The flavors in this Vegan Lentil Chili are rich, comforting and beyond delicious! You'll never miss the meat.
Whether you're following a plant based diet or are just trying to work more meatless meals into your life, this vegan lentil chili recipe is a fantastic addition to any meal plan! It has just the right amount of spice for our family, but feel free to reduce or increase the amount of chili powder to your taste. If you like things really spicy, stir in some chopped chipotle peppers or some cayenne pepper.
Lentils and black beans are packed with fiber, which makes this chili extra filling and satisfying. I usually serve it with a green salad - cornbread as well if I'm feeling particularly ambitious.
The recipe also happens to be gluten free and dairy free (provided you don't sprinkle shredded Cheddar cheese on top).
There are a couple of unusual ingredients in here that I stole from my favorite chili recipe. Unsweetened cocoa powder and ground cinnamon. I was originally inspired by a mole sauce at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Many moles include chocolate and cinnamon. So, I thought, why not give it a go in my next batch of chili. I wasn't disappointed! They add an underlying depth of flavor to the chili - though you can't actually identify those flavors when eating the chili - and I never make chili without them again.
If you're looking for more easy dinner recipe, check out my 45+ 30-Minute Healthy Dinner Ideas.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS VEGAN LENTIL CHILI RECIPE:
These are the main components need for this recipe (affiliate links included)…
- Lentils: Both brown and green lentils work in this recipe. Since the cooking time is similar, they're easily substituted for the other. Plus, they're both readily available in most grocery stores.
- Tomatoes: You'll need tomato paste and canned crushed tomatoes. If you have the option to buy tomato paste in the tube, I highly recommend it. It's so much easier to deal with than canned tomato paste, particularly if you're not using the whole can.
- Spices: This chili recipe calls for the usual suspects - chili powder, cumin and oregano - and a couple of unexpected ones - cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder. I rarely make chili without them anymore!
- Broth: Use either homemade or store-bought vegetable broth. If you are watching your sodium, use a low sodium version.
- Black beans: For ease, I use canned black beans. Be sure to drain and rinse well before adding them to the chili. Red kidney beans would be a good substitution.
Tips for making this vegan chili:
This chili follows the same basic steps of most chilis, stews and soups. Start by sauteing the aromatics - in this case, that's the onion and red bell pepper. Next up are the garlic, spices and tomato paste. Be sure to stir constantly while cooking these for a minute or two so they don't stick to the bottom of the saucepan or burn.
Because you are using several spices, I recommend measuring them out and combining them in a prep bowl while the onion is cooking. Once the onion and bell pepper are cooked, you can add the garlic and all of the spices in one fell swoop.
After adding the liquid, bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the temperature so that the mixture cooks at a lively simmer. Partially cover the saucepan with the lid while the lentils are cooking and stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom.
If you find that the lentils soak up the liquid more than you would like, feel free to add more vegetable broth or water.
Can you freeze lentil chili?
Yes! Once the chili is cool, divide it into freezer containers, like these ones (affiliate link), and freeze. The chili can be frozen for 4 to 6 months. To defrost, place it in the freezer, or use the defrost mode on your microwave.
What to serve on the side:
Since this chili already boasts a good amount of fiber and protein, I typically serve a big salad on the side. That being said, if you like something creamy with your chili, try a dollop of Greek yogurt or light sour cream (look for vegan alternatives if following a plant-based diet).
Some of our favorite salads to serve with chili:
Any green salad (kale, mixed greens, spinach) with tahini dressing
Jicama & Carrot Slaw with Honey-Lime Dressing
Warm Kale Salad with Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms
Apple & Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Is lentil chili healthy?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, lentils are a good source of fiber, potassium and folate. In addition, they also contain prebiotics (hello, gut health!) Plus, they’re a great source of plant-based protein.
This vegetarian chili also contains black beans, which boast their own health benefits, including impressive levels of fiber and protein.
Other lentil recipes:
Vegan Lentil Chili Recipe
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 2 teasoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 ¼ cups dry brown or green lentils
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 oz) can black beans drained & rinsed
- 3 tablespoons minced cilantro
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the vegetable broth, lentils and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so that the mixture is simmering. Partially cover the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Stir in the black beans and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Serve.
This post was first published on January 2, 2020 and updated with new text on June 15, 2021.
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.