Smoky lentil and zucchini chili with Jalapeño-cheddar olive oil cornbread


Chili and cornbread: is there a more perfect combination for Sunday night football watching (or pretend-football-watching, if you’re like me)?

I don’t think so.

Multi-bean chili is one of my favorite winter meals, but I haven’t been making it as often as I’d like to because (a) I always seem to forget to soak and cook my dried beans in advance, and (b) I hate lugging canned beans home from the grocery store, making my odds of spontaneous chili-making close to zero.

Then last week my NYC foodie friend Jill, an amazing cook who is always coming up with interesting new recipes and flavor combinations, posted her lentil chili on Instagram.  And it hit me – of course! – quick-cooking, no-soaking-required lentils were the answer to my chili conundrum. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Inspired, I set about creating my own version, combining French lentils with lots of aromatic veggies, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and zucchini, classic chili spices (cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, sweet paprika), along with smoked paprika and dried chipotle pepper for heat and smoke.

From start to finish this chili takes only about an hour to prepare, but it tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove for hours. It’s thick and rich, with deep flavor and mellow sweetness from the red bell pepper and tomato taste, wonderful smokiness from all the spices, and satisfying texture from the hearty lentils and tender chunks of zucchini. I like to finish my bowl with lots of lime juice, diced avocado, scallions, cilantro, and sometimes a dollop of Greek yogurt and shredded raw cheddar.

As with any chili the flavor just keeps getting better for several days after this is made, so it’s a perfect dish for Sunday batch-cooking that will enable easy meals throughout the week.

And, if we’re having chili we really should make cornbread to go with it, yes?!


This jalapeño-cheddar version is my spin on an Ina Garten recipe that’s long been a favorite of mine. I made a few tweaks to up the wholesome-quotient of the original: replacing butter with olive oil, milk with grass-fed plain yogurt, sugar with pure maple syrup, and using einkorn flour (a traditional, non-hybridized variety of wheat) and garbanzo flour (for added protein) in place of regular all-purpose.

I use olive oil in nearly all my baked goods these days, from my beloved lemon yogurt cake to muffins to granola, because I love the mellow flavor and light texture it imparts. Cakes bake up fluffier and moister (and stay fresh longer, in my experience), granola is lighter and crispier. And the same goes for this cornbread, which takes on an amazingly tender crumb in this olive oil version.

Pops of flavor from jalapeño, scallions, and cheddar scattered throughout the batter make this cornbread extra special. And for a deliciously crunchy and savory crust I sprinkled my Everything Gomasio seasoning blend over the top before it went into the oven. The crunch of the dried garlic and onion flakes, poppy and sesame seeds and grains of coarse Himalayan pink salt makes for a wonderful contrast with the tender crumb below.

Smoky lentil and zucchini chili

Vegan-adaptable, Gluten-free, Dairy-free-adaptable

Serves 6

1 cup dried French or green lentils, rinsed and drained

4 garlic cloves; 1 whole (peeled), 3 sliced (divided)

2 bay leaves

salt and black pepper, as needed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

one 28-ounce box or can of chopped tomatoes (I like Pomi)

1/2 cup vegetable broth or water

1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (I purchase from Rancho Gordo)

1 medium zucchini, diced

to serve:

lime wedges

diced avocado

shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack

thinly sliced scallions

chopped cilantro

sour cream or Greek yogurt

jalapeno slices

In a large saucepan combine lentils, whole garlic clove, 1 bay leaf, 4 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and discard garlic clove and bay leaf.

Heat olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt, and cook until vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add jalapeño and remaining garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Add cumin, coriander, sweet and smoked paprikas, and chipotle. Cook for 2 minutes to toast the spices. Stir in tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Add tomatoes, cooked lentils, broth or water, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 30 minutes on low, partially covered. Add zucchini and cook for 15 minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve with garnishes of your choice and cornbread (recipe below).


Jalapeño-cheddar olive oil cornbread with Everything Gomasio

Serves 6

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used Jovial brand einkorn flour; regular AP or a GF blend such as Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour would be fine too)

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup cornmeal (I like Farmer Ground Flour brand)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher or fine-ground Celtic salt

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup plain yogurt (can sub 1 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice; whisk to combine and set aside for 5 minutes before adding to recipe)

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)

4 ounces cheddar, shredded (divided)

1 tablespoon Everything Gomasio

Whisk together flours, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

In a separate large bowl combine eggs, olive oil, yogurt, and maple syrup. Whisk until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine (don’t overmix, it’s okay if the batter has some lumps).

Fold in the jalapeño, scallions, and half of the cheddar. Let batter rest 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or 9-inch pie dish or square baking dish) with olive oil. Scrape the batter into the skillet. Top with remaining cheddar and sprinkle with gomasio.

Bake until cornbread is puffed and golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

4 thoughts on “Smoky lentil and zucchini chili with Jalapeño-cheddar olive oil cornbread

  1. Hi Nancy! I sort of followed both these recipes today and they came out so delicious! Thanks for the motivation…maybe you got that I’m not much of a baker…I don’t think I’ve ever made cornbread before…this came out great. I used Bob’s red mill 1:1 and subbed the greek yogurt with another one I love that’s live culture….also used cotija cheese in place of cheddar bc it’s what I had in my fridge. first time I’ve ever baked in the cast iron. omg I’m now super excited to do an olive oil cake in there! ok rambling…thanks again for the inspiration. 🙂


    • Hey Jennifer, I’m so glad that the cornbread worked out for you! I love the Bob’s 1:1 GF flour, always great results with that stuff. Cotija sounds like a perfect addition. And I agree – the cast iron pan will be perfect for an olive oil cake! Happy baking! 🙂 Nancy


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