Introduction: Easy Lentil Chickpea Stew - in the Bread Machine

This is a not-very-spicy-but-spiced-just-enough Moroccan style stew, which is easy and quick to prepare in your bread machine.

It is also a firmly healthy option- it uses salt and oil sparingly, drawing its flavors from spices instead, and it is hard to find a healthier, low-calorie combination than lentils and chickpeas.

Lentils are excellent nutrition, with lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Chickpeas are also high in fiber and in protein. It doesn't hurt that they can both be very cheap, as well.

This makes about 4 very generous servings on its own, and more if it is served over a grain of some type.


1 tbs Olive oil

1 cup diced onion OR equivalent powdered onion

2 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp red pepper flakes

~2 tsp salt

several minced garlic cloves OR equivalent powdered garlic

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cans diced tomatoes, drained

1 carrot, sliced into rounds

1 cup red lentils

1 can chickpeas, drained

lemon juice to taste

Step 1: Why Cook This in the Bread Machine?

This is a very simple stew, and can easily be cooked over a stove-top or in a slow cooker.

The possible benefits of cooking this in a bread machine are:

  • Convenience- in it's simplest form, (and to be honest, the way I do it most often) you can just dump all of your ingredients into the pan, set a cook timer, and then wander off until it is done. It is very low effort, and the "Active time" is minimal, and even the oversight is negligible.
  • Energy constraints - Many people like to use smaller cooking options in the summer to avoid heating their kitchen by using exposed flames or their primary oven. The bread machine is a small, well insulated cooking method that is designed not to allow heat to escape. You won't feel the cooking heat from this recipe, only smell it as it finishes!
  • Space constraints - If you are cooking for a large group, then you may not have space on your stove to cook another dish. You can plug the bread machine in somewhere out of the way, and use the other appliances for dishes that really need fine control and attention.
  • Rule constraints - Many places like dorms or hotels have rules that do not allow exposed heating elements (like hot plates) but do allow enclosed cooking (like rice cookers or coffee pots). A bread machine allows a wider range of cooking options in an unobtrusive profile that is unlikely to draw an unwanted attention.

Step 2: Preheat Your Bread Machine and Prepare

A bread machine is optimized for convenience and automation, not for speed. This means that it takes its own sweet time to get ready. You need to start your bread machine before you begin, because the tiny little oven needs to heat up to an acceptable cooking temperature.

If you forget, or don't care to, it is only truely important if you intend on sauteing your onions (the optional next step). The stew won't be harmed if you add ingredients before it comes to proper cooking temperature, but it won't taste as well as it could.

On my machine, I use the 1 hour and 20 minute Jam cycle. The first 15-20 minutes of this cycle are the preheat and warm, so the actual cooking time is 1 hour.

If you don't have a Jam cycle, you can use a "Bake only" cycle which will heat, but does not stir as you cook. You can set the bake only cycle to at least an hour.

While you wait for your machine to heat up, this is a good time to gather your ingredients, drain the canned goods, and chop your vegetables. By the time you finish this, your machine should be hot and ready to cook.

Step 3: Optional: Saute Your Onions

I don't do this, because I don't care for the texture of cooked onions. I substitute onion powder instead in the next steps.

But if you do like cooked onions, then add the oil to the pan and let it heat for a few minutes, and then add your onions.

If you have timed this right, then your jam cycle should have fully kicked in, and your kneading paddles will begin to stir while cooking. Let the onions saute in the oil for 5 minutes or so.

If you are using the bake only cycle, then you need to stir them yourself.

Step 4: Add the Spices First (if You Want)

If you have not already added the oil in the previous step, then do so now and allow it to heat.

Now you have a decision to make- are you going to choose more flavor and slightly more work? Or are you going to choose convenience?

If you choose "slightly more flavor", then add the spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic) now to the heated oil and allow them to "bloom". Blooming your spices allows them release their flavors more effectively, because the heat allows the fat-soluble compounds to release, and then dissolve into the oil.

This is slightly more work because you will need to do some manual stirring because your paddles don't do well with the fine and sticky particles in the oil. You'll need to get in there and break them up.

Let them cook this way for about 2 minutes.

I strongly recommend the use of a solid silicon spatula inside a bread machine- it is soft sided and will not scratch your non-stick pan, and it has a certain amount of give to it. This is important if your paddles are stirring or kneading- you don't want to allow them to come into contact with something that could disrupt their alignment.

If you choose convenience, then add the spices in the next step.

Step 5: Add Most of the Ingredients

Pour in the broth, tomatoes, carrots, and lentils.

(If you chose "convenience" in the previous step, add the spices now, on top of the wet ingredients. They will be stirred in as the stew cooks. It is not as fancy as the other way, but it is very easy!)

The jam cycle will slowly stir the stew as it cooks, and will do an admirable job of making sure that nothing burns or scorches. The stew will thicken as it cooks down, but not so much that it will cause any problems with stirring.

You can safely leave this unattended for about 30 minutes as it cooks. After that time, check on it and see if the carrots and lentils have significantly softened. If yes, go on to the next step. If not, then cook a little longer.

If you are using the bake cycle, then you will need to manually stir on occasion in order to keep it from burning.

Step 6: Add the Chickpeas

Add the chick peas to the stew, and let simmer for about 15 minutes longer.

This takes longer in the bread machine than on the stove because we don't have fine control over the heat. In the traditional recipe, you would bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer, which cooks the lentils faster. This style is more akin to a slow cooker recipe, which uses lower heat and longer cooking times to accomplish the goal of fully cooked lentils and root vegetables.

You can use nearly any slow cooker recipe that uses the "high" setting in the bread machine, by the way.

Step 7: Serve and Enjoy!

This stew is quite hearty and filling, and while it does not require it, it goes well with a grain. In this version, I served it over couscous, but rice is always a fine choice as well. You can also serve it with bread.

To garnish, you can add a little extra olive oil over the top, or lemon juice as you like it. You can also add a dollop of yogurt or a dash of cilantro if you are feeling fancy. Or all of the above. Go nuts.

Like nearly all stews, this stores very well, and it might be even better if left in the refrigerator over night, letting the flavors blend and merge.

You can reheat your stew in the bread machine, following the same techniques with the jam or the bake cycle. It will take the preheat cycle longer to come up to temperature, since you are starting with quite a bit of cold mass, but when it does, you can simply take it out of the machine and end the cycle early. No need to cook it twice, after all!

If you freeze the stew, however, don't try to reheat it in the bread machine. Let it thaw to cool or room temperature, and then heat- the machine probably won't have the power to handle a block of frozen ice and stew.

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