From desperation to delight: Hearty Beef and Lentil Chili (new recipe)

Chili was on the menu for dinner. I busily went about my day, helping children with homeschooling. I folded clean laundry from the weekend (I wash everything on Sunday, minus diapers and wet bedsheets), and tried once again to clear off the kitchen counters. During Moshe's nap, Ruth and I napped in the living room (being pregnant is a great excuse to get plenty of sleep!).

I got back up a few hours before dinner time. "For once," I thought, "I'll have dinner just simmering on the stove, waiting to be eaten on time, rather than rushing around at the last minute like usual."

I started browning some meat for chili, and rummaged through the freezer for some cooked beans. Surely there was at least one container left in there! But I came up empty, after going through both the small freezer and our chest freezer.

I decided to check the pantry cupboard to see if there was a stray can of beans... any kind of beans... lurking in the back. There were no cans of beans. (A pressure cooker was the only way I could have made fresh beans in time for the chili, but I don't have a pressure cooker.)

Then I thought of... lentils! I've heard of lentil chili. Lentils cook fast enough to be ready in time for dinner. But... would we like lentils in our chili?

I debated just making beef chili. After all, when you're only serving 3 things, the main dish should be something that's good, not a flopped experiment due poor planning. But the beef chili in my pot just wasn't very much. Enough for 1 meal for us? Maybe. But still, one of the best things about chili is that the beans help stretch the meal into 2 or 3!

I decided to make the chili with lentils. When Joshua came home, he said "Hmmm, this chili looks different from normal." So of course I said,

"Oh, well, it's a new recipe. Lentil Chili. Haven't you heard of lentil chili before?" ;)

Cornbread recipe
Eliyahu (5) helped me make the cornbread

Much to my delight, the whole family loved my lentil chili! The lentils had a nice texture, it didn't taste lentil-y, and it was easy to eat. I was amazed by how well we liked it! Joshua had thirds. Moshe (the 1-year-old) had seconds!

Okay, so, it was dinner after all, and thankfully a very successful one. We've had lentil chili several times since, and I made sure to measure all the spices so it could be shared. ;)

The only way to improve this lentil chili? Have some fresh cilantro on hand to sprinkle on top... :)


Wow! Moshe is an excellent cornbread helper. That cornbread looks amazingly yummy! I should try making it with my 4yr old. Thanks for a great rainy day menu item and child friendly recipe.

Thank you! :) We hadn't had corn bread recently, so it really disappeared quickly!

Are you expecting?

I must have missed that too!!! If so, congratulations! New life is so excited and such a blessing! :)

Thanks, Anne Jisca! :)

Yes! :)

I missed that too! Congratulations!


Sounds like congratulations are in order! :)

(The chili sounds good, too. I have never tried cooking lentils before!)

Thank you! :)

Lentils are really easy to cook/use, especially if you have a good recipe to help get you started! :)

Congrats on your successful lentil chili, but more importantly congrats on the new little one coming!!!

Thank you! :)

Were you trying to see how observant we are? ;-)

The lentil chili looks really yummy-definitely one that I would try. Do you suppose it matters whether you use green or red lentils? (other than possibly the cooking time)

Mmmm, possibly. ;) Or else I'm just self-conscious... :)

I know there are a number of kinds of lentils -- brown, French green, red, yellow, "regular" green, etc... but I'd have to say I don't know much about any aside from the "regular green" ones because those are the only ones I've eaten/cooked with!

I have cooked with the "regular" ones before, but somehow I ended up buying some red ones a while back and now cannot remember why I bought them. :-)
I guess I'll just give it a try since they're what I have on hand and will let you know how it turns out.

Mmm, sounds good! Glad it turned out for you... I may have to try this, since J won't eat beans, but he tolerates lentils. ;-)

~Elizabeth in Alaska

Oh, I hope the lentil chili works out well then! I think the lentils really do have a different texture from most beans. :)

Congratulations - what a wonderful blessing!

Thank you, Lenetta! :)

I didn't know you were expecting again. Congratulations!


Thank you! :)

I was trying to figure out how I missed your pregnancy announcement--glad to see I'm not the only one!! :) Congratulations!!! :) This chili sounds good, although we are not lentil fans at all . . . but maybe it would be OK since you said it doesn't taste lentil-y! Don't know if I am brave enough to test it on my family, though! :)

Thanks, Carrie! :)

I'm not sure if you would like the lentil chili if you HATE lentils... :) The seasonings do seem to cover up most of the lentil's flavor, but there would still be the texture... :)

I think your delicious lentil chili is getting a bit crowded out by a "little" detail... ;)

Maybe... ;)

I went through your posts wandering how I could have missed such important news, and then decided to look at the comments and realised I hadn't missed it. What a blessing for you and your family!

Lentils in the chili is a great idea. Being vegetarian, I'm always looking for interesting ways of cooking lentils, I will definitely try this soon.


