Mini-Vegetarian Chili Dog Sandwiches
Around this time last year, I posted a recipe I was quite fond of for mini-chili cheeseburgers. I actually was more enamored with them than their normal-sized counterparts because I found the chili to have a better presence when it didn't have to compete with the dominate beefiness of a full beef patty. I liked them so much that it didn't feel right that vegetarians should have to miss out, so I made a meatless version that delivers almost the same complex earthy and spicy chili flavor, but with a change up of a burger patty in favor of veggie dogs, which worked great.
The crux of this recipe is the chili, and for me this served as a test to see how close plant-based ground beef could be to the real thing. To get there, I didn't alter the recipe much at all except for that one primary substitute. I built up the same strong chili base that began with soaking a variety of chilies in stock to soften their flesh, which allows the dried chilies to break down fully when blended.
Next I sautéed onions until they began to brown, which adds a nice natural background sweetness to the final chili. Once those were done, the mixture of spices went in—which included garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano—and were cooked until fragrant.
The next part of the original recipe has the beef being whisked in after the stock and the chili mixture are brought to boil. This was the biggest question mark using plant-based beef because I wasn't sure if it would act like the real meat and break down into the very fine pieces that distinguishes a hot dog-style chili. The Impossible beef I used did break apart here, but not to the extent actual beef does. Instead, it stayed in slightly larger chunks, more akin to a ground beef taco filling. In the end that really wasn't that big of a deal, it just left the veggie chili with a bit of different textural quality.
Now I could have gone wholesale on making a copycat of the beef version of these and used more Impossible meat to craft slider-sized patties, but I saw photos of similar recipes done with hot dogs on slider rolls and was taken with the idea, so decided to try that out. It also made the recipe even easier because all I had to do was open a pack of veggie dogs, grill them, then split them both lengthwise and widthwise to make pieces that would fit on a slider roll.
I got three veggie dog quarters on each roll, which I then topped with American cheese and placed on the grill over indirect heat and covered. Since American cheese melts really fast, by the time it was melted and gooey, the rolls had warmed nicely without drying out, and I always advocate for toasty buns.
With a final topping of the vegetarian chili, these were done (actually, I meant to put on mustard too, but just totally forgot about that). Like with the burgers, the chili is what really shined through here and, unless someone told me it wasn't meat, I probably would never had known it was plant-based. In the context of this chili, the Impossible meat provided the texture and flavor of beef in a fairly seamless manner, melding with the hearty spicy and earthy flavor of the chili base itself. The cheese provided some contrast to that heat, while the veggie dogs mostly where there for heft, having a light touch against the dominant chili. Looking back, I do think a squeeze of sharp and tangy mustard would have solidified the experience, but it certainly didn't taste like anything was missing when we chowed down on these, which made me more of a believer in plant-based meat than I had been going into making these delicious little sandwiches.
Mini-Vegetarian Chili Dog Sandwiches
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 40 Minutes
- For the Chili
- 1 dried New Mexican chili peppers, stemmed and seeded
- 1 dried ancho chili pepper, stemmed and seeded
- 1 dried guajillo chili pepper, stemmed and seeded
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3/4 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1 small)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1 teaspoons whole cumin seed, toasted and ground
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 12 oz plant-based ground meat
- 1 tablespoon masa harina
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce, preferably Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Kosher salt
- For the Sandwiches
- 8 veggie dogs
- 12 slider rolls
- 6 slices American cheese, halved
- Yellow mustard (optional)
- To make the chili: Place chilies in a small saucepan and add in 1 cup vegetable stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until chiles are completely softened, about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender or upright blender, blend soaked chiles until smooth. Set aside.
- Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan or small Dutch oven. When foaming subsides, add in onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, tomato paste, and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in remaining cup of vegetable stock and scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in pureed chiles. Add in plant-based ground meat and whisk until completely broken down and mixture is homogeneous. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer until thickened, about 45 to 60 minutes.
- Combine masa harina and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and mix until combined. Add masa mixture, hot sauce, and fish sauce (if using) to chili and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep chili warm or reheat prior to using.
- To make the sandwiches: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place veggie dogs on hot side of grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until well browned and charred in spots. Transfer veggie dogs to a cutting for and split each in half lengthwise and widthwise into 4 pieces.
- Transfer 3 veggie dog pieces to a slider roll and top with 1/2 a slice of American cheese, tearing cheese and layering as needed to fit. Place topped rolls on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to a serving platter and top each with a heaping spoonful of chili and a squeeze of mustard (if using). Serve immediately.