Back on a budget: Lentil chilli recipe

I've become a student again - and have challenged myself to eat on the cheap, without compromising on taste.

Wow! Thanks for all the suggestions to help me on my culinary quest. 

I thought I’d bring your ideas together to make a recipe of my own: a lentil chilli. It’s easy to make - and also vegan friendly!

I’ve taken a chilli con carne recipe I’ve been using for a while (a hybrid of a number of sources, adapted over time to suit my tastes) but substituted the mince for lentils.

And if you’re looking to entertain friends, or want to scrimp on washing up, you can also upgrade this recipe into walking tacos.

Lentil Chilli

Spicy vegan goodness!

Spicy vegan goodness!

Preparation time: 10-15 minute

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4-6

250g red lentils
400g tin of plum tomatoes
A sprinkle of chilli flakes - to your own heat requirements.
3 garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
6 spring onions (roughly chopped)
Half a bunch of coriander (roughly chopped)
3 teaspoons of garam masala
8 mushrooms (chopped)
400g tin of kidney beans
1 vegetable stock cube
1 red pepper (roughly chopped) - I used a jarred pepper (as it was to hand) but a raw pepper is fine
1 tablespoon of tomato puree 

A cheap and healthy batch of ingredients! 

A cheap and healthy batch of ingredients! 


- Blitz the tomatoes, chillies, garlic, spring onions, coriander and garam masala in a blender into a spicy a sauce.

- In a large pan, add the lentils, chilli sauce from the blender, vegetable stock cube, mushrooms, kidney beans and tomato puree. Stir and then  simmer for 30 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Season to taste.

Walking Tacos

Eating in a hurry - and saving on the washing up! 

Eating in a hurry - and saving on the washing up! 

Lentil chilli
55g bag of Doritos
Grated cheese
A napkin

Taco time! 

Taco time! 

Optional extras
Soured cream
A sprinkle of coriander for garnish


- With scissors, carefully cut the top of the pack and roll the sides back slightly.

- Ladle in the lentil chilli (and top with optional cheese, jalapeños etc) 

- Wrap the pack in a napkin (foil can get hot!) - and away you go


Where the savings are...
I've found a few ways to help make this recipe as cheap as it can be...

First up (and most obviously) using lentils instead of mince makes the chilli a cheaper meal... although if you are a massive carnivore, I'm not standing in your way. Use 400g of mince and use a beef stock cube instead of the veggie one. 

Where possible, I also buy produce individually rather than in a pack: the mushrooms being the main one here. Eight individual 'shrooms cost slightly less than a pre-sealed tray.

If items can't be bought individually, I make the most out of the excess. Spring onions and coriander can be reused in tasty salads. 

Buying in bulk can also help make savings over time. I got a 500g bag of lentils for £1, which will make another meal. But if you really want to be adventurous, a 2kg bag is £3 and will last for many more future stews, soups, curries and chilli dishes.


What next?
Like all ‘homemade’ recipes, this chilli is a work in progress. If you cook it - and have any ideas to make it extra tasty, let me know! 

AND If you have any other recipe ideas - or tips on cooking delicious food on the cheap - drop me a line!

Tweet me: @stephensonrich

Massive thanks to: Gill and Mel for the bulk buying ideas, Stacey for telling me to ‘go veggie’ and Stackhouse bar for introducing me to Walking Tacos. YUM!