Part II of the June Conscious Box review is on its way, but first, a story.
It’s been a long road to this chili. Not a difficult road, but a long, tasty road. You could say this is now my official chili recipe. For the first few years I lived away from home, my chili was exactly like my mom’s. Then I started experimenting with shredded chicken breast instead of ground beef. And then I started doing crazy things like adding onions and jalapenos and diced tomatoes, all of which would have caused a major revolt (led by me) in our household had my mom tried it. Finally, I ditched the chicken in favor of an all-bean recipe.
But that made for a lot of beans. A lot. And after a few rounds, my husband suggested we figure out a less bean-y version. Replacing part of the beans with carrots seemed like a good solution, but I didn’t want to use so many that it was more carrot stew than chili. Then I remembered we had a vacuum-sealed pouch of cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s hanging around. I think my husband intended them for a lentil burger experiment, but the chili was a great success and my fridge theft was thus forgiven. We couldn’t find the lentils again (this is the trouble with Trader Joe’s) so I switched to dried, which is cheaper and requires no extra effort for this particular recipe.
The best part? Using a slow cooker means a satisfying dinner and tons of leftovers without having the stove and/or oven on when it’s 85 degrees.
And that, friends, is the absolutely fascinating story of lentil chili.
Lentil & Bean Slow Cooker Chili
I should mention that I have a 7-quart slow cooker and a husband who loves leftovers, so this makes a giant batch of chili.
- 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
- 2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 2 cans diced tomatoes*
- 4 cups vegetable stock*
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
- 5 heaping tablespoons regular chili powder (or hot, if that’s your thing–though I would probably use less)
- 1 tablespoon ground guajillo chile**
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 generous teaspoon red chile flakes (or more, to taste)
- healthy pinch or two of kosher salt
Dump everything into your slow cooker. Give it a stir, set the cooker to low, and come back later. Later for us usually means between five and seven hours.
I often make a pot of whole wheat macaroni to go along with the chili. Chili mac was one of my favorites growing up, and it’s a great way to stretch the batch. To avoid mushy pasta, I keep the macaroni and chili separate until ready to serve rather than mixing it all together.
* I try my best to find the low-sodium versions when I’m buying canned goods like tomatoes and stock. If you can’t, you might want to swap the stock for water and be a little more liberal with the kosher salt. It’s the sodium in processed products that’s the problem—it’s nearly impossible for a home cook to salt something enough to produce the crazy percentages we see on product labels. I hate to sound all righteous and whatnot, but if spending an hour or two making vegetable stock is something you have time for, I have discovered it’s well worth it.
** Guajillo chiles are popular in Mexican cooking. It’s not a critical element of the recipe, but since I have it on hand I use it. Ground anchos or chipotles would be another option.