Lentil Mushroom Chili with Optional Ground Beef Recipe

Whether you have a party, potluck or chili cook-off coming up, a warming pot of chili is a welcome contribution. It’s always great to whip up a pot of chili over the weekend and have meals for the week ahead, too. You know your own family’s special food needs, of course, but when bringing a dish to an event, you never know how many vegetarians may be in the group or if some folks need gluten-free options. In this chili, you can satisfy both meat lovers and vegetarians, and there is also a variation to make it gluten free.

Mushrooms are the meat of the vegetable world, especially when minced and sautéed with a touch of soy sauce, says Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell, who created this recipe for Real Food. So the chili gets a little meaty boost from mushrooms. As a twist, this recipe includes lentils, which cook more quickly than most dry beans and are an economical source of protein and healthy fiber. To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute gluten-free tamari for the soy sauce. For those who enjoy meat in their chili, an individual can add cooked ground beef to their serving. Hopefully everyone will be warmed and happy.

Lentil Mushroom Chili with Optional Ground Beef

Makes 8 servings

1 cup brown or green lentils
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 ounces ground beef per person
ground pepper, to taste

1. In a 4-quart pot, bring lentils, carrots, water or stock, and bay leaf to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook 45 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms; cook and stir until mushrooms are browned and shrunken, about 5 minutes. The pan should be dry. Add garlic and soy sauce and cook until pan is dry again. Set aside.

3. Test lentils; they should be falling-apart tender. Add green pepper, tomatoes, chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, oregano and salt. Simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in reserved mushroom sauté and simmer until heated through.

4. In a sauté pan, heat beef over high heat and break up with a spatula while stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir beef into each meat eater’s bowl as chili is served.

Nutrition Info
• Lentil Mushroom Chili (per serving): CALORIES 144 (24 From Fat); FAT 3g (Sat. 0g); CHOL 0mg; SODIUM 446mg; CARB 24g; FIBER 7g; PROTEIN 9g
• With Optional Ground Beef (per serving): CALORIES 237 (74 From Fat); FAT 8g (Sat. 2g); CHOL 36mg; SODIUM 471mg; CARB 24g; FIBER 7g; PROTEIN 19g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.