When I first stopped eating meat, 6 whole months ago, I had this idea that I would just continue cooking all of my favorite meals and just leave out the meat. Super simple. Except for that Beef commercial I booked one month later (hey, I'm a capitalist first) things were pretty simple. Chicken stir fry became veggie stir fry. Chicken soup became veggie soup (not for Rich, he's "not a quitter"). But then my little trick became, well, trickier. You see I'm not a fan of fake meats. If you give up meat, why are you in such a hurry to eat a "burger." Maybe try eating more vegetables? So without fake meat at my disposal, some of my favorite dishes became hard to adapt to my new diet. For example chicken paprikash did not become veggie paprikash... it became disgusting red vegetable gloup. Braised beef short ribs? Let's not even go there...
Don't get me wrong, I love my veggies and there are endless amazing vegetarian dishes that I have seriously started mastering, but steak.... is still steak. And while cauliflower steaks with smoked cauliflower puree (recipe coming soon) are delicious, you can only eat so many grilled vegetables before considering suicide.
I have tried a lot of vegetarian chili recipes and to be honest, none of them are bad.... they just aren't chili. At least not by the standard definition of flavor profile. Sure, chili pretty much tastes like chili. It's beans and spices, but when you leave out the meat, you lose that comforting, warm THING that feels good in your mouth. You know, that thing chili is all about. What is that thing, you ask? That thing is lentils.
Yup. LENTILS! Bet you didn't see that coming, carnivores.
This recipe is actually VEGAN. It's crazy, I know. I made a dish Fiona Apple would eat. But don't stop reading yet. I fed it to our uber-carnivorous roommate Michael (yup, we're married with roommates) and he didn't even realize it was missing meat... it's that tasty.
five bean chili.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped..... use one whole RED bell pepper. It doesn't matter- go crazy!!
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups lentils, cooked
1 can black beans, drained
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 28oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot (I use a Le Creuset dutch oven because my husband loves me and bought me one) heat olive oil and sauté onions and bell pepper over medium heat until golden. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients.... the beans, the lentils, the spices.... you name it and mix them all together. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat to low and let cook for 30 minutes or so until all of the flavors are combined.
this is how I roll.
And, if you're like me and you're ok with making your vegan friends happy and jealous all in one bowl- pile on the cheddar cheese, greek yogurt (extra protein!) and avocado on your own bowl and I dare you to miss the meat!
If you're vegan? Add some sliced green onions and avocado and try not to cry at how much better my bowl looks with ten tons of cheddar on it.