Every now and then I’ll go a on a vegan kick. It never lasts long, but it usually has me on the lookout for great, hearty tasting vegan recipes. I created this recipe last summer after I tasted some delicious Madras Lentils. What I love about this dish is that it really can be either dressed up with other Indian food, or it can be played up with Mexican flavors.
The secret to building flavor in this without adding meat or butter, is to caramelize the onions. It takes a little longer, but add so much depth to the overall flavor, you’ll be happy you spent the extra time. Plus, when you caramelize them, you don’t have to make them perfect—they can be browned around the edges instead of a uniform golden color. The main goal is to just get those sugars in the onions showcased.
I usually make this with brown lentils—the chili ends up looking more like chili that way. Unfortunately, my health food store had only green lentils. You of course, could make these with any kind of lentils you want, but if you’re hoping your meat eaters will try this, you may want to locate some brown ones.
My favorite thing about a big pot of this is storing leftovers in small, individual serving size containers, and then freezing them. I have easy access to them for whenever I want to go on a vegan kick for lunch.
Vegan Lentil Chili
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
6-8 cups water
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 14 ounce can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, for garnish
1. In a large heavy bottomed pot set over low heat, add in onions and oil. Let cook for 15-20 minutes until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Add in garlic and lentils. Stir in spices and cook a minute more. Cover with water, and stir in tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer on low for 45 minutes to an hour.
2. Take half of the kidney beans and add to the pot. Take the other half and crush into a paste with a fork. Add to the pot. Let simmer for 20-40 minutes more, or until lentils are soft and the chili is the consistency you want. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.