Vegetarian Lentil Chili is an easy dinner idea that's each member of the family can customize with a few quick add-ons. It's one of our 20 minute meal ideas, made from scratch, that you can serve family style!
Nothing beats a festive DIY food bar at a party, so it only makes sense to bring that party to your family dinner table. Tonight's 20 minute meal features a vegetarian lentil chili board you can serve family style. This is such a simple, please-everyone dinner, perfect for cleaning out the pantry toward the end of the week.
Don't be turned off by the seemingly lengthy list of ingredients. It may seem like a lot but, rest assured, these are simple, everyday inputs you most likely have kicking around your cupboards already.
Quick Cooking Lentils Are The Key
Lentils are really the powerhouse of this dish and they seem to be popping up everywhere! They're cheap, versatile, easy to cook and, as a bonus, cook quite quickly! They're a significant source of fiber and protein and such a complementary replacement for ground meat. This recipe calls for red lentils, which will cook the quickest. You could try green or brown but likely will need to add cooking time.
And while this is an incredibly rich and flavourful meal in just 20 minutes, those flavours will only intensify with a little more simmer time on the stove. Don't skip the roasted peppers — they're what help give the chili more depth without the lengthy cook time. The spice measurements are intentionally formulated to just use the teaspoon, saving switching between measuring spoons. Always taste along the way and ensure your palate is enjoying the flavours.
Chili Topping Ideas
The toppings are really the playfulness of the meal. Kids will love seeing fish or bunny crackers on the table. This vegetarian lentil chili board is about opening the fridge and pantry and using up all those little leftover bits. Crackers, Greek yogurt, scallions, tomato are all alternative toppings that could be swapped in. Think textures and building a layer of profiles: sweet, salty, sour, creamy. To make the meal even more substantial you could easily throw some bread, buns or a French loaf on the table.
So the next time you find yourself faced pressed for time on a busy weeknight, try this vegetarian lentil chili board. Not only will you have a happy family with full bellies, you get the added bonus of a clean pantry.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small to medium onion
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 4 teaspoons chilli powder
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 roasted peppers
- 1 680 ml jar strained tomatoes
- 1 398 ml can black beans
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 tablespoon dark balsamic vinegar glaze (substitute: 1 tablespoon dark balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar)
- 1 cup favourite grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, marble, etc.)
- 1 lime
- 1 avocado
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- ½ cup (small handful) of fresh cilantro
- Other optional toppings: goldfish crackers, potato chips, Tobasco, chilli flakes, jalepeno
- Boil a kettle with 1.5L of water. Place two pots on stove, one larger (enough to hold the chili) and one medium to cook the lentils. Add the oil to the larger pot. Turn both pots on low/medium heat.
- While waiting for kettle to boil, rough chop the onion, carrots and celery into quarters and put in food processor. With the flat side of a chef's knife, smash the garlic clove, remove the skin and add to the processor. Run the processor until you have a fine mince. Add contents to the larger pot and turn heat to med/high.
- Add the lentils to the smaller pot and cover with boiled kettle water. Use caution as the pot will be hot and it will bubble up. Turn the lentils to medium/high and simmer until tender, about 7 minutes.
- Add the smoked paprika, chilli powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the minced vegetables. Stir well so all the vegetables are coated.
- While spices are being toasted, to the same processor add the strained tomatoes and three roasted peppers. Run until smooth and then add to the spiced vegetables. Fill the empty tomato jar with water, screw on lid and shake. Add about ¾ of the tomato water to the chili.
- While the lentils cook, rinse the black beans and measure out corn. Add to the chili. Drain lentils and also add to the chili, stirring well. Keep heat on medium to medium/high.
- While the chili is simmering, prepare the toppings. Grate one cup of favourite melty cheese and put it directly on a board. Cut lime into 8 sections. Cut avocado in half, remove pit and score crosswise each half. Using a spoon, scoop out flesh into small container and place on board. Measure out sour cream into small dish for board. Rinse and break off stems of cilantro and add to board.
- Other optional toppings can be placed in small bowls and added to board or table.
- Just before serving, add the balsamic glaze (or balsamic vinegar and sugar) and stir well into chili.
- To assemble simply transfer the chili from stove top to the board (add a trivet underneath) and let everyone build their own chili bowls.
Looking for More 20-Minute Meal Ideas?
- Fish Tacos, Slaw and Avocado Crema
- Mini Ricotta Meatballs Over Lemon Rice and Peas
- Pork Tenderloin Sliders and Blue Cheese Slaw
Lisa Bolton is food stylist, recipe developer and creator of beautiful food boards. You can find her work at lisadawnbolton.com. She lives in the Lower Mainland of BC. Her first cookbook, On Boards, (affiliate link) is due to be released by Appetite by Penguin Random House in October 2018 and is available for pre-order. You can reach her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.