Lentil Chili is an easy, hearty, and delicious 1-pot vegan meal. Made with hearty red lentils, black beans, walnuts, vegetables, and a handful of smoky spices, it’s perfect for layering on tons of toppings and will brighten up any cold or gloomy day!

If you are looking for more ways to enjoy inexpensive and nutritious lentils, make sure to check out my 1-Pot Lentil Bolognese, Vegan Lentil Soup and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie.

dark grey bowl of lentil chili with pickled onions, avocado and cilantro

Each bowl of this lentil chili is packed with protein and fiber thanks to the mix of lentils, black beans, vegetables and walnuts. And did I mention it’s crazy delicious!?

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
  • Inexpensive and budget 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.
grey pot on grey background full of lentil chili with a wood spoon stirring it

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

  • 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
  • Spices – You’ll need a sweet and smoky blend of chili powder, cumin, maple syrup, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to give this chili its flavorful charm.
  • Crushed tomatoes – Diced tomatoes or even tomato sauce will work.
  • Vegetable broth
  • Red lentils – I like using red lentils in this chili, but you can use green or brown if you’d like them to be more visible throughout the chili.
  • Black beans – Or pinto beans. Want a meatier vegan chili? Cook some vegan ground beef with the onions instead of beans.
  • Walnuts – I added finely ground walnuts which make a really great addition. They thicken the chili, and make it taste a bit “meaty”. Leave them out for nut allergies.

How to make vegan lentil chili on the stove

First, sauté the onion until translucent, then add the green bell pepper and garlic and cook for a 1-2 minutes. Add the spices and stir into the vegetables for 30 seconds.

light grey pot of sauteed peppers and onions with spices added on top

Add the crushed tomatoes, lentils, beans, walnuts, broth, maple syrup and salt. Then stir well and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

grey pot with broth, beans, chopped walnuts and lentils

Instant Pot method

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

Pour the spices, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils, beans, walnuts and syrup 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, green peppers and garlic in a separate pan on the stove.

Transfer this mixture to the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the spices, tomatoes, lentils, beans, walnuts, broth and maple syrup to the slow cooked and stir well.

Next,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.

grey bowl with chili, pickled onions and avocado

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:

  • Vegan sour cream
  • Shredded vegan cheese
  • Chives
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Cilantro
  • Tortilla chips
  • Avocado chunks
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Pico de gallo
  • Hot sauce

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

bowl of beans and peppers in broth with pickled onions and avocado
5 stars (6 ratings)

Lentil Chili

Lentil Chili is an easy, hearty, and delicious 1-pot vegan meal. Made with hearty red lentils, black beans, walnuts, vegetables, and a handful of smoky spices.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings


Lentil Chili

  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • (2) 15-ounce cans black beans drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Optional toppings



  • In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the green bell pepper and garlic, and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  • Now add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Stir into the vegetables and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, lentils, beans, walnuts, vegetable broth, maple syrup and salt. Stir well and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. The lentils should be tender; if using brown or green, they might take an extra 15 minutes to cook.
  • Add salt to taste, or any other spices you'd like more of, like chili powder or cayenne pepper for heat. Serve with topping of choice such as sour cream, cheese, avocado, tortilla chips and perhaps with a side of cornbread.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Use the sauté function to cook the 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, green bell pepper and garlic until softened. 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.


  1. For less sodium – Use low or no sodium canned beans and low sodium vegetable broth. Don’t add salt, or just add a little to taste.
  2. Feel free to add canned or frozen corn, diced carrots or sweet potatoes or any other veggies you like.
  3. Leftover chili – The chili will keep for about 4 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  4. Freezer instructions – It freezes beautifully for up to 3 months. Let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer friendly containers or bags and freeze.


Serving: 1of 8 servings | Calories: 310kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 800mg | Potassium: 985mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1218IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 6mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

*This recipe was originally published in Feb. 2022 and the recipe was quite different, using Beyond Beef and green lentils. I played with the recipe and enjoyed this version so much more. I hope you like it!

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  1. Hi Nora, thx so much for this recipe! It’s perfect as is, DELICIOUS. I garnished my plate with diced avocado, cilantro and pickled red onion, but left overs will not have garnish as it doesn’t need any. My husband (the kinda picky one 🤣) ate it with no garnish and told me 3 times that he liked it and how much flavor it had. I would give it 10 ⭐️ if I could.
    Keep up the good job!! 🤗

    1. Hi Susie! Your words are so encouraging! I’m thrilled that you and your husband loved the chili! Thanks for sharing your stellar review and feedback!

  2. Amazing!!! My husband and I absolutely loved this recipe! Loved the texture that the walnuts provided! I followed your recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing! Thanks AGAIN for another wonderful meal!

    1. You bet, Maria! Thank you for your encouraging feedback! I appreciate you using my recipes! Wishing you happy cooking!

  3. Oh so good, but in retrospect, I wish I had added some diced celery with the peppers. I did add close to a cup of TVP ‘meat’ that I had made (Chef Jana) to add texture. A great chili that can also go places with additions!

  4. Nora, we love all your recipes that we have tried. So tasty and at the same time healthy. I am the cook in our family of two. My husband loves all your recipes, and I find them really quite easy to prepare and usually have all the ingredients available. I never knew that vegan meals could be so varied and delicious. I have been telling all my friends about your amazing meals.

  5. I absolutely love your recipes! My only challenge is knowing what my portion size should be for weight loss. I need the knowledge of portion control. Is there a Vegan Chart for this that is specific to plant based foods? Please help! Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you love my recipes, thank you! I’m sorry I can’t be of help on your question, you might need to reach out to a nutritionist to help you there. I just share yummy recipes, I’m not a dietician/nutritionist. 🙂

  6. Made the Lentil chili the other day and it was delicious, my husband liked it too! The recipe made quite a lot of chili, the leftovers went into the freezer for an easy dinner when I don’t feel like cooking. thanks for the great recipe!

    1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful review and feedback! I’m glad you guys loved the chili! It is definitely freezer friendly! Happy cooking to you!

  7. This recipe has been on my to-do list since I read it. I finally got around to making it yesterday. Best vegan chili EVER!  I have a big love affair with lentils. This chili was super easy and perfectly balanced and flavorful. You delivered again-as always. Thank you.

    1. I am thrilled to hear you loved the lentil chili! Lentils are so amazing, and are versatile and delicious! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback and review! Happy cooking!

  8. Very pleasantly surprised at how good this turned out! Never had chili without beans! Made a spicier version of this by substituting the vegan beef with vegan spicy ground sausage and the Bell pepper with jalapeños. Also substituted the brown sugar with agave. Soo good and easy to make. Has become a staple meal for us.  

  9. Thanks for this recipe! I always used bulgur in my chili for that thick, meaty flavor, but as I am now gluten-free, no more bulgur. So I love the idea of lentils (I’ll skip the fake meat) with all the other ingredients you recommend. 

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