At this time of year, I have chili on the brain. It’s is basically everything I want in a winter meal: hot, filling, a little spicy, and a perfect vehicle for avocado. I know that in the meat-chili world, there is a beans-or-no-beans question. That question does not exist in my vegetarian chili world. Yes, there will be beans (or, in this case, lentils). My question, instead, is how to give the chili a meaty texture, how to separate it unequivocally from the world of bean soup.
I’ve gone through phases over the years. I used textured vegetable protein (remember TVP?) for a long time and I’ve used rice. I’ve used quinoa and sweet potatoes. So far my absolute favorite chili is this black bean chili with wheat berries, but that requires advance cooking of both the black beans and the wheat berries. (Don’t let that discourage you. It’s worth it.)
But you know how moms always have the answer? My mom had the answer. She introduced me to this chili and made it for me last week—but she let me watch and help stir so that I could tell you about it with authority. This is going to be my new quick chili (and for pennies per serving, I might add).
This chili uses bulgur wheat, a cracked and partially pre-cooked version of the long-cooking whole grain. As a result, when combined with lentils, you can start in the bulk section of your grocery store and have dinner on the table in an hour. And it’s delish.
Lentil and Bulgur Chili (adapted from Allrecipes): Saute a chopped onion and 4 cloves minced garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1 c. sorted and rinsed brown lentils, 1 c. bulgur, 1 Tbsp. cumin, and 1-2 Tbsp. chili powder (start with one if you’re not sure and adjust to taste later) and stir until the spices are fragrant. Add 4 c. vegetable broth, 2 c. canned tomatoes, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are cooked, 20-30 minutes. Season to taste and garnish with fresh tomatoes and avocado.