Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili

Lentil and Quinoa Chili

Mother Nature has given Maine a big fat FAKE OUT. Saturday was warm enough for me to unsheathe our chicken coop from its winter plastic cocoon. This morning I awoke to freezing rain and snow. Frankly, it’s enough to elicit my spiciest language. And what better accompaniment to cursing than some chili?! Since winter is obviously still with us, regardless of the calendar, I decided to go full-throttle and break out the slow cooker. Even if you’re in a gentler clime (YOU LUCKY SOUL!), everyone loves hands-off cooking.

Today’s magnificently different take on chili will leave you wondering WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE?! I mean, lentils and quinoa are so comforting, so healthy, so cheap and easy, they merit addition to all sorts of things. I just never thought of adding them to chili. Thankfully, the lovely Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen DID! And the results? Stupendous. This low-sodium take on her original recipe is soooo yummy, especially when served over baked potatoes (like we enjoyed last night). PS: it’s also low fat, vegan, and gluten-free!

A few notes. I didn’t have any ground cinnamon. One of my daughters must have hidden it in the back of a cabinet or something after baking. So I substituted a lone cinnamon stick I managed to scrounge up and it worked fine. (Just remember to remove before eating!) I used low sodium vegetable broth, but low-so veggie juice would work equally well and add another fabulous dimension of flavor. This recipe calls for salt-free chili seasoning. I couldn’t find mine (I BLAME MY KIDS) so I used Benson’s Salt-Free Gusto instead. Although it’s intended for dry heat cooking – things like roasts and BBQ – it actually worked wonderfully well here too. Way to go, Benson’s!

Yields 7 servings

SODIUM CONTENT: 118 mg per serving

Nutrition Facts: Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili


1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 28-oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15-oz. can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz. can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed
3 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or low-sodium vegetable juice)
1 T. salt-free chili seasoning
1 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. salt-free curry powder
1/8 t. ground cinnamon (or 1 whole cinnamon stick)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe avocado, diced, for garnish (optional)


Place all ingredients EXCEPT cilantro and avocado (if using) into a slow cooker and stir well to combine. Cover and set to high. Cook 6 hours, stirring occasionally (if possible). At the end of cooking time, remove lid and stir in cilantro. Spoon into bowls and top with diced avocado and additional cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.

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