It’s officially fall, and therefore, time to start making all the hearty soups and stews that warm the soul. I’m a little late in jumping on the sriracha bandwagon. I bought a bottle on the insistence of a friend several months ago who assured me that I would absolutely love it. Now to explain my hesitance, when I was growing up, even mild salsa would break me out into a sweat. I don’t know if it’s just getting older, or if my chips and salsa addiction gradually led me to spicier and spicier preferences, but nowadays I find myself wanting a little zip in everything I eat. So when I finally got around to trying out sriracha sauce on some of my meals, I was in love. It’s got the perfect balance of heat without the “on fire” feeling that so many other hot chilies can leave me with.
I’ve been adding a bit of sriracha here and there to different tastes and textures, trying to find out what it blends well with. This stew was one of the first ones I made once the cooler weather started hitting here (yes, it’s already been in the 30s at night!). It turned out to be so delicious, even my kids ate it – and liked it! That’s saying a lot, since they’re at that picky phase where they won’t touch anything besides pizza and PBJs. I didn’t add quite as much sriracha knowing they would be eating it, but if your taste likes, add a little extra for some zing. And if you’re worried about it being too spicy, start with the lower amount and then add more once it’s been cooked – it will taste just as good, I promise!
This recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew is vegetarian and can be made vegan if you omit the cheese and mayo at the end. It is also gluten-free. This is is another crockpot recipe, as well. If I haven’t mentioned it before (which I’m sure I have), I love having my crockpot going most days. The kids love how wonderful our home always smells and I like the ease of not having to stand over a stove. Because there’s no meat in this, you have a bit more flexibility on the cooking time too. If you cook it for 6 hours, the taste and texture won’t be much different than if you cooked it 10 hours.
I used Chana dal, a split pulse in this recipe. You can find this in the grocery store among Indian food or among the dried beans. They add a nutty flavor and a great texture to the dish. If your supermarket has a Bob’s Red Mill section like mine does, you may be able to find it there (or here, if you look on Amazon). If you absolutely cannot find any, you can substitute with another dal, yellow split peas or pigeon peas.
Purists take heart, I mixed all sorts of cuisines for this stew. But I promise, it turns out wonderful. The toppings at the end are optional. Without the mayo and cheese, this would count as a dairy-free dish. But I must say that they add an extra touch to the recipe. I am a mayo lover (especially when combined with sriracha!) but you can also use a Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Finally, I always encourage creativity with my recipes! Please don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly – as I always say, baking is chemistry, but cooking is an art. If you want less onion or more garlic, go ahead! If you want to add peppers or omit the carrots, or add a ton more sriracha, or use BBQ sauce instead or whatever, go right ahead! Experimenting in the kitchen is great fun and only makes you a better cook in the long run.
And finally, if you find yourself consistently making more than you or your family can eat before the food starts to go bad, remember that crockpot meals like this freeze very well. I usually put mine into 1-1/2 cup portions in freezer bags (once they’ve reached room temperature), label them, and store them in the back of the freezer for up to 6 months for an instant, healthy TV-dinner on days when I’m feeling too lazy or busy to cook!
Now, without any more of my blabbering on, here’s my recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew. Enjoy!