“Meatless?” That was hubbys reaction when I said we’re having vegetarian chili but after few bites I won him over.
I had my doubts a little too when I first made this chili as I’m always a little skeptical of dishes that are changed to an extreme to make them “healthier.” Like substituting chocolate with something that resembles chocolate but ingredients are far from chocolate? Not a fan. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m all about clean eating but changing a recipe to a point to make it so healthy that half of the ingredients are man made and not even real? Not a fan.
So when the idea of lentil chili came about it sounded delish and scary. I wasn’t really substituting anything with man made but taking something out that was kinda of THE main ingredient. Chili without the meat? How can that be? Chili has this distinct chunky taste and texture and to be able to replicate that with lentils, I wasn’t so sure but after one bite I forgot what I was missing. Hearty, chunky, and thick that’s what this lentil chili is all about.
Packed with all the traditional chili ingredients: onions, red bell pepper, garlic, tomatoes, and chili powder. I could’ve used kidney or pinto beans instead of lentils but lentils are quick and easy to prepare and absorb flavors really well from other seasonings and foods. So the chili comes out really well seasoned and flavorful.
My new favorite thing is to thicken the soup with soup. In this case chili. I pureed about 3 cups of cooked chili in a food processor and dumped it back into the pot of chili. It thickened the chili really well, making it really hearty and just perfect for a cold fall day. Topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, croutons, tortilla chips, or chopped avocados = Perfection!
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tsp. chili powder
- 1 (16 oz.) bag of brown lentils
- 2 (14.5 oz.) cans no-salt diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 (32 oz.) cartons vegetable stock or chicken stock
- ⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Optional toppings: sour cream, cheddar cheese, croutons, tortilla chips, avocado
- In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and red bell pepper; saute the vegetables for 8 minutes or until onion is soft and lightly browned.
- Stir in garlic and chili powder; cook for 1 minute.
- Add lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
- Transfer 3 cups of cooked chili into a food processor and process until pureed; add the pureed chili back into the remaining chili and stir to combine. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- Stir in cilantro and serve.
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