Sweet Potato Walnut Chili with Corn Dumplings

Created by Laura Wright
4.91 from 21 votes

This vegan sweet potato walnut chili is so deeply flavourful on its own, with dried chiles, cocoa, Tamari, garlic, beans, and spices. The cornmeal dumplings on top make it extra hearty and comforting as a vegan main. This is a cozy weekend recipe that takes a bit of extra time, but is so worth it.

An overhead shot shows a pot of vegan sweet potato walnut chili in a Dutch oven with puffed up cornmeal dumplings on top. The dish is garnished with chopped parsley and cilantro.
A 3/4 angle shot shows a pot of vegan sweet potato walnut chili in a Dutch oven with puffed up cornmeal dumplings on top. The dish is garnished with chopped parsley and cilantro.
An overhead shot in direct sunlight shows a bowl of vegan chili with a couple of cornmeal dumplings and chopped cilantro on top.
An overhead shot shows ingredients used in a vegan sweet potato walnut chili.
An overhead shot shows finely chopped walnuts in a small burgundy bowl.
A slight 3/4 angle shot shows a blended chile mixture in a blender pitcher. There are splashes up on the sides of the blender and it appears to be "glowing" in direct sunlight.

This sweet potato walnut chili is so deeply flavourful! We use dried chiles, cocoa, Tamari, onions, garlic, and lots of spices to get the base dialed in. Then, we go in with our finely chopped walnuts, sweet potatoes, and two types of beans. The walnut flavour works so nicely with the nutty cascabel chile and it offers a slightly meaty texture. Big fan! And I always love how sweet potatoes naturally compliment the smokiness of dried chiles.

This is not a quick and easy situation! It has a slow weekend cooking kind of feel to it. The prep and cooking process for this vegan dinner recipe is almost 2 hours total. I really think it’s worth it though! Sometimes I find veggie chili mostly just tastes tomato-y and of tons of dried chile powder (that I may or may not have had in my drawer for too long). Blending whole dried chiles with hot vegetable stock, cocoa, and Tamari gives us a fruity, nutty, smoky umami bomb that really makes a difference. I’ve been using Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes lately, and they are sensational here.

And we also top it with cornmeal dumplings and vegan sour cream for a bit of extra fun and satiation. I really enjoy corn muffins with chili, but I also love soup dumplings. Combining the two only seemed natural. This chili is really flavourful, satiating, and just great on its own too. It goes well with all of the typical accompaniments like tortilla chips, vegan sour cream, chopped cilantro, and pieces of ripe avocado.

I hope that you give this sweet potato walnut chili a try! It really is a nice way to usher in those cooler nights, or maybe you’re just finding yourself in a chili kinda mood :). If you’re looking for more cozy options, I recommend checking out my collection of vegan soup recipes.

An overhead shot shows a blender pouring in a deep red blended chile mixture into a pot of sweet potatoes and chili base.
An overhead shot shows a Dutch oven filled with a steaming pot of vegan sweet potato walnut chili.
An overhead shot shows a quarter sheetpan with prep for cornmeal dumplings in little bowls and measuring cups.
An overhead shot in direct sunlight shows a pair of hands using spoons to dollop cornmeal dumpling dough out on top of a pot of chili.
A 3/4 angle shot shows a pot of vegan sweet potato walnut chili in a Dutch oven with puffed up cornmeal dumplings on top. The dish is garnished with chopped parsley and cilantro.
An overhead shot in direct sunlight shows a bowl of vegan chili with cornmeal dumplings and a dollop of vegan sour cream on top. A spoon is sticking out of the bowl.

