Classic Chili by Rachel Polanco

When I signed up to do this month’s recipe post, I had a one-track mind: fall soup. Pumpkin, butternut squash, potato – something rich, creamy, and toasty-warm as the weather gets colder.

Little did I think that in the month between then and now, God would start tugging me back into a pattern of being more responsible both with what I eat and how much I spend. Since I work full time and struggle with finding the energy to cook when I’m off (who doesn’t?), that means one thing: big batches of a balanced meal I can safely store and reheat throughout the week.

And so, I come to my favorite fall fall-back, chili! This recipe is built out of cheap pantry staples and inexpensive veggies. Since it’s just me at home, the 8 servings it makes means it’s a balanced meal for the week, and the variety of toppings means I can keep things interesting without changing my base. (Chili freezes well, too – just let it cool before portioning and freezing!)

Pantry items: 

2 tbsp oil

2 cans black beans

2 15 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 boxes vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup dried lentils


2 yellow (or white) onions, diced

3 bell peppers, diced

6 stalks celery, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced


2 bags frozen onion and pepper blend

1 bag frozen corn

2 tsp jarred, minced garlic



2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp cayenne powder

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste



  1. Heat oil in the bottom of a large stock pot over medium heat. Add diced, fresh vegetables once hot, or frozen vegetables while heating.
  2. Once onions are translucent (about 5 minutes), add all other pantry items except lentils. Raise the heat and bring everything to a simmer; add lentils and seasonings, and cook for 20 minutes, or until lentils are done. Note: I often need to add liquid as the lentils soak up the broth – add water until the chili is at the consistency you prefer.
  3. Give the chili a final taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve, or store!



  1. Taste like it’s missing something? It may need more acidity (add a splash of white vinegar), more sweetness (add brown sugar), more salt, or more depth of flavor (try cocoa powder or cinnamon!).
  2. Swap the lentils (and some beans) with any protein you want! If I’m going for meats, I’ll either brown some ground turkey (low-fat) or some sausage (lots of flavor). Other add-ins include ground beef, ground chicken, or shredded chicken breast!
  3. If you want your chili to be thicker but don’t want to cut down on liquids, try adding a 6oz can of tomato paste to the veggies.
  4. Potatoes? Yams? Squash? Pumpkin? Knock yourself out with some extra veggies! There’s a fantastic pumpkin chili recipe out there somewhere, strongly recommend.
  5. Toppings MAKE this dish. Sour cream and cheddar cheese are my staples, but green onions, jalapenos, cilantro, and tortilla chips are delicious, too!


How do you make your own chili at home? Let us know in the comments!