No need to pick up a knife to make this recipe. Healthy wheat berries add a great texture to this flavorful slow cooker chili, perfect for busy home cooks.
In the quest to get to know all of the grains in Bon Appetit’s January 2014 Cooking School Issue, I am ahead of the game! I have been sitting on this chili recipe awaiting the right moment to wave it around and declare – You must try this! So here goes. You! Yes, you! You simply must try this chili!
This laughably simple chili came into being at a time when I was feeding a large group of mostly meat eaters and a handful of vegetarians. I wanted to serve a tummy filling dish that would satisfy the entire group. I also needed something quick and easy because this was going to feed everyone at The Little Helping’s birthday party and we spent most of the pre-party time out of the house.
While brainstorming birthday dinner ideas I remembered a version of chili my mom made using wheat berries. Years later I can still recall the plump grains pleasantly meaty chew. I believe the initial wheat berry chili recipe came from a gift shop kit – you know the sort, a cellophane bag of dry ingredients, a packet of seasonings, and a recipe card. After the kit was a success she made a similar vegetarian chili several more times before the recipe faded away for no reason in particular.
A wheatberry or wheat berry is the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), composed of the bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheatberries have a tan to reddish brown color and are available as either a hard or soft processed grain. They are often added to salads or baked into bread to add a crunchy texture. If wheat berries are milled, whole-wheat flour is produced. – wikipedia
This vegetarian chili is a product of my current life season. I appreciate any recipe I can knock out with one hand while holding the baby in the other. Normally I’d chop onions, perhaps some zucchini, or assorted other produce to bulk up a pot of chili. Unlike my usual method I designed this recipe to be free of all chopping. The exception might be mincing a couple garlic cloves if you don’t have a jar or squeezy tube of prepared garlic on hand (Thank you Gourmet Garden for your squeezable herbs and spices!). Eliminating the extra chunks of vegetable also increases the kid appeal. The chili stands on its own but when served with a buffet of toppings diners can layer in additional texture and flavor from vegetables, cheese, hot sauce, or whatever sounds good. Paired with Confetti Pepper Cornbread this makes a very satisfying meal that should appeal to just about any crowd.
If you are joining me in this grain eating adventure this chili is a fantastic place to begin. Be sure to check back in and let other readers know what you liked or disliked about the chili or wheat berries in general.
Reasons to try wheat berries:
- Pleasing meaty texture.
- Easy to cook.
- A nutritional powerhouse – per 1/4 cup of dry wheat berries there is only .5 grams of fat, zero miligrams of sodium, 6 grams each of fiber and protein, and a decent amount of iron!
- Mild flavor won’t over power other ingredients making them a go-to grain for almost any hot and cold dishes.
- Super-duper affordable!! I grabbed some for under $1 per pound in my supermarket’s bulk section.
- 1 cup hard wheat berries
- 4 cups black beans
- 2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups of corn kernels
- 3 tablespoons fire roasted green chilies
- 2 teaspoons garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1½ teaspoons dry Italian herbs
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1½ cups water
- Place the wheat berries in a 3 quart pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. This step tenderizes the wheat berries and prevents them from absorbing too much liquid later.
- After 30 minutes the wheat berries should be very chewy. Drain the water and place the wheat berries in the slow cooker crock along with the remaining ingredients.
- Cover the crock and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours.