This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission. Full Disclosure Policy.
Lentil Chili has plenty of flavor, making this an easy and delicious dinner.
You will love how quickly this chili cooks! Top it with your favorite toppings and enjoy a hearty bowl of vegetarian chili any night of the week!
Step by step photos and instructions below!
It’s that time of year when I break out all my chili recipes. I bring out my Dutch oven and everyone at my house knows what’s coming!
I’m a firm believer that you can’t have too many hearty chili recipes.
This lentil chili recipe is joining the ranks as one of my favorite meatless meals. It’s comforting, hearty, and made with simple, wholesome ingredients. I love that when I make it, it’s so deeply flavorful from the infusion of earthy spices that my family doesn’t even miss the meat!
Sometimes we can overindulge during the holidays so this recipe for easy lentil chili is a great way to bring back a little balance to your life. So make a big pot, set out your toppings, and watch everyone devour every last spoonful!
If you’re looking for more vegetarian chili recipes, I have a great chili with sweet potato I make in the slow cooker. You’ll have to check it out too.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- It’s healthy nourishing and super flavorful. Lentils are high in protein and fiber and low in fat. The spices deliver antioxidants, and the veggies provide loads of vitamins and minerals. It’s a gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free way to fill your tummies! Source: Healthline
- Made in one pot, this simple recipe is simple to make but the cleanup is just as easy! Meal prep on a Sunday for weekday lunches!
- Make it your own. This recipe is flexible enough that you can customize it to your liking. Add a bit more spice or dial it down a bit. Add in extra veggies or switch up the type of lentils you use.
Frequently Asked Questions
You don’t need to soak them. Rinse them, yes, but they cook fast enough that they don’t require help breaking down.
Certainly. Both will hold their shape when cooked, although green or red lentils will break down before brown ones. They can be used interchangeably as they have similar earthy, nutty flavor profiles.
This might be the best part! I’d say anything you add on top of more traditional chili, you can use it here. Sour cream, salsa, cheddar cheese, diced avocado, red onions, pickled onions, fresh cilantro, jalapeno, you name it!
It’s a vegan chili as written, however depending on any swaps you make or what toppings you add, it may no longer be vegan. If you choose to use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, not only is it not vegan, but at that point, it’s no longer vegetarian either.
The Best Side dishes for Lentil Chili
You could also have some tortilla chips for dipping and scooping. Other than that, you’ll need no more than a simple side salad as this is a whole hearty meal on its own.
I have included step by step photos and instructions, as well as tips and tricks in the post. If you’d rather skip all that, scoot right on down to the full recipe card located at the bottom of the post.
What to do with leftovers
Keep any leftover lentil chili stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You’ll be able to enjoy leftovers for lunch or dinner again for up to 3 days. This tastes even better the next day!
For a smokier flavor, swap the canned tomatoes for fire-roasted tomatoes. You can also use a chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika.
Use Rotel (mild, medium, or hot) in place of the canned tomatoes and green chili.
Like the heat? Add a dash of cayenne pepper or diced jalapenos into the pot.
If you’re not a fan of lentils, can’t find lentils, or just want to use up canned beans in your pantry, go ahead and make the swap. Do not use dried beans as they won’t cook in time, but by all means, use canned red kidney beans, pinto beans, or black beans instead.
A sprinkle of green onions is a great garnish, as well as cilantro.
Once completely cooled, transfer the chili to an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Keep frozen leftovers for up to 3 months. Then, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
The full list of ingredients and quantities is found in the printable recipe card below.
- Vegetable oil. Olive oil or any other type of oil can be used.
- Onion, carrot, celery. These form the base flavor for the chili.
- Yellow bell pepper. This is not quite as sweet as red bell pepper, but not as savory (or bitter) as a green pepper. I like yellow, but you can use whichever you prefer.
- Garlic cloves.
- Ground cumin. The combination of cumin and chili powder is a staple flavor in any classic chili recipe.
- Chili powder. I have a great homemade chili powder recipe I use for times like these. Also known as chili seasoning, it will give your chili a good bump of flavor.
- Vegetable broth (or water).
- Canned diced tomatoes.
- Canned green chiles. Depending on your spice tolerance, these can range from mild to hot, depending on when they were harvested. So, do a little taste test before you add them in. You could also add fresh jalapeno peppers if you love them!
- Canned tomato sauce.
- Brown lentils (dried). No need to pre-soak. Just be sure to rinse them well, and get rid of broken pieces and any debris. You can also use red lentils if you prefer.
Styled Pin Header
- Dutch oven/Soup pot
- Kitchen knife
- Can opener
- Wooden spoon
- Serving bowls
How to make this recipe
Scroll for Recipe
The full list of ingredients, quantities and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.
Dice the onion, carrot, celery and bell pepper until small. Mince the garlic, and measure the spices, and place in a small bowl.
Open the cans of tomatoes, chiles and sauce.
Make the chili
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
Add the diced vegetables, and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Sprinkle the seasonings over the vegetables and stir.
Add the broth, tomatoes, sauce, chiles, and dry lentils to the pot.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (stirring occasionally) until lentils are soft.
Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro, sliced jalapenos and red onion. Devour.
More vegetarian recipes:
- Spiced red lentil dhal. An Indian-inspired recipe full of earthy spices and robust flavors comes together in this easy, healthy, and satisfying recipe perfect for a weeknight meal.
- Black bean stuffed sweet potatoes. Fluffy baked sweet potatoes stuffed with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and flavorful Tex-Mex spices.
- Zucchini soup. Make this easy refreshing soup vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock!
- Quick tomato rice soup. This 15-minute soup is perfect for a quick lunch or dinner on a busy weeknight!
- Easy black bean soup. Made with garlic, cumin, cilantro, and a bit of spice! It’s vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free!
- Chopped cilantro (sliced jalapenos, diced red onion)
- Dice the onion, carrot, celery and bell pepper until small.
- Mince the garlic.
- Measure the spices, and place in a small bowl.
- Open the cans of tomatoes, chiles and sauce.
Make the chili
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
- Add the diced vegetables, and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Sprinkle the seasonings over the vegetables and stir.
- Add the broth, tomatoes, sauce, chiles, and lentils to the pot.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (stirring occasionally) until lentils are soft.
- Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro, sliced jalapenos and red onion
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.