A few weeks ago my sweetie and I were out to dinner, and chili was on the menu. ‘We should make more chili’ I told him, and he agreed. This simple vegan chili recipe was a result of that conversation. A few days later I tossed all the ingredients together haphazardly for a quick dinner, and it turned out spectacularly well. In fact, it turned out so well that I made it again the same week, this time taking measurements so that I could be sure to share it!
This is a decidedly different vegan chili recipe, featuring a fusion of classic chili ingredients and other ingredients that might surprise you, without any fake meat products or artificial flavors. There are so many fun ingredients here!
One of the protein bases is lentils, not often found in chili. But they make for a incredible thick texture, perfect for feeding omnivorous friends that might prefer a meat-based chili. Red lentils cook quicker than brown, but you can use either (just adjust the cooking time to allow the brown to cook fully). Lentils are nutritional powerhouses too, so your body will be happy.
Other ingredients in this vegan chili recipe include Macrobiotic-inspired ingredients like adzuki beans and kabocha pumpkin, might seem a little weird at first. But, I promise the pumpkin and two types of beans work together in harmony with the spices to create a warm, cozy, healing dish, offering healing to kidneys according to Macrobiotic principles. I hope you love it, and feel deeply warm and nourished with it.
Vegan Chili Recipe with Pumpkin
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion (red or white, doesn’t matter)
1 medium sized carrot, diced
2 cups small-cubed Kabocha pumpkin (see notes below for Kabocha tips)
2 cups fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (about 1, 15-ounce can)
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 -2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon cumin seed
3-4 cups water or vegetable broth
2-3 cups cooked adzuki beans (see note)
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- In a large stockpot, warm oil over medium heat until fragrant. Add onion, and cook for 10 minutes or until onions soften considerably. Add carrot and pumpkin, and cook for another 10 minutes, until carrots and onions lightly brown.
- Toss in canned tomatoes, lentils, sundried tomatoes, and all spices. Add about a cup of the water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are soft.
- Add in cooked beans, salt and up to two more cups of water (using less for a thicker chili, more for a thinner chili). Season with salt and let cook for about 10 minutes to thicken. Taste, and adjust spices, perhaps adding more chili powder, cumin or other spices.
- Serve warm! Refrigerate any leftovers for up to about five days; this recipe can also be frozen.
True, adzuki beans are not common chili ingredients. These beans, common in Japanese desserts, and commonly cooked in Macrobiotic meals. These medium-sized dark red beans are prized for their soft texture and almost sweet flavor. They also cook up really softly into this chili and make a great textured final dish. Don’t have adzukis? No problem– use black beans, pinto beans, white beans or anything else that appeals to you. If you have the time, cook your beans from scratch ahead of time, but canned will do if you’re in a hurry!
And what about the Kabocha pumpkin? This is one of my favorite vegetables, and it’s perfect in this chili. Kabocha is a beautiful squash– bright orange on the inside and dark green on the outside (see picture above). One of the best things is its sweet, tender texture, but second best is that the skin is edible, so you don’t have to peel it! Simple wash down the skin with soap and water, slice carefully (!) with your biggest knife, scoop out the seeds, and cube for the recipe. You can also use peeled butternut squash or any variety of sweet squash (red kuri, sugar pie pumpkin, etc). Here are some more recipes for kabocha to use the remaining squash: Roasted Kabocha Squash, Pumpkin Miso Soup, and Quinoa Risotto.