This Vegan Pumpkin Black Bean and Lentil Chili is both filling and nourishing. Cook up a big pot to enjoy by the bowl full on a cold day or use in other favorite ways – over a baked potato, with nachos, as a base for tamale pie, or for game day eats.
Ah, chili. Its popularity is not going away. I think I’ve made dozens of varieties of chili over the past 20 years. And they’ve all been delicious. I have come to prefer meatless chili recipes, which I know is a sacrilege to some die-hard chili lovers. I think it’s the spices and the beans that equate chili, not the other stuff. And I think there’s room for chilis of all kinds, even vegan lentil chili. ;)
So what’s special about this lentil chili recipe? Well, besides being SO delicious, it’s incredibly easy to make. It came about one day when I was cleaning out my fridge and cupboards and trying to answer my favorite (#sarcasmfont) question of the day: What’s for dinner? I pulled out cans of pumpkin I stocked up on in October. (I cook with pumpkin all year long, but I can’t pass up the good deals during fall!) And among the mess, I also had a lonely quart of vegetable broth, a big jar of green salsa (but no tortilla chips), lentils, a giant sweet potato, and black beans. Basically, what I saw in front of me where a bunch of ingredients I could just dump in a pan, let it simmer for awhile, and have dinner ready with minimal effort. So that’s exactly what I did!
No tomatoes?! What?
You’ve probably noticed that there are no tomatoes in this recipe. That was a new one for me. I use tomatoes just about 4-5 times a week in my cooking. But because I was out of fresh and canned tomatoes, I turned to the green salsa. Green salsa is typically made with tomatillos that are not tomatoes, but similar. You may have seen them in the produce section of the grocery store. They have a delightful tart flavor and are wonderful raw or cooked. Green chiles (jalapeños or serrano peppers are most common), onions, garlic, and sometimes cilantro are also included in green salsa. (This is my favorite recipe to make at home.) Bottom line: green salsa is awesome. I usually have a jar in my cupboard.
The canned pumpkin makes for a thick, almost creamy without being creamy, base. For some chunkiness, I love adding sweet potatoes to chili. This is no exception. They go nicely with the black beans and lentils. Oh – a word about lentils here. I LOVE lentils of all kinds. I’ve made lentil chili before, but I usually opt for green or brown lentils. This time I used red lentils. They worked really well. I didn’t let them cook too long, so they still mostly kept their shape instead of breaking completely apart. Chili, for me, should be super thick and hearty. The red lentils really add to the heartiness of this chili.
I served this with some homemade cashew sour cream – another favorite. Feel free to use whatever you prefer non-dairy or otherwise.
And of course, it’s hard to cook up a pot of chili without some accompanying cornbread. My family LOVES cornbread, and I cracked the code on gluten-free cornbread a few years ago and even my gluten eaters love it. (You can find the recipe here.)
Here are some other similar recipes you may be interested in:
Vegetarian Chili Cilantro-Lime Cashew Sour Cream
Vegetarian Chili Joes
Slow Cooker Black Beans
Smoky Black Bean Soup
Tempeh Black Bean Vegan Taco Salad
- 2 tablespoons avocado or other flavorless oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 tbsp. Chili powder, to taste
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- One (12 ounce) bottle green salsa, mild or medium
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- One (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée
- 2 cups red lentils, picked through and rinsed well
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½" dice
- 1½ cups cooked black beans or one (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- For serving: cashew sour cream, sliced jalapeño, cornbread (gluten-free)
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or 6-quart pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning.
- Add the chili powder and cumin to the onions and garlic. Stirring constantly, toast the spices for 30-45 seconds until fragrant.
- Next add the salsa, vegetable broth, pumpkin puree, and red lentils. Stir until well combined. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, then add sweet potato, black beans, and salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan, for 15-20 minutes to allow flavors to blend and sweet potatoes to cook through. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
- Serve warm with a dollop of cashew sour cream, a few slices of jalapeño, and a piece of cornbread.