September 19, 2011

Carrot “Cheddar” Chili

It is finally football season again.

And even though that means Sunday afternoons (and my living room) have been taken over with grunts, guffaws, and (hopefully) giddy explosions of team spirit, it also means that my kitchen and belly are full of my favorite tailgating treats.

In the short period between pre-season fun and the real deal, the likes of ribs, beans, dips, fries, and chips have all already made game-day appearances. And you better believe that these simple dishes are just a warm-up for the real masterpieces to come on my second favorite day of the year–the Super Bowl.

(Thanksgiving will always be number one. Don’t tell Chanukah.)

But typically, tailgate fare can be considered an indulgence. These foods are usually fatty, cheesy, and processed-y. And just talking about them probably has your arteries calling for a time out.

But I assure you that it is entirely possible to produce pleasing tailgate food that not only fulfills your cravings, but does so while keeping your body, heart, kidneys, and all the other parts healthy and strong. And even though I am on a low-sodium diet, I know I don’t have to miss one lick of 50-yardline comfort food.

So when Stanford Hospital announced a contest (in conjunction with the grand old 49ers) to remake classic ballpark/stadium goods with a healthy twist, I couldn’t resist joining the fun.

Favorite football team + favorite food + favorite hospital = total inspiration.

I’ve already conquered salt-free buffalo wings, spare ribs, queso fundido, and even wasabi edamame. And for this go, I wanted to do something different. Something I hadn’t done before. Something bright and crowd-pleasing. Something that solved a major salt-free conundrum.

And that’s why I made Low-Sodium Carrot “Cheddar” Chili.

From day one of my low-sodium diet, beans and chili have been my favorite quick fix. Hefty and full of protein, it is a healthy and belly warming dish. And it is also the perfect canvas to experiment with spices. Or in my case, really hot peppers.

So for the chili, that part was easy. I’ve been making chili for years now.

But as for the cheese, that was more difficult. Luckily, though, while watching a friend shred carrots I realized that the vegetable confetti looked a lot like cheddar. And because of carrot’s higher natural sodium content (50mg per 1 large carrot), I figured that they would not only add a familiar look to the dish, but could also provide a hint of “salty” flavor.

To increase the “cheesy” factor, I also added creamy low-sodium Greek yogurt (60mg per 6oz container) and avocado slices to the top. Green onions, a squeeze of lime, and extra jalapenos will add extra pow and can be layered on top of the chili. Or provided to guests to use at their own risk.

And there you have it. A guaranteed hit for the next parking lot (or living room) pre-game, pre-party.

And don’t worry. I couldn’t just make one dish for this contest. Stay tuned for recipe number two of the Stanford Hospital Healthy Tailgate Contest to come on Wednesday.

Dig in and chow on.


  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 can no-salt added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can no-salt added kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kernals from 1 large corn cob (or 1 cup frozen corn)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt-free garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground clove
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1, 6-ounce container FAGE greek yogurt
  • 2 avocados, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, bulb removed and thinly sliced
  • Salt-free tortilla chips
1. Pour the olive oil into a large pot and turn stove to medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion to the oil and allow it soften, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, and spices (ground cumin to clove). Stir and then bring the mixture to a boil. Stir again, cover the pot, and then turn the heat to low. Be sure to check on your chili every 15 minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking (or burning) to the bottom. Set your timer for 45 minutes.
2. When the bell dings, take off the lid and add the lime zest, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, apple cider vinegar (if you are using it), and the diced jalapeno. Cook for 5 more minutes and then remove it from the heat.
3. To plate, put the chili in a large bowl or an oblong serving dish. Sprinkle the carrot “cheddar” shreds over the chili and then make even piles of the greek yogurt along the width of the serving bowl or platter. Layer the avocados over the yogurt and then sprinkle the green onions on top. Serve with a giant spoon for scooping and chips for dipping.

drj September 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm

For your great recipes, it would also be good to have the numbers for calories, sodium, cholesterol, and fat.

Jenn A September 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm

This sounds great! I’ve been making chili for a while now too, but my recipe is different. I might have to try yours because I love chili! Would you please tell me about your chips? Are they salt free? Did you buy them or make them?

Neha September 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

This looks Yummm!! going to try this soon. I just bought two extra can’s of beans so can put one to use :o)

Oui, Chef September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Who woulda thunk that chili could be so unprocessed-y as this! Looks beautiful and sounds delicious! – S

sodium girl September 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

You’re the best, Chef Oui!

Christy Ellingsworth (@DailyDishTweets) September 22, 2011 at 8:34 am

This looks & sounds amazing, SG. Carrots in lieu of cheddar – brilliant! I love carrots ad b/c of my eyes try to hide them in everything for added beta carotene. Really hope you win the contest!

MUSSELMAN, KEITH August 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Need to know potassium, protein and salt amounts in your recipes, such as your carrot chilli.. have been told (renal dietician) that those three things are vital, not just sodium…..your thoughts.

jessg23 August 16, 2013 at 10:16 am

Mussy! I try to let you know the sodium counts for raw foods. But it is easy to find out the potassium and protein by using this site:
Or by using a site like to calculate all the nutrient details of a recipe!

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