glass&lock container instead. Regardless, since the weather has cooled off, I have been rather chili fixated and this is doing nothing to help. Must try this soon…

This post couldn't be better timed.

I’ve decided to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet, and so I’m happily collecting them from the websites I trust. Thank you!

This is an awkward question,

This is an awkward question, but what do you eat chili with?

I, believe it or not, have never had chili. When I think about eating chili, I assume I should eat it with rice…but I’m not too sure. Perhaps tortilla chips?

Well, I’ve been eating

Well, I’ve been eating chili for years and years and I’ve always enjoyed it with my homemade cornbread — which is fairly traditional. You could include corn muffins, much like Maki has. I also like serving it over a baked potato for a quick and easy dinner (I work full-time and am a grad student, so time is of the essence sometimes).

Of course you could enjoy it plenty of ways, like over rice (think red beans and rice) or with macaroni (think chili-mac skillet). Your tortilla chip suggestion is also a tasty way to enjoy chili (lots of fun dipping). Just any kind of carb would be delicious I’m sure! Try it out and see what you like…

This is an awkward question,

This is an awkward question, but what do you eat chili with?

I, believe it or not, have never had chili. When I think about eating chili, I assume I should eat it with rice…but I’m not too sure. Perhaps tortilla chips?

Chili can be eaten with a

Chili can be eaten with a number of things. It’s not unusual to see it with a baked potato, rice, corn bread or corn muffins. Even corn chips are generally accepted through perhaps not recommended by some.

As other commenters have

As other commenters have said, chili is a versatile thing that can be eaten with anything. My favorite is something with corn in i, like cornbread or cornmuffins (as here), or even polenta though that’s not too traditional. It’s equally good on plain rice (in which case I don’t necessarily use Japanese rice, but regular long grain rice). It’s really just a kind of spicy stew if you think about it!

Regardless of what it should

Regardless of what it should be called…it’s darn tasty ^_^

What a warming meal. I like

What a warming meal. I like it.

I like this recipe; it’s

I like this recipe; it’s very easy and basic as far as chili. Chili is a fall favorite and great for hot dogs, w/ corn bread, etc. But it’s good to make a bunch and eat on it for a while (that’s why i love it). Anyway, thanks for the easy recipe, i’m definitely going to try it!

tasty! thanks!

Made this just now for dinner, and it was delicious. I cooked up the chili, and cooked a potato to go with it, and it was fantastic. Thinking of putting a cup in a taco shell for breakfast :D

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