This vegan chili, without oil, looks like it has meat in it. The key is choosing dark lentils, they will look like ground beef. We use a lentil trio from Costco – see the link to it.
Recipe yields a full 5 quart (4.7 litre) crock-pot / slow cooker. You can update the Servings number to recalculate the recipe if you want to make more or less.
Turn slow cooker to high.
Cook lentils in a small pot following the package directions, until just undercooked. They will finish cooking and absorb liquid in the chili. On the stove my lentils take 7 minutes of simmering in water, plus 4 min of sitting with the heat off, then I drain and add the lentils to the slow cooker.
Meanwhile, add diced onions to a saute or frying pan and cook on medium heat 5 - 9 minutes to caramelize. Add small amounts of water to prevent sticking. No oil required. Bits of brown are tasty.
While the onions are getting flavourful, drain your cans of diced tomatoes as much as possible, really get the liquid out, and add to the slow cooker.
Large dice the green and red peppers into bite sized pieces. Throw them into the slow cooker so they can start warming up.
Mix up the spices in a separate dish, there will be extra - we aren't going to use it all.
Stir 4 heaping tablespoons of spice mix into the slow cooker now before it gets too full. Reserve the rest of the spice mix for taste testing and adding later or to future chili.
Add all remaining vegetables, lentils, and beans, to the slow-cooker / crock-pot, and stir well to combine.
Cook on high until bubbling (about 2 hours for my old, very full crock-pot). It will be faster if your crock pot is less full (see notes). You can serve the chili at this point, but if you reduce to low and continue cooking for a few hours longer, the chili is going to get tastier and more thick and more brown looking.
Cooking time will vary, depending on the size of your slow cooker and how much chili you are making.
Slow cooker manufacturers recommend filling the pot at least half full and no more than two-thirds full.
Your dish might cook more quickly and burn around the top if filled less than half full, and if over-filled, it will take longer to heat up to temperature and cook.