Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chili Cheese Fries (vegetarian)

Chili Cheese Fries

Good news! You can now eat chili cheese fries for dinner and not feel bad about it. Over here, we like this idea for family night. Jeremy, my husband said that growing up his mom would make a big plate of nachos for family night and he thought it was so cool because nachos were definitely not the usual. Nachos were informal and fun. Nachos are also out of the question for my family because of all the negatives when living with a complete health nut. Tortilla chips? No. Gobs of cheese? Nada. Taco meat or grilled steak or chicken? Deal breaker. What's left is shredded lettuce and jalapenos and no one wants salad on fun family night. I never would have entertained the thought of serving chili cheese fries either until that fateful day when I saw this recipe for vegetarian chili from The Cooking Photographer's website. I saw the picture. The chili looked thick and smokey. Don't ask me how I got a flavor from a picture. I do that sometimes, and in this case, I was right. The reason I had never thought of doing veggie chili for cheese fries is that I needed the chili to stick to the fry. If you go to pick up a fry and it's just bean chili the beans have a tendency to roll off. Not cool. This chili doesn't do that. It's thick. You actually put a can of refried beans into the pot and it "melts" and becomes part of the sauce that holds it all together. The finished product is meatless, smokey, thick and rich with tons of flavor. Just the thing you want to drape over some hot fries. Plus the ingredients call for fun stuff like coffee and beer. I had to make it.

Oh right, fries. That was a problem. My husband loves french fries but wouldn't necessarily be thrilled about consuming them for his main course at dinner...unless...I baked them! Eureka! That thick chili draping over those hot fries topped with shredded cheddar cheese.

Oh right, the cheese. If you remember, this was the no-no part of why the nachos were very obviously not going to fly at our dinner table. However...This chili looked so good and sounded so perfect that if Jeremy just topped his chili fries with raw onions and hot pepper rings (I love the acidity of vinegary hot peppers with chili fries) then maybe he didn't need the cheese. No. No, he didn't. Can I just tell you that when I came to this conclusion, I felt like I had won the lottery. I was going to have chili cheese fries, one of my favorite foods, for dinner, and it was going to be fun for family night and Jeremy was actually going to like it. Hot-dog!

This recipe makes a lot of chili. Two batches in fact, but I don't recommend halving it. I made it all, and froze what we didn't use for another chili fry night. Which was the other night, when I took these pictures. It was great to only have to cut potatoes and roast them for dinner to be complete.

Chili Cheese Fries

Top ten reasons for making the chili in a big batch so you can freeze for later:

10) When you are lazy and don't want to cook...oh look! There's chili in the freezer!
9) Your friends come over and stay until dinner but you have no food, oh look! There's chili in the freezer!
8) It's snowing and you don't want to run to the grocery, you remember the chili in the freezer.
7)When you are lazy and don't want to cook...oh look! There's chili in the freezer!

OK, so all the reasons are the same. Either you are lazy or met with unexpected company or you are lazy again. End of story. Freezing the chili really is a good idea even if I can't think of more than two legitimate reasons why. I suppose in order for this all to work out you would have to have potatoes on hand for the fries, as well. Always buy potatoes, just in case. All our bases are covered now and you are ready to head to chili cheese fry nirvana twice with very little guilt. I sometimes make these using sweet potatoes instead of white, and sans cheese. It's just as good! It's a win-win.

Chili Cheese Fries
serves 4

For the oven fries:

4 Russet potatoes (figure 1 potato per person, so if you need more, plan accordingly)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper (I used Lawry's salt as well)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut each potato into wedges or planks to make fries. Any size will do as long as they are not ridiculously big or small, obviously. Coat the fries with the olive oil on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread potatoes out so they are not touching each other (sometimes mine overlap a bit). This will help them brown and crisp correctly. If you need to, separate your potatoes onto two separate sheet pans and cook them one by one. I only have one oven, so I can't cook them at the same time. Cook for 20 minutes, and flip with a spatula. Close oven door and turn the heat up to 450 degrees. Roast for 15 minutes more or until crisp and a bit browned. 

Vegetarian Chili
recipe adapted from Laura Flowers at

makes 8-9 chili cheese fry servings

1 medium sized onion
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans in chili sauce
2 (16 ounce) cans vegetarian refried beans
1 (7 ounce) can fire roasted mild diced green chilies
1 (16 ounce) jar chunky salsa, mild
1 cup beer, amber or darker

1/3 cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt 

For topping: Cheese and pickled peppers, or mild banana peppers. I like acidity and spicy with my chili fries. It makes it in my opinion.

Saute the onion in some olive oil in a big pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients except vinegar and bring up to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the refried beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add vinegar at the end of cooking time, then taste for salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings accordingly.

After you have served the first round of chili cheese fries, cool the remaining chili on the stove, then pack it into Ziplock Freezer Bags and freeze for the next use.

Holy long post. Sorry. I have been so sick the past week! I guess I'm making up for lost blogging!


  1. I love chili and fries and have never had chili cheese fries. We do cheese fries with turkey bacon and reduced fat cheese (also baked fries) but now I need to branch out. I will definitely be trying this! Where is the slow cooker though?

  2. I swore the recipe said "oil for slow cooker" but now I think I am losing my mind! My children have been wild animals today :)

  3. I adore chili cheese fries! I'm glad you made them healthier, I always feel like I ate a lump of greasy rocks after indulging.


  4. Oh, that looks sooooo good! I love chili cheese fries.