Made with lentils, beans, and a richly spiced tomato sauce, this Lentil Chili is a one-pot recipe that comes together in just 30 minutes!
This recipe for Lentil Chili is a hearty, vegan-friendly recipe that is packed with protein, fiber, and flavor!
Why You Will Love Lentil Chili
When it comes to chili recipes, I can't get enough. From classic beef and bean chili to chicken chili to sweet potato quinoa chili, I love them all!
But when I am looking for something lighter, yet hearty, this Lentil Chili is my go-to recipe for many reasons.
- Extremely affordable. Made with dried lentils and a few canned goods, this recipe costs pennies per serving.
- Ready in 30 minutes. Chili oftentimes takes hours to develop a rich flavor, but this recipe for Lentil Chili is made in one pot in just under 30 minutes.
- Vegan-friendly, yet hearty! Even though this recipe is meatless, it packs in a ton of plant-based protein thanks to lentils and beans. It is also full of fiber, which keeps you feeling full for hours.
- Allergy-Friendly. Not only is this recipe for Lentil Chili vegan-friendly, but is also nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.
- Crowd-pleaser. Even my picky kids and meat-loving husband enjoy this meatless lentil chili.
Notes on Ingredients
- Lentils: For Lentil Chili, it is crucial to use either dried green or brown lentils. Red and yellow lentils are much too soft to hold up in a chili recipe.
- Onions and Garlic: A tip for adding flavor to a quick-cooking chili is to start the recipe by sauteeing onion and garlic. It takes a few minutes of time and really starts the recipe out with a lot of flavor.
- Red Wine: My secret to giving this wine a deep, rich flavor is to deglaze the pan with a dry red wine, like Merlot or Cabernet. If you don't care to cook with alcohol, replace the wine with additional vegetable broth.
- Vegetable Broth: Use your favorite low-sodium store-bought or homemade vegetable broth.
- Tomatoes: I use a combination of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes for a variety of textures. If your family prefers a smoother chili, replace the diced tomatoes with additional tomato sauce, or if you like a chunky chili, replace the tomato sauce with diced tomatoes.
- Spices: I use my homemade chili seasoning which is the perfect combination of dried seasonings that work to add incredible depth to the chili.
- Beans: I prefer using kidney beans for this chili recipe, but black, pinto, or red beans can be used in their place.
How to make Lentil Chili
- Heat a bit of oil over medium heat in a large stock pan or dutch oven.
- Once the oil is heated, add in the onions and saute until just softened. Add in the garlic and toast just for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant. You don't want that garlic to burn!
- If using red wine, add that now, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the wine simmer for a minute or two for the alcohol to cook off and the flavor to deepen.
- Add in the vegetable broth tomatoes, beans, lentils, and seasonings, and turn the heat to high. Bring a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer, stirring frequently, until the lentils are tender.
- Serve as desired. I enjoy serving Lentil Chili with diced avocado and chopped cilantro. You can also serve it with shredded cheese and sour cream if you are not dairy-free.
Slow Cooker Instructions
To make this Lentil Chili in the slow cooker, reduce the broth from 2 cups to 1 cup. Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker, stirring to combine. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours, or until the lentils are tender.
Leftover Lentil Chili
Just like all chili recipes, the flavor gets better as the chili sits.
Once the chili has cooled slightly, you can store the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container, leaving 1 inch of space for expansion, for up to 3 months.
When reheating the leftover, first defrost in the refrigerator overnight if needed, then reheat in a saucepan, adding a bit of water or stock to thin if necessary. Heat until warmed through.
To make leftovers stretch a bit further, try serving the leftover lentil chili over Instant Pot Baked Potatoes or Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes.
More Lentil Recipes
Lentils are an inexpensive staple to keep on hand. They are packed with fiber, and nutrients, and are quick to cook. I love to use them in this chili recipe and in the following recipes.
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
If you tried out this recipe for Lentil Chili, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ cup dry red wine optional
- 1 tablespoon chili seasoning
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes blended
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes not blended
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 cup green or brown lentils
- 2 cups beans cooked or canned
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and spices. Saute until onion is softened.
- Deglaze pan with wine and allow to boil for 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and broth (or water). Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.
- Add the lentils and beans and cook until lentils are tender--about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve with desired toppings.
- Lentil Chili can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- I blended one can of tomatoes to give the soup more liquid and for texture preference. You can skip this step and just use 2 cans of diced tomatoes, or you can blend all the tomatoes if your family is opposed to the texture of diced tomatoes.
- I recommend kidney beans and black beans for this Lentil Chili, but you can use red beans or pinto beans instead.
- Feel free to adjust the spices to accommodate your family's preferences.
- Green or brown lentils are best for this chili recipe. Red lentils will turn to mush, so are not recommended for this recipe.
- Dry red wine, like Merlot or Cabernet, is recommended for this Lentil Chili, but feel free to use additional vegetable stock in place of the wine.
- Slow Cooker Instructions: Place all ingredients into the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low or 4 hours on high.
How long in the instant pot?
Hi Regina! I would cook for 12 minutes on high pressure. Be sure to put layer the ingredients so that the tomatoes are on the top of the lentils and broth to prevent a burn notice.
This vegetarian lentil chili was delicious! It's a bonus that it's vegan-friendly and so hearty. Thanks for this amazing recipe.
This lentil chili was so flavorful, I cannot wait to make it again.
My husband absolutely loves soups like this, so I'm always on the hunt for a different version so I can keep things interesting. Haha! This one was a HIT! Thank you!
Mmmmm, I like this idea for lentils. I have too many bags of them in the pantry right now, just waiting to be put to good use. This looks delish, garnished with avocado and cilantro! What a fun idea!
This is the PERFECT recipe for all those lentils! Enjoy!
This was so delicious yet easy! Thanks for saving me when I needed a quick dinner my family would love!
YAY! So glad your family enjoyed this Julie! It is so easy and on the table fast!