Hot & spicy vegan chili with lentil-walnut meat

Hot & Spicy Vegan Chili with Lentil-Walnut Meat | A Dash of Compassion

My in-laws own a beautiful cottage that sits on a lake at the end of a very long, empty dirt road in northern Ontario.  It’s a good hike from Toronto and almost always involves sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic up Highway 400 through Barrie, but the drive is always worth it once we get there.

It’s the one place where we can leave behind the noisy, crowded, high-energy city that we live in, and soak in the calmness and fresh air of cottage country. I sometimes long for the days when we can go, because often just a quick weekend visit can put my busy mind at ease. There’s something about the place that allows me to leave computers, cell phones and iPads behind and crack open a good book.

Hot & Spicy Vegan Chili with Lentil-Walnut Meat | A Dash of Compassion

Because of full-time jobs and ongoing weekend projects, however, we don’t get there often. But we always make a point of planning a weekend getaway each September because there’s no better time to see the leaves on the trees turning gorgeous shades of red and orange, sit on the dock without scorching your skin, and enjoy the warmth of the wood-burning fireplace in the evenings. Include wine and friends and a game or two of Cards Against Humanity and it ends up being a pretty epic weekend.

This annual tradition also comes with special fall-inspired meals. I tend to do all the cooking while we’re there with friends because, well, that’s just my thing, and luckily our guests have yet to complain about the lack of animal products. At my hubby’s request, I always make a big batch of spicy vegan chili for Saturday night’s meal, and serve it with crusty bread and a big, colourful salad. This hot and spicy chili recipe was inspired by the red bean and lager chili from the reFresh cookbook, a recipe I’ve made but adapted over the years.

Hot & Spicy Vegan Chili with Lentil-Walnut Meat | A Dash of Compassion

There’s no beer in this chili but the addition of a hot banana pepper is what gives it some punch. I also love the cinnamon and cocoa powder for an amazing depth of flavour. This time, I was inspired to add a simple lentil-walnut meat (inspired by Angela’s recipe) for more substance and nutrients. If you’re looking at this and thinking, “I don’t like spicy food,” feel free to reduce the amount of hot banana pepper (try 1/4 or 1/2 of a pepper) to suite your tastes. Enjoy!

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Hot & spicy vegan chili with lentil-walnut meat

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


For the chili:

  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 small hot banana pepper, seeds removed and minced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15oz) can red kidney beans
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the lentil-walnut meat:

  • 1 (15oz) can brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup walnut pieces
  • 1½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt


For the chili:

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, celery, banana pepper and carrots with a splash of water until soft. Add more water if needed so the veggies don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
  2. Stir in the chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin and cinnamon stick and cook for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, bell peppers, zucchini and water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. While it's cooking, you can make the lentil walnut meat.
  4. Add the lentil walnut meat and continue to simmer until heated through.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in the cilantro and remove the cinnamon stick. Serve with vegan sour cream and extra cilantro, if desired.

For the lentil walnut meat:

  1. Using a food processor, pulse all ingredients until chopped but be sure to leave some texture.


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