Full of flavor, nutrients, and plant-based protein, Instant Pot Lentil Chili comes together with minimal effort to deliver a hearty and healthy meal that is perfect for busy nights.
Just like my recipes for Instant Pot Chili, Instant Pot Chicken Chili, and Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili, this recipe for Instant Pot Lentil Chili proves that you can develop insanely rich flavors in a relatively short amount when you make chili using the Instant Pot.
Reasons to Love Instant Pot Lentil Chili
- Simple Healthy Dinner Recipe. Much like my recipe for Instant Pot Lentil Soup, this easy vegan dinner does not disappoint! It comes together with very little effort and is filled with tender lentils, hearty beans, and a perfectly seasoned broth. It is loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients.
- Money-Saving Recipes. Made with inexpensive lentils and pantry staples, this Instant Pot Lentil Chili is one of the cheapest dinner recipes you can make.
- Bold Flavor. But just because this recipe is made with inexpensive ingredients, it doesn't lack flavor! Thanks to my award-winning homemade chili seasoning, a splash of dry red wine, and balsamic vinegar, Instant Pot Lentil Chili is richly seasoned.
Notes on Ingredients
- Lentils: It is crucial to use either dried green or brown lentils. Red and yellow lentils become much too soft to hold up in chili. Be sure to rinse the lentils before adding them to the chili to remove any dirt and dust.
- Broth: To keep this chili plant-based, use low-sodium store-bought or homemade vegetable broth. If you are not following a vegetarian diet, you can use low-sodium chicken stock or beef broth.
- Red Wine: My secret to giving this chili a deep, rich flavor is to add a bit of dry red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet. However, if you don't care to cook with alcohol, just swap out the wine for additional vegetable broth.
- Tomatoes: This recipe uses a combination of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes for a variety of textures.
- Beans: I prefer kidney beans in lentil chili, as they have a nice meaty texture. That said, feel free to swap them out for pinto or red beans if desired.
- Seasonings: The seasonings used in this lentil chili recipe mimic my homemade chili seasoning blend. It is the perfect bunch of flavor, yet does not overwhelm your palate with heat or spice.
- Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic may sound like an odd addition, but finishing the lentil chili with vinegar will help to really make the flavors pop.
How to Make Lentil Chili in the Instant Pot
The following tips are provided to help you achieve perfect results. You will find the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step One: Saute. The first step to developing incredible flavor in this lentil chili is to saute the onions with the spices. Toasting the spices will help develop their flavor and add depth to the chili.
Step Two: Deglaze the Inner Pot. And any time you use the saute function on the Instant Pot, it is crucial to deglaze the pan with a bit of thin liquid to prevent a burn notice. For this recipe, I like to use dry red wine as it really adds amazing flavor but feel free to use broth in place of the wine.
Step Three: Layer Ingredients. You want to pay close attention to how you layer the ingredients so you don't have a burn notice. Add everything to the inner pot BUT the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Give it all a stir to combine and then pour the tomatoes on top of the chili. Don't stir the tomatoes into the remaining ingredients as this can cause a burn notice to happen.
Step Four: Pressure Cook. Lentil Chili only takes a short time to pressure cook. But you have to account for time for the pressure to release naturally, as this will ensure the texture of the beans and lentils stay intact and your hot chili will not spew out of the vent knob if you force a quick release. After 15 minutes have passed, you can open up the instant pot. Do not be alarmed by the appearance of the chili. Once you give everything a good stir, the tomatoes will incorporate perfectly.
Step Five: Serve. The key to making this the BEST Lentil Chili is to finish it with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It will enhance the flavor profile of each ingredient and really give the chili depth.
This Lentil Chili is so flavorful, it does not need any adornment. That said, I do enjoy topping this chili with diced avocado, pickled red onions, and cilantro. If you are not vegan, adding shredded cheese and/or sour cream are all fabulous options. And no one will complain if you serve this chili with a side of corn chips or Homemade Cornbread.
More Vegan-Friendly Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Chickpea Tikka Masala
- Instant Pot Vegetable Soup
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
- Instant Pot Lentil Soup
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If you enjoyed this recipe for Instant Pot Lentil Chili, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Instant Pot Lentil Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium medium onion minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- ½ cup dry red wine or additional broth
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 cups brown or green lentils rinsed
- 1 (15-oz can) kidney beans rinsed
- 30 ounces tomato sauce
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- cilantro and avocado for serving
- Turn the Instant Pot to saute, add in the oil, and let heat.
- Once the oil is heated, add in the onion and saute until translucent and softened about 2-3 minutes. Once the onion has softened, add in the garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, and cayenne and saute for just 30 seconds to a minute, just to toast the garlic and spices.
- Add in the wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the instant pot to prevent a burn warning. Allow the wine to cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot by hitting cancel.
- Add the vegetable broth to the inner pot. Add the rinsed lentils and beans to the inner pot and stir to combine.
- Top the mixture with tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. DO NOT STIR.
- Place the lid on the inner pot and be sure the venting knob is pointed to sealed. Set the cooking time to HIGH PRESSURE for 15 minutes. Do this by hitting manual or pressure cook and use the +/- buttons to adjust the time.
- Once the cooking time has elapsed, allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 15 minutes. Once pressure has been released, open up the instant pot. The chili will look thick due to the tomatoes on top of the chili. Don't be alarmed. Add in the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.
- Serve with avocado and cilantro as desired.