Inspired by Jimmy Stewart’s favorite chili at Chasen’s restaurant, my vegan and vegetarian chili also makes delicious chili cheese toast.
Jimmy Stewart Vegetarian Chili
For more about Jimmy Stewart, listen to my Classic Hollywood podcast, Vanguard of Hollywood. Episodes 37-41 are all about Jimmy.
There’s never been another movie star quite like Jimmy Stewart.
The star of such classics as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Winchester ’73 (1950), and Rear Window (1954), Jimmy Stewart was a versatile actor as beloved for his genuine niceness off-screen as he was for his undeniable talent and charisma in his films.
A Real-Life, Down to Earth Hero
As a bomber pilot in Europe during WWII—with 20 combat missions and over 2,000 hours of flying B-24 Liberators to his name, Colonel James Stewart became the highest ranking movie star in the military, and the definition of a real-life hero.
Also admirable, Jim remained faithfully married to the same woman for 45 years, in Hollywood no less.
Despite these commendable accomplishments, there’s something so approachable about this movie star the whole world feels comfortable calling “Jimmy.” It’s natural; as if Jim himself told us to skip the formalities.
A Man of Simple Tastes
So perhaps it’s not all that surprising to learn that Jim was a man of simple tastes when it came to the food he enjoyed. As Jimmy’s daughter Kelly once shared:
“He liked simple food and he liked food he knew. He used to order the same meal at Chasen’s for a decade or so, and then switched to another meal for the next decade. And he hated huge heaping portions—he had a small appetite.”
The restaurant Kelly mentions, Chasen’s, was the beloved Hollywood eatery of Dave Chasen. Located at the corner of Doheny Drive and Beverly Blvd., Chasen’s became the neighborhood hangout of the stars.
Jimmy Stewart and Chasen's
Perhaps one of the things that drew a guy of simple tastes like Jimmy Stewart to Chasen’s was that from the restaurant’s opening in 1936 to its closing in 1995, Dave Chasen never let his place get too fancy to serve the dish that started it all: his famous chili. Dave’s legendary chili was so good, Liz Taylor had it shipped to her from Hollywood to Rome—for the then exorbitant sum of $100—when she filmed the epic Cleopatra (1963).
Indeed, Chasen’s was one of the few restaurants where the frugal Jimmy Stewart was willing to spend his hard-earned cash.
According to Jim’s wife Gloria, even during their courtship, getting Jimmy to take her out for a meal was like pulling teeth:
“He was always tight with his money. I thought with me he might loosen up a little. But he didn’t. I kept saying, ‘Let’s go out to eat at a restaurant,’ and he kind of fumbled and mumbled and said something about why spend money in a restaurant when I—I—could cook. Finally I said, ‘Let’s go to a restaurant and I’ll pay.’ His sense of pride as a man overcame his sense of prudence, and he finally took me out to dine.
When [a film] had its premiere, Jim asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ‘If we go to the premiere, does it mean you’re actually going to feed me as well?’”
You gotta love Gloria’s trademark wit and sass.
Jimmy Stewart's Favorite Restaurant
Despite Jimmy’s penny-pinching ways, Jim and Gloria, and later the whole Stewart family, were known to eat at Chasen’s twice a week, where Jimmy would order something simple like Sole Hitchcock or vichyssoise. And if he was in the mood, dessert was always a single scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Inspiration for Vegetarian Chili
I can’t go on the record as saying that chili was a favorite meal of Jimmy Stewart’s. But for a man who frequented a restaurant famous for its chili, it’s easy to imagine that Jim, with his love of simple foods, enjoyed a bowl or two of Dave’s chili over the years.
It’s this image of Jim, sitting down at his favorite booth with a pal or his family, enjoying Chasen’s chili with a side of their celebrated cheese toast, that inspired me to create my Jimmy Stewart Vegetarian Chili.
And Vegetarian Chili Cheese Toast.
Hours of research led me to Dave Chasen’s original chili recipe. I admit my vegetarian chili is a completely different dish, but I tried to stay true to the spirit of Dave’s recipe. I included many of the veggies in Chasen’s chili—such as tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion—and the herbs and seasonings Dave used, namely cumin and fresh parsley. These elements of my recipe are a taste of what Jim and Hollywood’s other luminaries would have enjoyed at Chasen’s.
