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Tofu chili is a variation on the traditional chili recipes that call for meat. Instead of using ground beef, beef chunks, or other types of meat such as turkey, tofu chili uses soy-based tofu as the major source of protein in the dish. The meal is generally completely meatless, making it vegetarian-friendly. The recipes used to make the tofu chili will vary depending on who is cooking, but the general ingredients are usually the same or similar: beans, peppers, and sometimes corn or other vegetables are combined in a pot with a tomato-based broth that is thickened and spiced with chili powder, paprika, and other spices.
Like other chilis, tofu chili usually includes one or more types of beans in its recipe. Combined with vegetables, the dish is high in fiber and therefore quite healthy, especially without meat being included in the recipe and adding fat content. Many tofu chili recipes call for additional vegetables that would not necessarily be included in a traditional meat chili; squash, zucchini, potatoes, corn, and carrots may be additions to a tofu chili recipe. Like other recipes, the tofu recipe will include a tomato-based broth that is spiced with chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and sometimes hot sauce. The dish is meant to be spicy, though some people prefer to make the dish tamer to fit their tastes.
The tofu can be pan-fried and then added to the chili mixture, or it can simply be crumbled and added to the mixture without pre-cooking. Tofu generally does not need any cooking, and it takes on the flavor of whatever it is being cooked with, so adding the tofu directly out of the package into the chili is an easy and quick way to add protein to the dish. Some cooks prefer to cut the tofu into cubes, allowing larger chunks to be present in the dish upon serving.
The tomato base of the dish can be made from fresh tomatoes, though this method takes more time and effort. Canned tomatoes can also be used, and using the canned version will save time because the tomatoes are usually already skinned. Tomato sauces can be used as well, which saves even more time and effort, though many canned sauces come with preservatives, sugars, and other additional ingredients that may detract from the healthiness of the dish. Spices, too, may vary according to certain recipes, and adding more or less of certain ingredients will affect both the flavor and the spiciness of the dish.