Sweet Potato Walnut Chili with Corn Dumplings

This vegan sweet potato walnut chili is so deeply flavourful on its own, with dried chiles, cocoa, Tamari, garlic, beans, and spices. The cornmeal dumplings on top make it extra hearty and comforting as a vegan main. This is a cozy weekend recipe that takes a bit of extra time, but is so worth it.
4.91 from 21 votes
An overhead shot shows a pot of vegan sweet potato walnut chili in a Dutch oven with puffed up cornmeal dumplings on top. The dish is garnished with chopped parsley and cilantro.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

Sweet Potato Walnut Chili

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 3 dried ancho chiles (see notes)
  • 1 dried cascabel chile (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, small dice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small (about 3 cups diced sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup walnut halves, super finely chopped
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 13.5 oz (398 ml) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 13.5 oz (398 ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 28 oz (828 ml) can crushed tomatoes
  • chopped cilantro or parsley
  • vegan sour cream, for serving (optional)

Cornmeal Dumplings

  • ¾ cup light whole wheat OR light spelt flour
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil

Equipment

Notes

  • Corn dumplings are inspired by the latest issue of Magnolia Journal
  • Here’s a nice guide to some more commonly available dried chiles. I wanted a nutty, smoky, slightly fruity flavour with mine, so went with the combo of ancho and cascabel.
  • My favourite canned tomatoes these days are by Bianca DiNapoli.
  • Make sure your soup pot has a tight fitting lid for the dumpling step!
  • This chili is amazing on its own without the dumplings. Just serve it up with all your favourite, typical accompaniments (vegan sour cream, tortilla chips, diced avocado etc).
  • If you don’t mind dirtying another dish, you can finely chop up the walnuts in a food processor or mini chopper for faster/easier prep.
  • I recommend not making your dumplings too big/thick! Smaller scoops that are spread out a bit (before closing the lid) are ideal for the best texture.

Instructions

  • Set a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and clove to the pot. Toast until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer the spices to a plate to cool slightly before grinding in a spice grinder. Set aside.
  • Place the vegetable stock in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. While it’s coming up to a boil, place the dried ancho and cascabel chiles in an upright, vented blender. To the blender, add the cocoa powder and Tamari. Add the hot vegetable stock to the blender. Turn the blender on and slowly bring the speed up to high. Blend this mixture until you have a relatively smooth liquid. Set aside.
  • Return the large, heavy-bottomed pot to the stove over medium heat. Add the oil to the pot and swirl it around. Add the onions and sauté, stirring often, until very soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. If the onions start browning, decrease the heat.
  • Add the garlic, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, and your previously ground cumin, coriander and clove mixture to the pot. Give it a good stir. Cook this mixture for 1 minute, or until very fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook this out for another full minute, just to get that raw “tin”-like flavour out of the tomato paste.
  • Add the sweet potatoes and walnuts to the pot. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Then, add in the red kidney beans and black beans.
  • Pour the puréed chile, cocoa, and Tamari mixture into the pot. Stir and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the diced tomato to the pot as well, and stir everything up really well. Set the lid on top, slightly ajar. Bring the chili to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the chili until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 40 minutes. Pop in to stir the chili here and there.
  • Once you’re closing in on the 40 minute time, check the chili for seasoning. Adjust it if necessary at this point before mixing up and adding the dumplings.
  • For the dumplings, in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, and oil. Let this mixture sit for a couple minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the light whole wheat flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, cumin, and baking soda. Add the non-dairy milk mixture to the cornmeal mixture and gently fold it together with a spatula. Do not over-mix! You should have a stiff dough that is similar to scone/biscuit dough in density with a few dry spots. It should be scoop-able!
  • Take the lid off the chili and, using two spoons, quickly place small dollops (about 1½-2 tablespoons of batter each) of the cornmeal dumpling dough onto the surface of the chili. Spread the dollops out with the back of your spoon a bit to even the thickness. Once you’re done, place the lid on top. Let it simmer and cook the dumplings for 15-18 minutes, or until they're puffed up, expanded and firm. Resist the urge to lift the lid and take a peek. Once the time is up, take the lid off and finish with the chopped cilantro. Serve chili immediately with dumplings on top.
A 3/4 angle shot in harsh light/shadow shows a bowl of vegan chili with a couple of cornmeal dumplings and chopped cilantro on top. There is steam coming off of the bowl.
12/10/2022 (Last Updated 15/01/2024)
Posted in: autumn, black beans, main course, refined sugar-free, salty, smoky, soup, spicy, sweet potatoes, umami, vegan, winter

16 comments

Recipe Rating




  • Dana

    This recipe looks great! Do you think another type of nut would work instead of the walnuts? I am not a fan of this nut. Thanks!

