Hearty Lentil Chili

This chili is a slightly adapted vegan rendition of my mother’s wonderful lentil stew. Mom’s version had things like sausage and smoked cheese, giving it a delightfully smoky and fatty flavor. It was the perfect meal for a cold winter day. Since becoming vegetarian, we have experimented with adding things like veggie sausage, which didn’t work very well. Recently, I have found that going back to the basics makes it taste delicious. There are tons of ways to make this stew, but essentially what you need are lentils, veggies, tomatoes, and spices. Today I made it the way described below, and thought it was the most delicious I’ve made so far.

Particularly, I was very happy with the purple sweet potato texture, and fortunately had these made from yesterday.  These sweet potatoes are really awesome, I had never seen them before. Certainly regular sweet potatoes would work as well.

Ingredients
– 1 cup of lentils (any type works, I like French lentils)
– 1 can of stewed tomatoes (I really like to use fire-roasted if possible. Alternatively, strained tomatoes also work,        or just plain stewed tomatoes. Look for BPA-free cans or buy tomatoes in glass jars)
– 1 onion
– 6 large cloves of garlic
– 2 medium sized carrots
– a handful of parsley
– 1 large cooked purple sweet potato (this gives it a nice meaty texture)
– olive oil
– seasonings (salt, pepper, turmeric, thyme, za’atar, dried chili flakes)

Heat about a spoonful of oil in a large soup bowl. Add the chopped garlic and onion and stir for a couple minutes, until fragrant. Add in the chopped carrots and stir. Rinse the lentils and add them into the pot, stirring for less than a minute. Add in about 3 cups of water and the tomatoes and let cook for about 10 minutes. You can now add in the chopped parsley and the seasonings. The lentils take about 20 minutes to cook; once they are about ready, add in the chopped purple sweet potato, and cook for some extra time.

lentil chili

The trick is to let it sit for about an hour before eating; this way the flavors soak up. This sitting isn’t entirely necessary, but you will see that the soup tastes better over time- the next day, you will have the most awesome leftovers ever!

For those who are not vegan, adding sausage and smoky cheese is always an option, but make sure you don’t put too much salt if you will add the cheese. For vegetarians, you can pan fry some chunks of veggie sausage and add it in to the soup once it’s been cooked- make sure you don’t try to cook the veggie sausage directly in the soup, or it will come out soggy. chewy, and really unpleasant.

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