Microwave Cooking: Vegetarian Chilli

I moved into the flat just over two months ago. As I've said there is no kitchen yet, or none that is recognisable, but I do have a fridge with a small freezer compartment and a microwave. More recently I've also acquired a mini oven, but until then all my cooking was in the microwave.

I know that bar the cake-in-a-mug meme microwave cooking usually causes a shudder to run down anybody's spine, but I've honestly become a bit of a convert. Rice for example: the microwave method is so reliable and easy I don't think I will go back to cooking rice on the hob. 

My mother taught me to cook by technique: fry, sauté, braise, stew, reduction, bake, roast and so on; I still think of cooking in these terms and that's how I approached the microwave as a cooking tool. Now a microwave can't give you the crispy factor of a fry/bake/roast but the wet methods steam/sauté/boil/simmer are in reach. I have been using these methods to adapt things I would otherwise make in conventional ways for the microwave, and this is the first I'll share: vegetable chilli.


1 tbsp of oil of your choice

1 small onion, or two shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 pepper (I used half red, half yellow), cubed

1 tsp each: paprika (preferably smoked) and cumin (seeds or ground)

1/2 tsp chilli flakes, or more to taste

1 400g can each: chopped tomatoes, corn, mixed beans

Seasoning to taste

My microwave is a 850W model and I cook most of my microwave meals in a Bodum Hot Pot

  1. Put the oil onion and garlic into an oven proof dish, loosely cover and heat on full power for 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so. This is the equivalent of a sauté; high heat and regular stirring. I either time each 60sec blast or keep an eye on the timer and pull it our mid-way. The former allows you to wander away and do something else, because unlike regular cooking a microwave cuts out so nothing is going to get burnt if you do so.
  2. Add the pepper, stir and return for another 3 min stirring halfway.
  3. Add the spices, heat for another 2 min.
  4. Add the canned vegetables, season and stir. We now want to simmer the chilli to develop the spices, concentrate the flavours and thicken the texture. This is a bit fiddly in the microwave. I found the best method was to heat on high for 5min, stir and then allow it to sit for 5 min cooking in the residual heat. I repeated this 4 times. Alternatively you could cook for a more continuous period on reduced power, say 20min at 50% and see how that goes. By the end of the cooking you should have a pretty thick chilli, so if it needs to reduce further zap it a bit longer.
  5. Serve with any or all of the following: (microwave) rice; tortilla wraps; salad; avocado/guacamole; sour cream/yoghurt/riata; cheese.