Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice
Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice


  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup red split lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp ground paprika
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/2tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
  • 1 whole dried chilli
  • 1 fresh green chilli, sliced; seeds in or out
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin kidney beans (400g), rinsed
  • Stock cube of your choice
  • Seasoning
  • As much fresh coriander as you like
  • Half a lime (a favourite of mine but clearly optional!)


Rinse and cook the dried pearl barley as per instructions (mine takes about an hour), can be done in advance.

Meanwhile, in a pot that has a lid sauté the onion, celery, and red pepper on medium heat in a little oil until tender, about 10 mins.

Add all spices and oregano, cocoa, garlic, & tomato paste to the onion mix, combine and cook out gently for 6 mins, to develop tomato paste.

Chilli Con Barley - other ingredients
Chilli Con Barley – other ingredients

Next, add the cooked barley, lentils, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, dried whole chilli and fresh chilli to onion and spice mix, add one and a half tomato tins full of cold water (you may need more, or less water. By eye is good) and the crumbled stock cube. I used veg stock cube because I wanted to keep it vegetarian, but chicken could be used, or even beef. Put the lid on.

Simmer for about half an hour, or until lentils are tender. I usually turn the hob to very low and let it do its own thing for as long as I need.

Check seasoning and add salt if necessary and a twist or 10 of black pepper then serve with your favourite chilli con carne accompaniments.

Chilli Con Barley - finished
Chilli Con Barley – finished

NB. My chilli con barley didn’t have fresh coriander in this time because I didn’t have any. Sometimes I don’t have celery, or a red pepper, and even fresh chillies. I just wing it! Things that I wouldn’t leave out though is the onion and all spices.


I’m going to try replacing ground beef with the cooked barley, and lentils in many dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, and cottage pie. If I’m brave enough I might even make a burger, but I’d have to cook the lentils first… 😉

For lunch the next day I grabbed a ladle full of the chilli, added water and heated in a pan before whizzing with a stick blender. It made a delicious soup, so if you hate my recipe as a chilli you have a great soup!

Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

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