Thanks, Aline! :)

Let me know what you think of the chili when you try it! :) I think it would be good without the meat (maybe add more lentils and a little more water then). But, I love legumes! :)

Can't wait to try this one! Thanks Tammy.

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

I hope you like it, Stacy! :)

You're pregnant??? Congratulations!!! Does this explain your bloggy break lately? lol How far along are you? :)

Yes, I am! And I'm sure it's one of the contributing factors to my lack of blogging all summer... and most of fall... I am the Queen of Blogging Breaks it seems. ;) Baby is due the end of March!

I'm due the end of March too. I think our last babies were close in age as well. :)

Tammy I am so excited to hear you are expecting another baby!!!! I was wondering if you were a little while ago when you weren't posting often. I hope you are feeling well.
Love Louise in New Zealand

Thank you, Louise! I'm sure you understand... your house is fuller than ours! :D I am feeling pretty well now. It's been a good Fall. :)

Congrats on the new baby coming!!

Thanks, Jules! We're very excited. :)

Hi Tammy,

I don't know how much time you had to make beans for the chili, or how quickly a pressure cooker would have cooked them, but I have found I can cook beans in the crockpot on high for 3-1/2 hours and they turn out perfectly every time. There is no pre-soaking required. I just rinse them and throw them straight in. I have found 4 hours turns them mushy, and less time makes them not soft enough.

Congrats on the pregnancy!

What brand/model is your crock pot?! Mine would never cook beans that fast. (I am assuming you're starting with cold water, too, since you said unsoaked!) :)

I do about 5-6 cups of dry beans in my 6-quart crock pot and it takes about 8+ hours on high. On low, I'm not sure -- I've done it 12 hours and they were just getting tender enough then! :O I have a Hamilton Beach Stay-or-Go Slow Cooker. :) And my beans are pretty fresh... that's how long they always take... :)

Thanks for the congrats! :)

I have a 6 qt. Rival Crockpot Smart-pot with the 4 and 6 hour high heat settings and the 8 & 10 hour low heat settings, that we've had since 2003. I also have a Hamilton Beach 4 qt. Stay or Go Slow Cooker that I bought about 2 years ago. I have made beans in both of them, and as long as there is enough water, I get the same results out of each one. I buy the standard sized bags of beans from the store and have done black, pinto, red, and kidney beans. I always cook beans this way, and then freeze them in 2 cup portions to use in recipes that call for a can of beans. I did read that kidney beans need to be boiled for a few minutes to ensure they are fully cooked and that the toxin "kidney bean lectin" is eliminated, so I do that first before putting those in the crockpot.


Thanks for giving me more details on how you do your dried beans, Amy! Do you think mine are taking a lot longer simply because the crock pot is completely full, rather than just being a smaller amount? I usually put 6 cups of dry beans in, and it fills the crock pot (6y-quarts) to the very top when they're done! :)

Congrats on the upcoming arrival of your little one! I'm due at the beginning of March with baby #3. I had wondered, too, if you were expecting -- just a month or so ago. Kinda funny! :) Best wishes and prayers for a healthy pregnancy and delivery!

Thank you! And congratulations to you, too! A March baby sounds like fun. :)

I have been wondering if your family was due to expect another blessing, but didnt obviously want to/know how to/think it was really any of my business to ask! I love this blog, I read it more than any others, and am thrilled for you that you are having another baby! Love all your pregnancy posts, and getting ready for baby/cooking with a new baby, diapering, etc posts and look forward to another round of them! Are you planning on posting any belly pics? Im sure you are starting to show!

Aww, thank you so much! :) I'll probably try to work in a picture of myself again some time... I plan to do some "update"-type of posts about cloth diapering, etc... since a lot of those posts were written when my oldest was... 2! haha :) And of course, freezer and make-ahead cooking... in a couple months. :)

Just wanted to say congratulations! And that I love (LOVE!!) your blog. You are such an inspiration, and your recipes are always delicious. Your family is beautiful & now another addition to come :) Can't wait to follow you along on your journey! But wonder, how do you do it??? LOL....I have 2 and you seem to run circles around me! Wishing you a easy pregnancy & labor :)

Thank you so much! :)

For the record... I think my life with 2 kids was nearly as crazy as it is now with 4. :) The older ones help pull some of the load... and I certainly don't "do it all"! :)

I'm thankful for good days when I have enough energy to make a dent in what should be done that day though. :)

Hi Tammy! This recipe looks great. We love lentils! I'm going to try to make a vegetarian version since we've had beef the past 3 days. I will let you know how it turns out. :)

~Kim ( too lazy to log in

Okay, I tried it. It actually turned out really well!

The only changes I really made were to omit the bell peppers (was going to use carrots instead, but we were out), and put in 1/2 chicken stock for 1/2 of the water. I know the chicken stock is not vegetarian, but I think vegetable broth would go great as well.
It was very tasty and hearty. Thanks for the recipe. :)

Great! Thanks for letting me know! :) I may try the meatless version in the crock pot some time... :)

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