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Poor Man's No-Meat Lentil Chili

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Don't get me wrong. I love meat. Probably more than you do. But unfortunately, meat is typically expensive and a pain to prepare.

-Enter the lentil-

Lentils are amazing. Sorta like beans, they are super cheap when you buy them in bulk (~$1/lb or less). They also make a fantastic meat substitute. Cooked on their own, they don't really have a taste, but they will acquire the taste of whatever you cook them with. Green ones have a meaty texture, while red ones cook down into a refried beans texture. They are full of protein and lots of other stuff that I won't bore you with.

This is probably one of the easiest, most healthy, tastiest chilies you will ever eat. I've had people taste it and say they would pay money to eat it at a restaurant. The beauty of it too is that you can add literally whatever you want to it. This is just a framework.

YOU WILL NEED
  • 1 cup each dry red and green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 a can/jar of spaghetti sauce (any kind will do)
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bouillon cube, chicken or beef works best
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
This is the bare minimum required for the chili. 

OPTIONAL STUFF
  • 1-2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 whole bunch of celery, diced
  • Carrots, diced
  • Spicy stuff (Aleppo pepper works very well for this)
  • etc etc...

Now on to the good stuffs. 

Dissolve bouillon cube in the water. In a large pot with a lid, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add in any veggies (unless you are using canned tomatoes, don't add those yet). Cook the veggies in the bottom of the pot for about 5 minutes. Add everything else to the pot. Stir until the chili powder is dissolved. Cover the pot and raise the heat to high. When the chili begins to boil, reduce heat to low (2-3 on the dial if you have one that goes to 9-10). Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let sit with the lid on for another 30 minutes. 

This makes a lot of chili, at least enough for 5-6 large servings. It's much cheaper than buying canned chili, tastes better, and is way better for you. If you added spicy stuff, the longer you keep it, the hotter it will get. Leftovers last at least a week in the fridge, although you probably won't be able to make it last that long. 

This is fantastic with scrambled eggs for breakfast, as a side dish, or as a main dish with some mozzarella on top. If you try this with anything I haven't listed added to it, please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out!
voltan2 years ago
One cup EACH red and green lentils, or one cup TOTAL between the two?
elmotactics (author)  voltan1 year ago
One cup each, like it says.
Nirgal382 years ago
I was making "shortcut" chili once by using canned beans. I discovered I'd grabbed the wrong cans and was looking at two open cans of lentil soup. I shrugged and decided I might as well add them.

Now we don't make chili with beans anymore. We call the recipe "Accidental Lentil Chili." :)

I'll have to give this one a try.
Denzelian2 years ago
Lentils make for great tacos too.
I cook lots of Indian food with lentils, but I never thought to use them in chili. Great idea!
elmotactics (author)  jessyratfink2 years ago
I got introduced to lentils through Indian food, specifically Dahl. This came about as an attempt to make a soup that ended up more like a chili. I think the part I like most about them is how cheap they are (don't buy them in pre-packaged bags).
We love lentils also.