Chili Sin Carne, Praise Beans

I know you have a stash of beans in your pantry right now. I can tell by the empty supermarket shelves. Good on you. I’m a huge fan of beans, and you should be too!

Beans are a staple food in many countries. Often ignored or derided, beans are an excellent source of nutrition, and they deserve more love. But don’t take it from me, listen to what these pop stars have to say.

“Delicious and full of nutrients, so tasty, you’ll be missing out if you don’t eat them!”

These Rwandan artists wrote a song about beans! Imagine if pop artists around the world sang about fruits, vegetables, and whole grains too.

The song is specifically about high-yielding, biofortified beans (bred through conventional techniques, not genetic modification) that are drought tolerant and high in iron; a win-win for farmers and consumers. Plus, the organization that created them, HarvestPlus, is dedicated to democratically developing biofortified seeds and ensuring they are kept in the public domain, patent-free.

Today, four firms control over 60% of the global seed market; they bought out smaller companies precisely to accumulate more intellectual property rights to seeds. This monopoly power allows them to determine which plants get bred, grown, harvested, and at what price. The scarce competition in this industry has led to high prices for producers and consumers, less innovation, and less agency for farmers. As a result, seed diversity is decreasing, leaving our food system more vulnerable to changing climate and environmental conditions. We should invest in public plant breeding programs whose aim is to build resilient farming systems. Those biofortified beans (and accompanying music video!) are the result of such a program.

Chili Sin Carne

Recipe adapted from the blogger Minimalist Baker’s red lentil chili.

Makes about six servings.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (see note) OR 1 jalapeño pepper, minced with seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 can (400 gr) tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups (420 ml) vegetable broth, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 cup (148g) dry red lentils, rinsed in cold water, and drained
  • 1 can (400 gr) kidney beans, slightly drained
  • 1 can (400 gr) black beans, slightly drained
  • 1 cup of corn kernels, frozen, canned, or fresh (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving

Optional, but using at least one of these really finishes the dish.

  • Fresh chopped cilantro and/or green onion
  • Sour cream
  • Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Avocado, diced


  1. Heat a large pot on medium heat and pour in the oil. Add oil, onion, carrot, and red pepper. Season with salt and sauté until onions are translucent.
  2. Add jalapeño or chili powder, garlic, cumin, and paprika and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add lentils and lower the heat as needed to bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until lentils are mostly tender.
  4. Add the beans and corn. Partially cover and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the chili doesn’t burn on the bottom.
  5. Lastly, turn off the stove and add lemon juice or vinegar. Stir and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt or spices to taste.
  6. Serve with one or multiples garnishes.


  • By chili powder, I mean Mexican chili powder. Look at the ingredients of your chili powder. Many times there is salt added to chili powder blends so you may need to adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly. If the ingredients list the type of chili, the following are what you’re looking for: ancho, New Mexico, guajillo, or chipotle.
  • I find this dish looks and tastes best with both kidney and black beans, but if you only have one of the two on hand, just use what you’ve got.  

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