Nightshade Free Adventures: Chili Edition

I have distinct memories of little me holding onto my chest and begging my mom for some of her TUMS after enjoying a slice or two (or three…) of pizza. We would eat it often and I loved it. The indigestion and heartburn were a normal part of pizza enjoyment, I thought, and obviously, well worth it. My quest to quell the burn was a routine and only delayed if pouting was necessary- if the TUMS weren’t my preferred flavor. I would routinely chomp up the chalky tablets and think no more about it.

Fast forward to my early twenties, after graduating culinary school, where the heartburn problems continued. I could no longer ignore the burning pain that felt like a million fiery suns in my chest. I sought medical advice and given gluten intolerances were on the rise the doctor tested me to see if I too was being affected. I was a chef who had never had to worry about food allergies and I absolutely loved baking and hoped to open a bakery café someday. The thought of putting limits on my skill set and my dream was absolutely crushing. I sat on the floor of my kitchen and cried, awaiting the news. The call held good news and bad news for me—it was not a gluten intolerance or allergy, but they didn’t know why my stomach was “so angry.” Probably stress. While I was frustrated and still in pain, I didn’t question it. It seemed logical as being a chef does come with many stresses. I carried on, trying to avoid stress and too much coffee, and most days it felt like I single handedly kept the antacid industry afloat.

It was nearly a decade more before I finally had a break through. I was thirty and running a kosher kitchen at a conservative Jewish summer camp making a particularly delicious batch of baba ghanoush when some of the roasted eggplant splattered on my arm. Instantly, my arm was red, itchy, and a little blister formed on the skin. What?! It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen. Naturally, I wanted answers and once again sought medical advice, this time from my allergy and asthma doctor. Turns out still not technically “allergic” to eggplant, but if I reacted so strongly to it he suggested I should probably avoid it. And then he said something that made everything click…. “You are probably sensitive to nightshades.” The clouds parted and somewhere in the distance I swear I heard a chorus of heavenly voices. An epiphany!

Nightshades. A veritable slideshow flipped through my head of past meals enjoyed followed by pain; all those meals had contained eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes, the main members of the nightshade family. Why hadn’t I thought of it sooner? Well, nowhere to go but forward. I finally had a starting point and so began my adventures in nightshade free cooking. As a chef, you can imagine suddenly having to limit my food choices was sad, but ultimately a culinary challenge. I have the skill set to learn how to work around my new found dietary issues, sometimes I am successful and sometimes not. I am still learning and testing recipes and I am sure it will continue to be a process as I am continually finding out one of my beloved products has a surprise hidden nightshade in it. It proves to be one of the more challenging dietary restrictions I have encountered as a chef. I love me the nightshades and I miss them truly, but here I am, bound and determined to create some of my favorites without the pain.

Nightshade Free Chili is the first of these I feel I have mastered! It tastes and looks like chili without containing tomatoes, peppers, paprika, or even chili powder. Go ahead and give it a try one of these cold, dreary fall days and let me know what you think.

Plums and beets replace tomatoes and give this chili its color!

Dani’s Nightshade Free Chili

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print


  • Olive oil                                  1 tablespoon
  • Onion, medium diced         2 cups
  • Garlic, minced                      4  cloves
  • Parsnips, peeled & grated   2 cups
  • Carrots, peeled & grated     2 cups
  • Beet, peeled & grated          1 cup
  • Red Plums, pitted & diced  1 cup
  • Beef Bone Broth                   2 to 4 cups
  • Sea Salt                                  1 teaspoon
  • Garlic Salt & Parsley           1 tablespoon
  • Ground Cinnamon              1/8 teaspoons
  • Ground Cumin                     2 tablespoons
  • Black Pepper                        1 teaspoon
  • Liquid Smoke                       1 drop only
  • Prepared Horseradish        2 teaspoons
  • Ground Beef, cooked           1 pound
  • Canned Beans, drained       3 cans (I like a mix 1 black bean, 1 kidney, 1 pinto)


  1. Gather all your ingredients. Prepare all the vegetables and measure all the spices out. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat oil on medium high heat. Once oil is hot, sauté the diced onions until translucent.
  3. Add the minced garlic, grated parsnips and grated carrots to onions. Reduce heat and cook about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the grated beet and diced plums. Cook for about 5 additional minutes. These are what will give the chili its color (once it simmers—it will be bright pink at first! Do not worry!).
  5. Once all the vegetables have softened, add the bone broth (I start with half and then add more as it simmers, if necessary). Next add all the spices and seasonings. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes to begin to develop flavor.
  6. Remove pot from stove and set on a pot holder. Using an immersion blender, puree the cooked vegetables and broth mixture until smooth.
  7. Add the cooked ground beef and drained beans to the smooth sauce. Mix together and return to stove to simmer for an additional half hour.
  8. After simmer adjust seasonings, if needed.
  9. Enjoy chili hot and topped with cheddar and sour cream (if you’d like). Perfect served with a slice of fresh cornbread!

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