I tend to eat a lot of lentils, and also constantly experiment with vegetarian chili, but hadn’t combined the concepts until recently. I have no idea why I waited, because lentils (though good in a million things, as many of my recipes will eventually show) were made for chili. They are a perfect, uber-healthy substitute for ground beef without the artery clogging and intestinal irritation. This also cooks up fairly quickly if you have pre-cooked red beans on hand (or have canned beans, which even I use from time to time). There is also some great potential to mix this with my Perfect Vegan Mac and Cheese for a vegan version of that all-time white trash favorite: chili mac. If you want to make that, just layer the chili on top of the mac and cheese and then add the breadcrumb topping before baking. Simple.
*You will notice that this recipe starts with cooked red beans but uncooked lentils. That is because lentils require very little cooking time, and you’re not going to find them pre-cooked in any grocery store anyway. For the sake of convenience, I am using canned/jarred red beans for this recipe, which can take at least an hour to cook (and that is after soaking overnight).
175 grams (1 cup) uncooked lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp of chili spice mixture (I make my own with 3 tbsp chili powder, 3 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp cayenne. I keep it sealed in my spice cabinet and it’s always ready to dump into my recipes.)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
OPTIONAL: however many jalepenos you like, minced. In the US, I would use two, but they are very difficult to find here in Europe, so I opt for an additional dash of cayenne.
400 grams (2 cups) cooked red/kidney beans
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 meduim-sized roma tomatoes or 4 large-sized heirloom, chopped (or you can use a standard 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes; I wanted to use up some fresh tomatoes in my fridge for this, and it turned out better than canned tomatoes, though).
750 mL (about 3 cups) veggie stock
Salt to taste
*Parboil the lentils. In a medium skillet on high heat, place the lentils and 2 cups (480 mL) water and bring to a boil. DO NOT SALT THEM! Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for about 12 minutes. You can do this while you’re prepping the veggies or starting the chili on another burner.
*Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
*Add spice mixture and heat until fragrant. Should make a bit of a paste in your pan. This will only take a minute or so.
*Add onions and peppers (including jalapenos if you’re using them) and cook to translucent, 5-7 minutes.
*Add garlic and cook for about a minute more.
*Add parboiled lentils, red beans, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, and stock. Add salt to taste. Stir well.
*Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and partially cover (with slight gap in the lid).
*Simmer for 20-25 minutes.
*Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving up. Adjust salt if necessary.