Most of the ingredients in this vegetarian bean chili recipe are ones that many of you store in your pantry year around. Plus, I give you lots of options for substitutions just in case you don’t have a particular ingredient on-hand. Cooking cupboard bean lentil chili is easy and ready in less than 45 minutes, most of which is hands-off except for an occasional stir. It will be a family favorite when you can’t get out to the store or for an easy weeknight dinner.Yum
A well stored pantry
Maintaining certain staples in the cupboard is a practice I’ve always followed. I was so happy when I wanted to make this cupboard lentil bean chili that I had most of what I needed on hand. This habit comes from my mom who stockpiled canned foods like crazy. I am not near that bad, but I do like to have a selection of dried beans and canned foods around for times when I need to quickly throw together a meal.
I have a great vegetarian pantry cheat sheet available when you become a subscriber (signup below). It’s helpful to have to get an idea of items you can easily store in your cabinets and keep on-hand regularly.
Handy substitution ideas
Nothing is worse than pulling out a recipe and realizing you don’t have quite everything on-hand to make it. Here are some of my top tips for substitutions or alterations to this cupboard bean lentil chili when you can’t run out to the store to pick up missing ingredients.
Beans and lentils
Use any reliable bean in your cabinets for this vegetarian bean chili. White beans wouldn’t be my top choice, but they will definitely work if that’s all you have available. My top choices are pinto beans, black beans, adzuki beans and red beans. I used adzuki beans because that’s what I had in my pantry when I went to make it. They are a small red bean, a little bit smaller than black beans and they worked great.
The lentils are cooked dry in this recipe, but if you happen to have canned those will work too. I just recommend adding them the last 10 minutes or so as you don’t want them to turn to mush.
What if you don’t have lentils? Go for it and use extra beans or even a mixture of beans!
What if you don’t have beans? Lentil chili is definitely yum! Simply increase the amount of dry lentils to one cup. Note that if you are cooking additional dry lentils, you may need to increase the water as the dry lentils will absorb more of the water than the cooked beans. Start with an additional one cup of water and then add more if needed.
The recipe calls for canned whole tomatoes, but you can definitely substitute canned diced tomatoes or even crushed tomatoes though the texture of the chili will be less chunky with crushed tomatoes. Another option is to use fresh tomatoes (which is what I had to do). Approximately four cups of peeled chopped tomatoes equal the amount in a 28 oz can of tomatoes.
Hint: To peel the tomatoes easily — simply cut an X in the bottom and drop them into boiling water for a minute or two and then submerge them in cold water. The peels will then come off quite easily.
Corn and Zucchini
I used fresh corn, because that’s all I had available but canned or frozen works great too if that’s what you have on-hand. And frozen zucchini will work great as well if you don’t have fresh. I would recommend adding the frozen veggies during the last 15 minutes of cooking the chili rather than for the full 30 minutes or so.
Other veggie options
If in a bind and you don’t have the corn or zucchini, you can leave them out and the chili will still delicious, but it will likely not make the full six servings. Another option would be to simply bulk up with some more beans, lentils or tomatoes too!
Some other veggies you could consider using in place of the corn or zucchini: yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers and even chopped spinach or kale if nothing else is around.
Consider substituting a whole grain in place of one of the veggies. You could throw in some cooked brown rice or quinoa.
Top your bean lentil chili off!!
This might actually be my favorite part! Pick your own delicious toppings for some extra flavor and texture to your bowl of vegetarian bean chili. Mix and match and create your own combination. Here are some ideas!
- Chopped green onions
- Chopped red onions
- Shredded cheese
- Tortilla chips
- Diced jalapeno
- Chopped cilantro or parsley
- Sour cream or greek yogurt
- Pico de gallo
Easy cupboard veggie bean lentil chili
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno deseeded and diced
- 1½ cups beans cooked or canned pinto, black, red or adzuki
- ½ cup brown or green lentils dry
- 1 28 oz can whole or diced tomatoes with liquid
- 2 T chili powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 cups zucchini diced
- 1½ cup fresh corn kernels
- 3 cups water
- 3 T masa harina or flour
- ¼ cup warm water
- In a large pot heat olive oil. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno, sauté until softened, stirring often.
- Next add all ingredients from beans to water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Once a boil is reached, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes stirring frequently. Check the lentils for doneness and cook longer if not ready. Also, you can add more a bit more water if needed.
- When chili is just about ready, mix together warm water and masa in a small bowl until a paste is formed. Stir this into the chili and allow it to cook for an additional five minutes to thicken a bit.
- Serve it up in bowls topped with your favorite chili toppings. Each serving is about 1½ cups of chili.
Did you make this recipe? Tell me about your experience cooking and eating it in the comments below! I’d love to know. If you liked this recipe, please take a moment and give the recipe a 5-star rating in the card. Tag @cookeatlivelove in your photos so I can see your creations!