Smoky Lentil Chili

Smoky Lentil Chili


Here’s a perfect easy dish for your next Meatless Monday: Smoky Lentil Chili. The recipe is 100% plant-based (vegan) and gluten-free, perfect for everyone at your dining table. Lentils require no soaking, and cook up faster than beans. So, you can mix up the ingredients for this dish in a pot in just a few minutes, and let it bubble away for about an hour, and dinner is served! Just pair this chili with a salad and a serving of rustic whole grain bread or my Cumin Cornbread Muffins, and you have a balanced meal in no time. You can also throw all of these ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning, and a savory, fragrant meal will greet you when you come home at the end of the day. You can use an InstantPot to get the meal done even more quickly. I love to garnish this recipe with a handful of fresh cilantro and green onions. Or, let your dinner guests sprinkle it with plant-based cheese, avocado slices, Vegan Sour Cream, and tortilla strips for a hearty, delicious dish.

Smoky Lentil Chili

I featured this recipe at the KTLA 5 Morning Show recently, as the perfect recipe to help you go more plant-based for your healthy eating goals. The whole production crew just loved this chili! Vegetarian chili recipes, such as this one, are a great way to transition to a more plant-based lifestyle, as they are familiar foods. All you are doing is essentially skipping the meat, and relying on lentils for their nutritious, savory goodness. This recipe is just packed with flavorful spices and seasonings that will make even carnivores forget there is no meat in it!

Smoky Lentil Chili

Yield: 8 servings

Smoky Lentil Chili

Smoky Lentil Chili


  • 1 pound small green lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried mustard
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup chopped green onions


    1. Place lentils, broth, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, bell pepper, celery garlic, liquid smoke, chili powder, crushed red pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley flakes, mustard, celery salt in a large pot. Stir well, cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about one hour.
    2. When thick and tender, serve into bowls. Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onion.


InstantPot Directions: Place all ingredients (except cilantro and green onions) in the container of the InstantPot. Press “Bean/Chili” setting. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Slowcooker Directions: Place all ingredients (except cilantro and green onions) in the container of the Slowcooker. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-12 hours. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately. Garnish with cilantro and green onions.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

1 serving

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 262Total Fat: 2gSodium: 342mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 12gSugar: 9gProtein: 16g




Pandemic adds turmoil to tomato season

Pandemic adds turmoil to tomato season

The 2020 tomato crop is being planted into a world of uncertainty as the global pandemic adds turmoil to tomato season.

“I guess we’re gambling right now,” said Aaron Barcellos, who grows processing tomatoes in Merced and Fresno counties. “We’re rolling the dice that it’s all going to be fine by August, when we start harvest.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s January forecast called for 12 million tons of processing tomatoes on 235,000 acres, the tonnage being virtually unchanged from 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has thrown markets into turmoil.

“We walk into stores as growers and see there’s not any canned tomato products or pasta sauces or any of that stuff on the shelf,” Barcellos said. “So we expect demand to pick up on that side. But we also know the food-service side has been hit pretty hard.”

Processors packaging for retail “have been extremely busy recently,” said Don Cameron, a diversified grower in Fresno County. “You just don’t shift from one to the other. Your processing facility is set up maybe for bulk paste or diced product, but not typically for the retail business.”

Processors serving food-service businesses, he said, are trying to gauge how the pandemic will play out.

“How long are these restaurants and schools going to be closed?” Cameron said. “The food-service side is just kind of an unknown right now.”

Mike Montna, chief executive of the California Tomato Growers Association in Sacramento, said “there’s no historical context for our people to go off of.” He’s assessing daily what the overall impact will be, which he described as “a shift on how we’re eating our meals and where we’re getting them.”

“I think everyone’s trying to understand, how long are these changes going to be in place?” Montna said. “What do the markets look like when they come back?”

Companies are working with historical sales data and updating models based on the best available information, he added.

Tomato growers also have been taking extra precautions on the farm.

Barcellos’ tomato planters have employees sitting 5 feet apart. As social-distancing guidelines call for 6 feet of separation, the farm has installed plexiglass dividers between the seats.

Barcellos also has been staggering start and break times, in addition to ensuring his employees have masks, gloves and information, he said, “making sure they feel safe coming to work, making sure they understand that they’re essential, making sure that we’re providing them with all the training they need.”

That extends to after-hours activities as well, he noted.

“Many of our workers are living in close quarters, and we don’t know what happens when they go home and who they’re exposed to as well,” Barcellos said. “So we’ve been trying to educate them about that and making sure they’re reducing their exposures and risks as much as possible.”

Cameron said his safety precautions include the farm office as well. Only one staffer is on duty at the office at a time, with the others working from home; paperwork and parcels are dropped off outside and wiped down before being brought in.

“I’ve been wearing my mask, too,” Cameron said. “We changed the shift times so that we have our irrigators coming at one time, and we have our tractor drivers coming in at another time, and our office staff so that we don’t have large groups of people together at one time.”

“We have a full crew out here,” he said. “They understand the severity of the problem, and they’re being vigilant. The last thing we want to have is a problem on farm with our workforce. We want to keep everybody healthy and safe as possible. We rely on the workforce. Without them, we’re done.”

Russell van Loben Sels, who grows tomatoes in Sacramento County, said much of the work at his place is socially distanced already.

“One guy, one tractor, no riders,” he said. “We’re sort of lucky in that way, that most of our activities are by a single individual.”

Farmers said planting has not been hindered much.

“Our planting is on schedule, although the recent rains have slowed everything down,” Cameron said.

Lance Dami, who works in field operations and customer service at Los Gatos Tomato Products in Huron, said planting around the Bakersfield area began around Feb. 17, “which is normal for us,” although recent rains set planters behind by about a week. “It’s actually been a really smooth planting year,” he added.

With south-of-delta growers looking at a 15% water allocation from the federally operated Central Valley Project, Dami said contracted tomato acreage could shrink from 235,000 tons to about 230,000.

“There might be some growers cutting back on acres because of the cost of water,” he said.

Barcellos said he’s adjusted his acreage based on the water allocation, but otherwise he’s going full bore.

Van Loben Sels, whose fields lie near the Sacramento River, plans to start planting around mid-May.

“For us, it’s going to be a much easier season than last year,” van Loben Sels said. “In the delta, it’s always easier to farm when it’s a dry year. We don’t have high groundwater that’s associated with the river and high flows. So I assume it’s going to be a fairly orderly process once we get there.”

He’s talked to his processors, and plans to grow his normal acreage, he added.

Barcellos said he’s talked about the what-ifs inherent in the pandemic—”what happens if processors have to shut down or can’t run at full capacity, and we’ve got a perishable crop out there in the field,” he said. But so far, his processors are looking for the tonnage he plans to produce.

“Most of us farmers are optimists, and usually after tough times come good times,” Barcellos said. “So we’re looking forward to those days.” 

Article courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation 

Main image: Kevin Hecteman, AgAlert