What Is Lentil Chili?

Glyn Sinclair

Lentil chili is a hearty vegetarian stew that consists of lentils and various other ingredients. These additives might include things such as chili pepper powder or flakes, onions, carrots, garlic, celery. Oregano, tomatoes and cumin also might be used, and all of these ingredients are mixed together at various stages during the cooking process to produce a thick and spicy melange that has a faint nutty flavor. Brown or green lentils are most commonly used in lentil chili because they tend to maintain their form better after cooking. The dish usually is topped with a sprinkling of flaked crackers and other garnishes for a desired flavor.

Lentils can be used to make vegetarian chili.
Lentils can be used to make vegetarian chili.

The tiny, nutritious lentil seed is actually part of the legume family and can range in size as well as color, from red to black to green, as well as yellow and brown. Lentils are believed to have been part of the human diet for as many as 8,000 years, and possibly more. Ancient seeds have been unearthed at archeological sites in India and the Middle East, with some people claiming them to be one of the first crops ever cultivated.

Lentil chili can include bell, sweet and/or hot peppers.
Lentil chili can include bell, sweet and/or hot peppers.

The other main ingredient in lentil chili is the chili pepper. This fruit has been part of people's diets for many years as well. Chili peppers are believed to have been first cultivated more than 7,000 years ago in Central America. Peppers have three main categories: sweet peppers, bell peppers and hot peppers.

Preparing and cooking lentil chili is a fairly simple and quick process. Lentils usually are cooked in a pot for about 30 minutes, with care taken not to allow the water to boil completely away and dry out the seeds. Proper cooking keeps the seeds flavorful and filled with their natural juices.

After the lentils have been fully cooked, the remaining ingredients are added and allowed to simmer for about 20 minutes. Some of the garnishes used for the completed chili might include cilantro, cheese or sour cream. Lentil chili is sometimes served over rice or eaten with cornbread.

Both lentils and chilies are renowned for their health benefits, with lentils being particularly high in protein and minerals. Some studies claim that because of their nutritional value and low fat content, lentils might be able to lower cholesterol and the occurrence of coronary heart disease. The high dietary fiber stored within lentils is also said to help with certain digestive maladies, such as diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Lentil chili might be not only a delicious and simple dish to prepare, it also can be an inexpensive and tasty way to keep fit and healthy.

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