Vegetarian Chili with Red Lentils – Cold days call for a bowl of warm, spicy chili. This healthier vegetarian chili calls for red lentils and lots of veggies instead of meat. It’s perfect for meatless Mondays, or any day of the week!
Cold winter days, like it’s been here the past few days, call for a hot bowl of spicy chili. When I was in high school, one of our fundraisers was a chili feed during football games. We’d come in from the cold to the cafeteria and get our bowl of piping hot chili and a homemade gooey caramel cinnamon roll. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I still think caramel rolls go with chili. Sweet and spicy always do. I don’t know how they made the chili, but it was good – ground beef simmered with tomatoes, peppers, spices and beans.
Since then I’ve learned that “true” chili doesn’t include beans, at least Texas chili doesn’t. I hail from much further north and we always included beans in our chili. So, I wonder what they’d say about my recipe today that includes beans, but no meat. Wait, what? No meat? That’s right. This isn’t your everyday chili con carne with added beans, we’re talking about vegetarian chili.
In lieu of the meatless Monday trend, plus the fact that I’m trying to move my family to less meat overall and a more plant-based diet – I took the meat out. However, chili does need more than beans, tomatoes, and spices, don’t you think? I believe so, which is why I added red lentils instead of meat. Red lentils are budget friendly (about $1.89/lb. at my local grocery store) easy to work with. They cook up quickly and add a good dose of healthy plant protein to this vegetarian chili. In fact, a half cup of dry lentils adds about 26 grams of protein. They’re also high in fiber, and a good source of iron and folate, all while being low in fat and calories. That’s a winner in my book.
I make this Vegetarian Chili with red lentils and lots of fresh vegetables, like onions, carrots, tomatoes, and of course, hot peppers – and top it with my Cilantro Lime Crema. It is a little more work than just opening a few cans of beans and tomatoes, but it’s well worth it. Using fresh vegetables adds flavor, texture, and nutrients. And it really doesn’t take that much longer if you prep your veggies ahead of time. However, if you’re really in a hurry, feel free to use canned tomatoes and chili peppers; and for the record, I do use canned beans. This chili also freezes very well if you have leftovers or make a large batch.
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Next time you’re hungry for a bowl of chili, why not try a vegetarian chili with red lentils instead of meat? It’ll be a nice change. Kind of like going from Texas chili (with no beans) to up-north chili, where we serve it with beans (and a gooey caramel cinnamon roll). Enjoy!
Vegetarian Chili with Red Lentils
- 2 tsp. Olive oil
- 1 Small onion chopped (about 1 to 1 1/2 c.)
- 1/2 large Poblano or Hatch chili pepper chopped
- 1 Jalapeno pepper finely chopped
- 2 Carrots chopped (about 1/2 to 2/3 c.)
- 2 Garlic cloves minced
- 1 Tbsp. Chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. Ancho chili powder **
- 4 c. Chopped fresh tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. Dry red wine
- 1/2 c. Red lentils uncooked and rinsed
- 1 1/2 c. Water
- 1 - 15 oz. Can of black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 - 15 oz. Can of kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1/2 c. Sliced black olives
- Heat the 2 tsp. olive oil on medium-high in a 3.5 qt. Dutch oven or other large pot. Add onion, peppers, and carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more while stirring.
- Sprinkle chili powder and ancho chili powder over the hot vegetables and mix in thoroughly.
- Stir in chopped fresh tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Remove cover. Pour in red wine, lentils, water, black beans, kidney beans, and black olives. Simmer on medium-low for about another 20 minutes until lentils and soft and tender.
- Serve immediately with Cilantro Lime Crema or sour cream.