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Dana,
      Pecans would work just the same!
      -L

  • Ada

    Hi Laura, I’d love to try this but unfortunately it seems difficult to source dried whole chilis where I live without resorting to ordering online. However, for some reason, I *can* really easily find ancho chili flakes. Do you have any advice on how I’d substitute the dried whole chilis for flakes? Thanks so much in advance!

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Ada, if you want to try this with ancho chili flakes, I would make the following adjustments:

      1. Grind 2-3 teaspoons ancho chili flakes with the toasted whole cumin, coriander, and clove
      2. Skip #2 two entirely–no need to boil the stock if you’re not blending up whole dried chilis
      3. Add the cocoa powder to the pot with all the spices in step #4
      4. Add the (unheated) vegetable stock and Tamari in step #6

      I have not tried this recipe with ground chilies, so I’m not sure what the final product will be like. I suspect it will be pretty similar–maybe not quite as fully flavoured but still good!
      -L

      • Ada

        Almost forgot to update, but wanted to say thanks so much for replying so quickly and in such detail! I made half the recipe and went with about 2 tsp ancho chili flakes. It came out well, though the tomato flavour was a bit dominant, probably owing to the substitutions. Next time I’ll try to see if I can find some proper dried chilis (or just add more flakes!). Thanks again :)

  • Kristina

    5 stars
    This recipe is wonderful. The chili has a deep rich flavor that makes it hearty and satisfying. It has just enough heat. Perfect for dinner on a crisp winter day. Family loved it. Will definitely put on the “make again” list!

  • Talitha

    5 stars
    I have no idea how you get your recipes to look so vibrant and amazing it tastes amazing but my chilli was a poo brown colour and didn’t have any of that beautiful deep red/orange colour in it.

  • Tamara

    5 stars
    Really delicious – great flavor and texture. I had some amazing dried chiles from Boonville Farm collective, and I had spelt flour from a local farm.

    For those that aren’t sure if your dumplings are done – I always test mine with a cake tester and stick the lid back on if it comes out with batter,

  • Tulipwood

    Hi

    This looks amazing – do you happened to have any nutritional
    info for it?

  • Caitríona O'Leary

    5 stars
    Spectacular! Thank you!

  • Sabrina

    5 stars
    great use of sweet potato, one of my favorites, as is chili, including the walnut variety, so two things in one but neither put together by me before, not to mention dumplings, so thank you for a very creative chili

  • Sarah Black

    5 stars
    This was so tasty and filling, I loved it! I couldn’t find any cascabel chiles locally, so I decided to improvise with a chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce. Can’t wait to try it with all of the appropriate ingredients!

  • Claudia

    4 stars
    The flavor of this Chili is mind blowingly delicious! But I do have to agree with a previous commenter, that my dumplings despite having been cooked for a full 17 minutes instead of the recommended time, and using a tight fitting lid on the pot, still had a taste of raw flour to them. Is there a way to be able to tell when they are actually done? Regardless, this will be added to our regular menu rotation!!

    • Laura

      Hi Claudia,
      I’ve added an additional recipe note and offered a bit more detailed instruction with the dumpling step in light of yours and Steph’s comments. The dumplings should be scooped on the small side and spread out with the back of a spoon to an even thickness before closing the lid. This extra step is better for cooking them through and achieving the ideal texture. Also, if your pot is oven-safe, you could remove the lid and set the pot under your broiler for a minute or two after the 15 minutes simmering time is up for a finishing touch of browning on top. I appreciate your feedback!
      -L

  • Steph

    4 stars
    These flavours are on point! I’ve never worked with dried chilies before and this was a wonderful discovery. I used dried ancho chilies and a fresh jalapeño because that’s what I had on hand. The flavours were smoky and just spicy enough. And the walnuts added a lovely nutty flavour and texture.
    While I appreciate that this all covers together in one pot, I think I’d prefer to try an oven scone or cornmeal recipe instead, as my dumplings were still a bit soggy/soft in the middle.

  • Elizabeth

    So beautiful as always! I love the idea of adding corn dumplings to the top and can’t wait to try it.