‘Cheesy’ Lentil Chili Casserole
‘Cheesy’ Lentil Chili Casserole- spiral pasta layered with savory lentil chili and a creamy cheese sauce. Hearty and satisfying, it’s the perfect healthy comfort food!
This lentil chili casserole is comfort food at it’s finest! You know, the kind that makes you want to wrap yourself in a fuzzy blanket and warm socks? Pasta layered with savory chili and a cheesy topping is about as cozy as it gets in my book.
Plus, I figure with cooler weather on the way (one can only hope), it’s totally acceptable to stuff your face with cheesy carbs. Because we need the extra calories to keep us warm. At least that’s what this pregnant lady is telling herself!
How to Make Cheesy Lentil Chili Casserole
While this isn’t exactly weeknight meal material, it isn’t overly complicated to make so long as you use canned lentils and make the vegan cheese sauce in advance. Or you can use store bought vegan cheese to make it go even faster. The world is your oyster.
- First up, we’re sautéing the onion, peppers, garlic, and mushrooms with seasonings like chili powder, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Feel free to add cayenne or crushed red pepper if you like it spicy!
- After the veggies are softened, we add our cooked lentils and diced tomatoes to form our base of lentil chili.
- Then we stir in cooked pasta and combine all of that goodness together. We’ll pour that in a baking dish, top with vegan cheese, and bake for just 20 minutes until heated through. That’s all there is to it!
This cheesy lentil chili casserole is perfect to prep in advance (just wait to bake until ready to eat) or serve for gatherings since it makes so many servings.
Leftovers hold up well for up to 5 days and while I haven’t tried freezing it myself, it should freeze well without the cheese sauce. That will be something I’ll have to test for my maternity leave and let you know how it goes!
'Cheesy' Lentil Chili Casserole
- 8 ounces fusilli pasta, or pasta of choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 jalapenos, cored and finely chopped (can sub 1 bell pepper, if preferred)
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 15 ounces cooked lentils
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegan cheese sauce, store bought or homemade
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until tender, or somewhat al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold running water. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F then lightly grease a 9x13” baking dish.
- In the same pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeño and red bell pepper then cook for 5 minutes, until soft.
- Next, add the mushrooms, garlic, chili powder, oregano, and smoked paprika. Continue to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring intermittently.
- Lastly, pour in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and cooked lentils. Stir to combine. Cook over a low simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat then stir in the cooked pasta.
- Transfer the lentil mixture to the greased casserole dish. Spread cheese sauce over top and out to the sides. Garnish with smoked paprika, diced tomatoes, and red onion. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until heated through. Serve warm and enjoy!
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Hi! First let me say that I LOOOVE this recipe…it’s as close to taco chili mac I’ve had in over a year! It was a huge hit today for my weekly Sunday football gathering, and
even my meat-eating friends liked it. It’s also versatile enough that you can “customize” it to fit your taste preferences; I added corn & used a shredded Mexican cheese blend (I’m not vegan). One thing I noticed though while cooking was that there seems to be inconsistencies between the blog post narrative, the ingredients list, and the instructions. Particularly the recipe calling for cumin & tomato paste…how much of each? I’m terrible with “guessing” so I thought I might ask instead.
Thank you very much!
I’m sorry for the confusion, Danielle! I left those two ingredients out of the list by mistake but I just updated it to reflect the accurate amounts. Thank you for letting me know and for the kind review! :)
First thing my husband said was, “DELICIOUS!” And it is! Especially on this cloudy, cool day here in Austin, TX. There is another clarification: #3 on the instructions say to add a red bell pepper which I don’t see in the ingredient list. I didn’t add it, but can next time. And if you cook your own lentils, 2/3 cup dry makes 15 oz cooked. The lentils and mushrooms make it seem just like hamburger in this dish. And, as in the picture I added chopped avocado after it came out of the oven. It was soooo good!!!
I made a batch of your Best Vegan “Cheese” Sauce for the top, but my mind fools me into thinking that it’s the real thing which is loaded with calories, high saturated fat, high sodium, packed with cholesterol, and sprinkled with hormones! I had to constantly remind myself that it is not, and I am not being pulled back into the cheese trap with this yummy healthy imitation. And the clean up is so much easier than with real cheese!
Thank you for making life healthier for us!
Love this recipe! I added some fresh spinach and I was a little lazy and didn’t bake it with the cheese. Still very yummy – thanks for sharing!!
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