Lentil Chili is an easy, hearty, and healthy one-pot meal. Made with hearty brown lentils, vegan ground “beef”, and a handful of smoky spices, it’s perfect for layering on tons of toppings and will brighten up any cold or gloomy day!

Stovetop, Instant Pot, and slow cooker instructions included.

a white bowl filled with lentil chili and topped with shredded cheese and sour cream.

If you’re looking for a meal that captures all of the delicious, hearty, and filling qualities of Lentil Soup and Vegan Chili, this Lentil Chili recipe is it.

Each bowl is packed with protein thanks to the mix of brown lentils, vegan ground beef, and simple vegetables. It’s the perfect meal for getting cozy on gloomy days or for meal prep!

The best part? This simple lentil chili can easily be made on the stovetop, in the Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker. It isn’t too spicy, either! Go ahead and play with the ingredients and spices to make each spoonful as spicy, smoky, or mild as you like.

You’re going to want to make this rich and flavorful vegan chili ASAP because it’s:

  • Easy to make in one pot
  • Cozy and hearty comfort food
  • Adult and kid-friendly
  • Perfect for meal prep or freezing for later
  • Flexible! Play with the spice level, add more veggies, or pile on as many toppings as you like
white ladle holding a scoop of lentil chili.

Looking for more recipes featuring the mighty lentil? Try my Quick & Easy Red Lentil Dahl, Lentil Bolognese, Vegan Lentil Loaf or Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Cheesy Mashed Potatoes.

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

  • Vegan ground beef – I used Beyond Meat crumbles, but Impossible or any other brand will work as well. You can also use the tofu method found in my ultimate vegan chili recipe. Just add it into the chili after it’s done cooking.
  • Yellow onion
  • Green bell pepper – Or any color bell pepper you like. Feel free to add some of your favorite veggies to the mix, like corn, zucchini, squash, carrots, or jalapeno.
  • Garlic
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Vegetable broth
  • Brown lentils – Both brown and green lentils work best here because they hold their shape and thicken the chili so perfectly. Do not use red lentils as they’ll turn to mush when cooked.
  • Brown sugar – The sweetness from the sugar will balance the acidity and spicy flavors in the chili. If you want, you can replace this with maple syrup or agave.
  • Spices – You’ll need a sweet and smoky blend of chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to give this chili its flavorful charm.
individual glass bowls filled with spices, tomato sauce, lentils, broth, and vegan ground beef.

How to make vegan lentil chili on the stove

Start by browning the ground “beef” and onions in a large pot over medium heat. Cook until the onion is translucent.

sautéing vegan ground beef in a large black pot.

Next, add the bell pepper and garlic and cook until fragrant.

sautéing vegan ground beef and green peppers in a large black pot.

Pour the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, brown sugar, and spices into the pot. Bring this mixture up to a boil before lowering the heat and leaving it to simmer until the lentils are tender.

When it’s ready, season with additional salt as needed or thin it out with more vegetable broth. Serve with all of the toppings you can imagine and enjoy!

Instant Pot method

Saute the vegan beef and onion in the Instant Pot using Saute mode. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook until fragrant.

Pour the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, brown sugar, and spices into the pot. Stir it all together before turning off Saute mode.

Seal the lid closed and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before quick releasing the remaining pressure.

Give the chili one last stir, season with salt to taste, then serve.

Slow cooker method

Saute the onion and vegan ground beef in a separate pan on the stove until the onion is translucent and the beef is browned. 

Transfer this mixture to the bowl of a slow cooker. Add in the green pepper, garlic, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, brown lentils, and all of the spices. Stir everything together.

Cover the crockpot with a lid, then cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours. You’ll know the chili is ready when the lentils are tender.

a large black pot filled with red tomato sauce and vegetables.

The best lentil chili toppings

Serving this lentil chili to a crowd? Place all of these toppings and more into small bowls and let your guests customize their chili any way they like:

Don’t forget a slice or two of vegan cornbread on the side!

Frequently asked questions

  1. Do the lentils need to be soaked? No. Because this soup simmers for so long, the brown lentils will become perfectly tender on their own.
  2. How long does lentil chili last? The leftover chili will last for up to 4 days when kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
  3. Can you freeze leftover lentil chili? Absolutely! The cooked and cooled vegetarian lentil chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Just keep the batch in a freezer-safe bag or container to ensure it stays fresh. 
  4. Can I use red lentils instead of brown? Unfortunately, no. Red lentils break down very easily and will essentially melt into the chili. Brown, green, and even black lentils hold their shape the best, giving the chili its signature thick and hearty texture.
a large black pot filled with cooked lentils and tomato sauce.

Want more hearty vegan soups and chilis?

a white bowl filled with lentil chili and topped with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Lentil Chili (Vegan)

Lentil Chili is an easy, hearty, and healthy one-pot meal. Made with hearty brown lentils, vegan ground “beef”, and a handful of smoky spices.
5 stars (3 ratings)

Ingredients 

Lentil Chili

  • 1 pound vegan ground beef, see Notes
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Optional toppings

Instructions

Stovetop

  • In a large pot, add the vegan ground beef and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the “beef” has browned and the onion is translucent. Add the green bell pepper and garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  • To the pot, add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and salt. Stir well, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing burns on the bottom.
  • Add additional salt to taste. You may add a bit of water for a thinner chili, if desired. Serve with toppings of choice.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Use the sauté function to brown the vegan beef, onions then add the green pepper and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add all the other ingredients and give it a good stir.
  • Secure the lid and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then carefully release any remaining pressure. Stir, add salt to taste and add a little water for a thinner chili, if desired. Enjoy with toppings.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • First, sauté the onion and vegan beef in a small pan on the stovetop until browned. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and add all the rest of the ingredients (except the toppings of course).
  • Stir, then cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours, until the lentils are tender. Serve.

Notes

  1. Vegan beef – I used Beyond Beef, but you can use another brand of vegan beef, such as Impossible or Gardein. Or use the same technique and bake tofu crumbles like I do in my popular Vegan Chili recipe.
  2. Leftover chili – The chili will keep for about 4 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  3. Freezer instructions – It freezes beautifully for up to 3 months. Let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer friendly containers or bags and freeze.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 8 servings, Calories: 316kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 958mg, Potassium: 877mg, Fiber: 15g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1217IU, Vitamin C: 24mg, Calcium: 120mg, Iron: 7mg

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