Lentil chili is this simple. It requires just one pot (hallelujah!), some basic ingredients, is totally flexible and comes together in less than 1 hour. And most of that time you can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine… ahem, I mean cup of tea. Yes, this one-pot wonder is that easy, plus it’s packed with lots of good things to boot. There’s protein and fiber-rich lentils, an equal amount of one of my favorite grains, sweet red pepper, and all those things that make it a chili: tomatoes of course, fresh chilies, cumin and a smidgen of cacao to give it the con carne–sans carne–effect. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget my last addition… oh-so-trendy and absolutely good for you, superfood kale.
Ultra flexible one-pot lentil chili
Chili is about one of the easiest and more versatile stews to make. You can use fresh chilies or dried chili powder (I’m think 2 teaspoons to be exact), throw in some corn for a little more tex-mex flair, sub out Grünkern for middle eastern freekeh — both have a fantastic sweet, nutty chewiness to them — or even use quinoa instead. And then again, you could do something crazy and skip the grains all together and instead toss in some sweet potato. Yes, the possibilities are endless.
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 small yellow onions, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
2 fresh red chilies, deseeded, membranes removed, and sliced
2 x 400 g cans organic chopped tomatoes
250 ml beef broth (alternatively use vegetable broth)
500 ml water, plus more as needed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon raw cacao powder (see notes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 cup dry brown lentils (Bernstein- oder Tellerlinsen) (150 g)
3/4 cup dried Grünkern (150 g)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch kale, stems removed and torn into pieces
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions, red pepper and chili. Sauté until the onions start to become translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes, broth, water, bay leaves, cacao and cumin. Stir to combine, then add the lentils and grünkern.
3. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat slightly to low (or medium-low), then reduce heat to low cook, covered, for 35-40 minutes, adding more water to dilute if needed (this also depends on how thick and stew-like in texture you like your chili). Towards the end of the cooking time, season with salt, pepper, and add the minced garlic.
4. Stir in the kale leaves and heat gently until wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Depending your preference feel free to add a little chili powder or up the cumin for more smokiness, Season with additional salt and pepper, as desired. Serve on it’s own or with crusty bread. Enjoy!
- This is a mild chili, if you would like more spice, leave the chili membranes/white pith intact. That’s where a chile pepper’s spicy heat comes! And if you are really keen, feel free to add a third chili.
- I used a little beef broth in this recipe to give this lentil chili extra depth of flavor, of course if you are following a vegetarian of vegan diet, replace this with vegetable broth.
- Often unsweetened cocoa in used in American-style chili con carne to add an extra layer of flavor. It’s bitterness helps balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes. Since I only ever have raw cacao powder on hand, I use that. Either type is fine.
- Feel free to use swiss chard or spinach in place of kale.
- Grünkern takes about 30 minutes to cook (as do the lentils). If you choose to replace it with another grain, then take care to adjust cooking time or prepare the grain ahead of time and add at the end.