I started to prepare vegetarian recipes about six years ago for my husband.  I tend to be very picky with my food, wasn’t used to eat vegetables… nothing green, red, well, it was easier to list what I ate that what I didn’t.  I started to prepare simple things, so I could eat them as well.  When he was out he started to go to vegetarian restaurants and one day came home with textured soy protein from the health food store.  He told me that he had tried it and it wasn’t so bad… maybe I could try it to vary the menus.

I had no idea what to do with that thing that looked like chicken food… all brown, dried and hard.  I left it on the pantry and forgot about it.  One day I went to a vegetarian restaurant with him and ordered some “soy pepper steak”, it wasn’t so bad -just like he said- but the texture of the soy was chewy and even though the sauce had flavor, the “soy things” did not.  I went to the area were I saw the waitress retrieving the food and there was a little kitchen and the cook was right there… so I took the opportunity to ask her how to prepare the textured soy protein.  She was very eager to tell me and started saying that it took some time, because the soy was supposed to be immersed in water for like a few hours, then needed to be drained and then cooked with the rest of the ingredients.  I thought to myself that it was a lot of trouble but I would try for my husband…  I don’t remember how long it took me to decide to look for the abandoned soy bag on the pantry, but I one day I did.

I’ve never been known for following rules, more so if related to following recipes.  I looked at the soy and remembered the tasteless and chewy texture of the “soy pepper steak”, somehow came to my mind the idea that if I soaked the soy in plain water for hours there was no way it could absorb any flavor afterwards… So I decided to make an experiment of my own:  I prepared a sofrito (onions, various kind of pepper, garlic, recao, and every other ingredient I liked and could think of to give that thing some flavor) and sauteed it with some olive oil.  Also added salt, pepper and other dried spices, then I added the dry soy to the mixture and pretended to brown it -just the way you would do with ground meat.  After a few minutes I added water, half a cup at a time, since I had no idea how much it would need to absorb.  Because I had no idea how long it would take and I’m also a little impatient I started to taste it pretty soon… and noticed that it was getting softer rather quickly… considering the few hours that that I was told it was supposed to be soaking etc.  To my amazement the soy was tender, moist and not chewy at all after only 15 minutes of adding the water and best of all… was flavorful.

Since then I have prepared just like I used to prepare ground meat, also bought some bigger sized soy that resembles small pieces of pepper steak… I say that textured soy protein takes the flavor you tell it to… just the act of naming it converts it to anything, like adding garlic, vinegar and onions… you get what we call “steak with onions” and I have fooled quite a few people with it!!!  Just pick some ingredients that go well together and combine them with the texture and size of your preference and enjoy!!!

Soy has no fat, so you can add your favorite according to your diet or not use any at all… it’s all up to you.  Cooking for me should be enjoyable even if you are somehow restricted on the ingredients… so try to make the most of it.

Sizzlin’ hot soy chili

Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 30 min.


Two tablespoons olive oil

One medium onion, diced

One green bell pepper, diced

One yellow bell pepper, diced

Four cloves of garlic, finely minced

Ten “recao” leaves, finely chopped 

One small can of red peppers, diced

One can vegetable broth

Two cups of water

One small can tomato paste

One envelope Taco seasoning

Three cups textured soy protein

Two cans small beans

Tabasco sauce to taste

Salt to taste

Cooking Instructions

  1. In a medium pot heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and peppers until transparent.
  2. Add the garlic, “recao” and red peppers, sauté for a minute.
  3. Add the broth, water, tomato paste and seasoning and mix well.  Let it come to a boil.
  4. Add the textured soy protein and mix together until the all the soy looks moisten.  Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add the beans and season to taste with tabasco and salt.  Check the consistence of the sauce, if you want it to have more liquid add water (if you add more water remember to taste again and add salt and tabasco if necessary).  Cover and let simmer again for ten more minutes.

You may add any kind of cheese if you prefer… enjoy with your favorite chips!!!

This recipe yields about ten cups of chili, I know its a lot, but I recommend to freeze the leftovers on individual portions so you can enjoy them later.  Also you can alway cut in half the amount on the ingredients.