The Case for Putting Cauliflower In Your Chili

Chili is one of those nearly perfect dishes. It is endlessly adaptable, utterly classic and unfussy, inexpensive to make, and easy enough that even the kitchen-shy can tackle it with confidence. It’s a one-pot, one-bowl meal, and is delicious plain or garnished to the rafters.

But it’s rarely healthy. In part, because at its base, chili needs that deep savory meatiness that just cannot be achieved with vegetables only, I don’t care how many mushrooms and other umami bombs you put in it. But in order to get the real meatiness from beef, you are adding calories at a staggering rate. Some people try to swap out with ground turkey, but again, there’s no flavor there and the lack of fat makes for a chili that for all its sauciness, eats dry.

Oscar Wilde famously espoused, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” That is the spirit of this recipe. It isn’t attempting to make chili super low-calorie. It is attempting to mitigate the calories while retaining full pleasure. And it takes advantage of the texture and mild flavor of the current darling of the pantry, riced cauliflower. Readily available in pretty much any produce section of your local grocery store, or easily made by pulsing cauliflower florets in your food processor, this vegetable adds bulk to a chili while cutting the calories from meat literally in half.

Watch: How to Make Reese’s Mole Chili

For an additional calorie cut, I’ve used Italian turkey sausage. With about half the calories of pork sausage, Italian turkey sausage brings enough fat to the dish to not be dry, as well as some seasonings and great flavor. This cuts the total amount of ground beef in this chili to just ¾ of a pound.

A deeply savory spiced sauce with plenty of onion, garlic, and the addition of the unexpected surprise of dark cocoa powder giving it that little something extra, this chili is utterly satisfying while still being actually good for you. Logging in about 100 calories fewer per cup, it’s the perfect choice if you love to top chili with shredded cheese and sour cream. But at under 170 calories per cup, it also fits seamlessly into a healthy eating program.

Get the recipe: Cauliflower Chili


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