Vegetarian Chili or Vegetarian Chili Cheese Toast
Enjoy my Jimmy Stewart Vegetarian Chili as is, or go all out and make it chili cheese toast.
Either way, this recipe is my tribute to Jimmy Stewart, a great man, a genuine nice guy, and a one-of-a-kind original.
My Favorite Meat Substitute for Vegetarian Chili
I reccomend using Morning Star Veggie Grillers Crumbles for the meat substitute in this chili. You can find it at just about any grocery store.
My Favorite Spatula
With all the veggie sautéing and stirring, this recipe is the perfect time to use my favorite spatula. It’s technically a cookie spatula, but I use it for everything. The small size of this spatula means more control over what you flip and where it lands. You can find my favorite spatula here on Amazon [aff. link].
You can also find it in my Amazon store here.
Jimmy Stewart Vegetarian Chili
For the chili:
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 bell peppers, chopped to ½ inch pieces (use different colored bell peppers to make this chili gorgeous)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion salt
- 1 15 oz can corn, drained
- 1 15 oz can pinto beans, (don’t drain; we will use the juice)
- 1 15 oz can black beans, (don’t drain; we will use the juice)
- 1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, (don’t drain; we will use the juice)
- ½ tsp serrano pepper, minced (use more or omit depending on spice preference)
For the meat substitute:
- 16 oz Morning Star Veggie Grillers Crumbles, or your favorite vegan or vegetarian meat substitute
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
To finish the chili:
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- ½ cup parsley, fresh
- ½ cup cilantro, fresh
To make Chili Cheese Toast:
- 1 loaf good bread, thinly sliced (I prefer French or ciabatta)
- Freshly grated cheddar cheese, to preference (I usually use about 2 cups)
- Parsley, minced (to garnish)
Cook the meat substitute
- Add the olive oil and the Morning Star Veggie Grillers Crumbles to a skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the veggie crumbles have browned and are cooked through.
- Note: you can use your favorite vegan or vegetarian meat substitute instead of Morning Star. Cook to preference.
- Once the meat substitute is cooked, set it aside.
Cook the veggies
- To a large soup pot, add the olive oil, onion, and ½ tsp sea salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
- Add 1 Tbsp of water to deglaze the pot. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the bell pepper, garlic, and 2 Tbsp of parsley. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, beans, and corn
- Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the diced tomatoes, pinto beans, black beans, and dark red kidney beans. Be sure to add all the juices from the beans and tomatoes to the soup pot.
- Now add the corn (be sure you DO strain the corn). Stir everything together.
Add the seasonings
- Add the remaining salt, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion salt, chili powder, and tomato paste. Stir so that the spices are completely incorporated.
- Turn the heat back up to medium, and bring the chili to a boil. Keep the chili at a boil for 2 minutes, then bring the heat down to low. Cover the pot, and let the chili simmer for 10-15 minutes, until when you taste a bite, the bell pepper is cooked through but still has a bit of a bite to it.
Add the meat substitute, lime juice and parsley/cilantro
- Now ad the meat substitute to the chile. Stir it in, then let the chili sit for five minutes, uncovered.
- Last, add the remaining ¼ cup parsley and ¼ cup cilantro, and 1 Tbsp lime juice to the chili. Stir, then taste. Add an additional Tbsp of lime juice, if desired.
- Chili is done. Serve as is, or make chili cheese toast.
To Make Chili Cheese Toast
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Lay out as many pieces of bread as you can on a baking sheet. I usually get 8 slices of bread on the baking sheet.)
- Now spoon a generous amount of chili on top of each slice of bread.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of cheddar over the chili.
Bake the bread
- Bake at 375 degrees for 4 minutes.
- Now turn the heat up to broil, and broil the chili cheese toast for 2 minutes. Check on the toasts, and broil for an additional 2 minutes, if desired. Take care not to burn the bread.
- Remove the toasts from the oven, and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve and enjoy!
- Serve the chili and chili cheese toast separately or together for a hearty meal.