Tamale Week Day 4: Spicy Vegan Red Chili

· by delijan · Read in about 5 min · (946 words) ·

This is one of my favorite chili recipes because you can use it in tamales, as I’m doing this week, as a taco filling or even eaten with a salad as a main dish!

The main protein source is lentils and kidney beans. The lentils are cooked down a bit to give it a creamy base and the chopped kidney beans add both nutrition an a ground meat texture.

Before we begin the actual recipe, let me explain how to cook lentils, in case you’ve never done it before. It’s really easy, and after this you won’t buy them in cans any more. Making them from dried is much less expensive!

This is what you need.

Setup for Cooking Lentils


large pot


1 pound dried lentils (about 2 cups)

14 teaspoon sea salt

8 cups of water


Put the water and the salt in the pot and bring it to a boil on the stove.

While the water is heating up, wash the lentils. Pick out any stones and dirt.

Cleaned Lentils

When the water is boiling, add the cleaned lentils to the pot and reduce heat a bit until they are simmering.

Put the cover on the pot at an angle (so the steam can escape) and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until they are just tender all the way through. Stir occasionally.

You don’t have to soak lentils ahead of time.

See? I told you it was easy! I usually cook at least one pound and sometimes more because they will freeze well.

Now for the actual chili! Here’s the setup.

Setup for Vegan Red Chili


large, flat bottomed pan

metal chopper/scoop (upper left of picture)

pancake turner


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

14 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon Mrs Dash Table Blend

12 teaspoon ground pepper

14 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

12 teaspoon Ancho chili powder or 2 teaspoons of the sauce from a can of Chipotle Chilies in Adobo Sauce

1 tablespoon regular chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

12 teaspoon coriander

2 cups lentils, cooked, drained (or 1 can)

2 cups of kidney beans, cooked, drained (or 1 can)

2 cups cooked, diced tomatoes (or 1 can)


Add the oil to the pan.

Pan, Oil and Spatula for Making Vegan Red Chili

Heat the oil and add the onions and carrots. Saute until the onions are transparent.

Vegan Red Chili Sauteed Vegetables

Add the garlic and all of the spices. Continue cooking for one minute to toast the spices a bit and rehydrate them with any remaining oil.

Add the lentils and the tomatoes. Simmer until the mixture is heated all the way through.

While the mixture is heating up, dump the kidney beans onto a cutting board. Use the chopper to cut them into pieces. Try not to make mush out of them. The point is to cut them until they are a nice meat-like texture.

Chopped Kidney Beans

Add them to the pan and simmer until everything is heated through.

At this point, if you wanted to eat the chili as a main dish, or freeze it for later, it’s done. It should have a fair amount of liquid still left in it. But, because I plan to use this as a tamale filling, I want to dry it out.

So, turn up the heat a bit until it’s just below boiling. Cook the mixture, stirring a lot with the pancake turner, until it is dry when you scrape across the bottom of the pan, like this.

Finished Vegan Red Chili

The mixture isn’t completely dried out, as you can see, but what little liquid is left is not flowing into the empty area.

That’s it! Let the mixture cool and put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble your tamales!


If you haven’t figured it out by now from other recipes on this site… We like spicy food! This is no exception. If you aren’t used to strong, spicy flavors, you may want to cut back on the amount of Ancho chili powder and Adobo sauce in this recipe to suit your own tastes.

If you are unfamiliar with Chipotle en Adobo, let me explain. Chipotles are jalapeno peppers that are dried by smoking them over a wood fire. When they are sold canned, they are normally packed in a sauce (Adobo) made of tomatoes, garlic, salt and some vinegar. It may contain other seasoning, too. The sauce is then flavored by the smoked chilies. Some people don’t like the flavor of chipotles. DH is very picky about it. Some brands can taste like the bottom of an old ashtray! Some are rich, spicy and nicely smoked and taste good. The sauce is added to this recipe to enhance it with a bit more spice and the all important smoke flavor found in many non-vegan chili recipes. It’s up to you if you want to include it or not.

If you use canned tomatoes, lentils and beans, the cans are normally 14 ounces, which is less than 2 cups. The recipe will still work. It will be slightly spicier, possibly less texture and less in volume.

Both versions, either “wet” or “dry” will freeze well.

I also make an East Indian version of this chili, called Dahl Makini. It’s made exactly the same way, but the spices and seasonings are the same as hot red curry. It’s really yummy!


Here is a serving of just the red chili tamales, along with a fresh salsa of tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and seasonings.

Red Chili Tamale Serving

I like having the cold salsa with them because the temperature and the cucumber will cool your mouth after several bites of the hot, spicy tamales!