Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.
I posted this picture on Instagram a few weeks ago (for my Red Lentil Curry), and someone asked if it was red lentil chili. “No, but GOOD IDEA,” I replied.
The rest is history. I couldn’t shake the thought from my mind.
Origins of Chili
While many think chili is a dish that was created in Mexico, apparently that’s not where it originated! Who knew?
However, one ingredient central to chili – chilies – first originated in Central or South America. They were then grown in Mexico and became an important ingredient in Mexican cuisine. So we get the confusion!
The exact origin of the dish chili isn’t clear, but most historians trace its roots to San Antonio, Texas. You can take a deeper dive into the history of chili here.
About This Red Lentil Chili
This chili comes just in time for these last few wintry days before spring arrives (at least here in the Pacific Northwest).
It’s simple, requiring just 1 pot, basic ingredients, and comes together in less than 1 hour.
I’ve been inspired by some Indian cooking methods I’ve been researching lately involving a mortar and pestle. Instead of just mincing or chopping your vegetables, spices, and herbs, you grind them together so their flavor is more intense and more evenly distributed throughout the dish.
Of course, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a small food processor or just finely mince. I just love this method, and now that I’ve discovered it, I can’t stop!
In addition to red lentils – which are full of fiber, protein, folate, and magnesium (just to name a few) – I also included black beans (another great source of folate and fiber) and kidney beans (which are especially high in iron and vitamin B1).
This isn’t one of those soup-like chilis that’s mostly tomatoes. This is chock full of lentils, beans, and corn, and is thick and stew-like in texture – my favorite.
I hope you love this chili! It’s:
Not too spicy
Make this dish for a crowd, as it’s especially great for hosting. Or make a batch over the weekend and enjoy it for lunch throughout the week.
If you try this recipe, let us know! It helps us and other readers so much. Leave a comment it, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram so we can see your creations. Cheers, friends!
1-Pot Red Lentil Chili
- 2 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium red pepper, diced
- 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper (divided // plus more to taste)
- 1 small jalapeño, diced with seeds (remove seeds or reduce or omit for less heat)
- 4 cloves garlic (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp)
- 3 Tbsp chili powder blend (divided // NOT chili flakes, cayenne pepper, or pure chili)
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin (divided)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes (if unsalted, add more sea salt)
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 ¾ cup water (plus more as needed)
- 3/4 cup dry red lentils thoroughly rinsed in cold water + drained
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans (slightly drained)
- 1 15-ounce can black beans (slightly drained)
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar (or maple syrup)
- 1 15-ounce can corn, drained (optional)
FOR SERVING optional
- DIY Chili “Cheese” Fritos
- Rice or Quinoa
- Fresh chopped cilantro
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, and red pepper. Season with a healthy pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add jalapeño and garlic to a mortar and pestle and crush into a rough paste (alternatively, blend in a small food processor, or finely mince). Add to the pot with onion and red pepper, and season with another pinch salt and pepper.
- Add 2/3 of the chili powder (2 Tbsp as original recipe is written), half of the cumin (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written), paprika, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and water, and stir to combine. Bring to a low boil over medium high heat.
- Once boiling, add lentils and reduce heat to medium-low or low, so it’s at a gentle simmer. You want to see bubbles, but you don’t want it boiling. Cook for 15 minutes, or until lentils are mostly tender. As it’s cooking you may need to add more water if the mixture is looking too dry and the lentils aren’t submerged (I didn’t find that necessary).
- Next add kidney beans, black beans, 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper, and remaining cumin (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written) and chili powder (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written), and stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat slightly to low (or medium-low), add corn (optional), cover, and gently simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors together. Stir occasionally.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more chili powder or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, or a little coconut sugar to balance the heat and draw out the other flavors.
- Serve as is, or garnished with chili cheese fritos, fresh jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, and/or avocado (optional).
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 4 days, and in the freezer up to 1 month. Reheat on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
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