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Zesty Zucchini Chili – No Oil!

Cooking Together is Great “Team Building” Here’s a delicious recipe you can make for a gathering, and freeze the extra for another meal.

Adventurers Cooking in Patti's Kitchen

A team of our Penn National 2018 Healthy Eating Adventurers gathered in Patti’s kitchen to make 15 gallons of this delicious, fresh, veggie filled Zesty Zucchini Chili. On the aprons (sing as you read it) “I’m all about the Beans, ’bout the Beans, and Chili…..” In Patti’s kitchen Roshni, Carolyn, Patti, Larry, Sheila, Karen, Margarete; also Ingrid in team picture at the cook-off and Dr. Liz snapped the photos.

Cooking our Zesty Zucchini for the Chambersburg   Icefest Chili Cookoff

We were cooking to compete in the Chambersburg Icefest Chili Cook-off.  Of course our entree is always unique in that it has no meat and we emphasize the flavor and spices rather than just the “heat”  of chili.  And the best part of it was that there were only 3 out of roughly 500 visitors who said “can’t eat that, too healthy for me” and 2 said ” ewww, can’t eat zucchini”.

It was great fun to watch the rest of the crowd as they tasted something new to them, and  see there eyes widen as they realized they could taste new flavors and the spices (instead of just the salt and fat of so many foods these days).  Many came back for 2nds and 3rds.  Kids and adults alike enjoyed our Zesty Zucchini Chili. We put out 200 recipe cards and all were taken by the end of the event.  Chris  (Wilson Adventure Host) notes “whenever I take one of my dishes to the 4th of July Barbecue, it’s always the first one eaten up! And darn, I was hoping to take home some leftover to take for lunch at work!”

This Zesty Zucchini Chili Recipe Cooks Well in Large Amounts

The recipe below makes roughly 5 quarts, but we needed 15 gallons so we gathered all our large pots and multiplied the recipe to match the size of the pot, tasting as we added the Cumin and Chili.  For example, for the 16 quart pot we multiplied all ingredients by 3.

Chopping the Veggies for Chili

Dice the Veggies to 1/2 to 3/4″

For this recipe dicing most of the veggies to 1/2 – 3/4 ” seemed to make small enough size, but still big enough so that the flavor of each could still “pop”, as well as blend in to the total chili flavor.  Chopping veggies together is a great team builder, and creates opportunity for conversation!   We compared notes on using recipes, and also developing the skill to cook by taste and with “what’s in the fridge?”

Recipe for Zesty Zucchini Chili (makes 5 Qts)  (Freeze the extra for another day!)

  • 1 Spanish Onion Diced finely 

  • 2 Carrots Diced  Peel left on – 1/2″ chunks

  • 2 Garlic Cloves  Minced

Put all the above ingredients in a large pot  with 2 Cups of red wine.  NO OIL NEEDED  Cover and cook thoroughly for about 20 minutes, while you dice the remaining veggies

  • 1 Large Can of Low Sodium Crushed Tomatoes (or 1 quart of frozen fresh from your garden)

  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper Minced

Add the Canned Tomatoes and Minced Jalapeño Pepper to the pot. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

  • 2 Pounds of Zucchini Diced in 1/2 ” chunks (this is about 4 cups – helpful to know  if you’re making several large batches and cutting all your Zucchini at once)

  • 1 Red Bell Diced 

  • 1 Green Pepper Diced 

Add the zucchini and peppers to the pot and return to a slow simmer for about 40 minutes.

  • 1-2 Bunches of Fresh Cilantro Finely Chopped – use more or less depending on taste preference; we actually used less, and provided fresh cilantro at the cook off for Cilantro lovers to top off their samples

  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Cumin Powder (We started with 2 tsp and tasted in 20 minutes;  we wanted a little more zing, so we added another)

  • 1-2 Heaping Tablespoons of Chili Powder (Again, we started with 1 and then added more; we would suggest be careful to not overdue or you will mask all of the other subtle wonderful flavors)

  • 1/8 Cup of Honey or Maple Syrup  Optional – Taste before adding, the carrots themselves might already have added enough sweetness

Add the above items to the pot and return to simmer for 20 more minutes

Kidney Beans and Black Beans

  • 2 Cans of Low Sodium Red Kidney Beans

  • 1 Can of Low Sodium Black Beans

Rinse/drain beans in cold water and then add to the pot and let simmer about 10 more minutes.

  • Add Fresh Ground Pepper if it needs a bit more zing

  • Hot Sauce Optional – it can tend to obscure the flavors of the veggies, cumin and chili

Add pepper and hot sauce slowly to taste and return to slow simmer for a bit longer.  We did not use hot sauce for the chili fest, and people seemed to really enjoy tasting all the other flavors and spices!

Total prep/cooking time for chili is about 2 hours — but there’s plenty of time during “simmering” to make a salad, taste the red wine,  have some veggies and hummus,  and enjoy your company!



An Adventure is a community-based 28-day program that can kick-start you on a lifetime of healthier eating with a whole foods, plant based lifestyle.

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