1-Pot Red Lentil Chili

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Bowls of our hearty protein-packed vegan Lentil and Black Bean Chili recipe

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.

I posted this picture on Instagram a few weeks ago (for my Red Lentil Curry), and someone asked if it was red lentil chili. “No, but GOOD IDEA,” I replied.

The rest is history. I couldn’t shake the thought from my mind.

Sautéing red bell pepper and onions in a large soup pot for 1-pot vegan chili

Origins of Chili

While many think chili is a dish that was created in Mexico, apparently that’s not where it originatedWho knew?

However, one ingredient central to chili – chilies – first originated in Central or South America. They were then grown in Mexico and became an important ingredient in Mexican cuisine. So we get the confusion!

The exact origin of the dish chili isn’t clear, but most historians trace its roots to San Antonio, Texas. You can take a deeper dive into the history of chili here.

About This Red Lentil Chili

This chili comes just in time for these last few wintry days before spring arrives (at least here in the Pacific Northwest).

It’s simple, requiring just 1 pot, basic ingredients, and comes together in less than 1 hour.

Mortar and pestle with sliced jalapenos for making our healthy chili recipe

I’ve been inspired by some Indian cooking methods I’ve been researching lately involving a mortar and pestle. Instead of just mincing or chopping your vegetables, spices, and herbs, you grind them together so their flavor is more intense and more evenly distributed throughout the dish.

Of course, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a small food processor or just finely mince. I just love this method, and now that I’ve discovered it, I can’t stop!

Big pot of our gluten-free vegan Lentil and Black Bean Chili recipe

In addition to red lentils – which are full of fiber, protein, folate, and magnesium (just to name a few) – I also included black beans (another great source of folate and fiber) and kidney beans (which are especially high in iron and vitamin B1).

This isn’t one of those soup-like chilis that’s mostly tomatoes. This is chock full of lentils, beans, and corn, and is thick and stew-like in texture – my favorite.

Two bowls of our Lentil and Black Bean Chili for a protein- and fiber-packed vegan meal

I hope you love this chili! It’s:

Not too spicy
& Simple

Make this dish for a crowd, as it’s especially great for hosting. Or make a batch over the weekend and enjoy it for lunch throughout the week.

If you try this recipe, let us know! It helps us and other readers so much. Leave a comment it, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram so we can see your creations. Cheers, friends!

Bowl of our hearty, filling Red Lentil and Black Bean Chili topped with jalapenos

1-Pot Red Lentil Chili

Hearty red lentil chili made in 1 pot with simple ingredients! A smoky, flavorful, protein- and fiber-rich plant-based meal perfect for cold nights and feeding a crowd.
Author Minimalist Baker
Big bowls of Red Lentil Chili garnished with sliced jalapeno, cilantro, and red onion
4.89 from 391 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6
Course Entrée
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4 Days


  • 2 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper (divided // plus more to taste)
  • 1 small jalapeño, diced with seeds (remove seeds or reduce or omit for less heat)
  • 4 cloves garlic (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp)
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder blend (divided // NOT chili flakes, cayenne pepper, or pure chili)
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin (divided)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes (if unsalted, add more sea salt)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ¾ cup water (plus more as needed)
  • 3/4 cup dry red lentils thoroughly rinsed in cold water + drained
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans (slightly drained)
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans (slightly drained)
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 1 15-ounce can corn, drained (optional)

FOR SERVING optional


  • Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, and red pepper. Season with a healthy pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add jalapeño and garlic to a mortar and pestle and crush into a rough paste (alternatively, blend in a small food processor, or finely mince). Add to the pot with onion and red pepper, and season with another pinch salt and pepper.
  • Add 2/3 of the chili powder (2 Tbsp as original recipe is written), half of the cumin (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written), paprika, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and water, and stir to combine. Bring to a low boil over medium high heat.
  • Once boiling, add lentils and reduce heat to medium-low or low, so it’s at a gentle simmer. You want to see bubbles, but you don’t want it boiling. Cook for 15 minutes, or until lentils are mostly tender. As it’s cooking you may need to add more water if the mixture is looking too dry and the lentils aren’t submerged (I didn’t find that necessary).
  • Next add kidney beans, black beans, 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper, and remaining cumin (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written) and chili powder (1 Tbsp as original recipe is written), and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat slightly to low (or medium-low), add corn (optional), cover, and gently simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors together. Stir occasionally.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more chili powder or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, or a little coconut sugar to balance the heat and draw out the other flavors.
  • Serve as is, or garnished with chili cheese fritos, fresh jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, and/or avocado (optional).
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 4 days, and in the freezer up to 1 month. Reheat on the stovetop, or in the microwave.



*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 6 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 320 Carbohydrates: 52.4 g Protein: 15.9 g Fat: 6.8 g Saturated Fat: 0.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 427 mg Fiber: 18.9 g Sugar: 10 g

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My Rating:

  1. Waldo says

    This was delicious and very hearty. I did, however, make a number of modifications to the basic recipe. These adaptations included adding a finely diced carrot, some Mexican oregano, epazote, a bit of cocoa powder, and a few tricks that I learned from Cook’s Illustrated to enhance the “meatiness” of a vegetarian chili which is adding some soy sauce and dried ground porcini mushrooms. I used a tablespoon of honey to balance the heat. At the end I finished with some cilantro, scallions, and the juice of a lime. I did find it too thick with only 1 3/4 c. water (and I only had 1/2 c. red lentils). I ended up using 3 c. water and this worked well. For the beans, I used some heirloom black and some rio zapes. It made 8 big bowls!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed the chili, Waldo. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications!

  2. Jeri says

    Very good! I didn’t do the jalapeño thing, just minced a lot of garlic and sprinkled a little cayenne in. Didn’t have red pepper so used carrot instead. Still came out great! I’ve the thickness and smokiness. We ate it with lime tortilla chips.

  3. Julia says

    I live on this chilli. I make big batches and freeze it to take to work and that works great. Thank you for this recipe!

  4. Bre says

    I made this and cooked it for what seems like 2 hours. Some of the lentils were still firm. Can I get sick if the lentils didn’t cook thoroughly? Delicious btw!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Bre, sorry that happened! They shouldn’t make you sick, but may be more difficult to digest.

  5. Chris says

    Love this recipe as does my family. I tweak it each time to add some variety.

    Instead of sugar, I use a bit of dark chocolate. Adds a whole other level plus some sweetness. And this time I added in a few canned chipotle peppers to up the spice a bit, plus some fresh corn.

    Always a hit over here!

  6. Bibi says

    This looks amazing! What would you recommend if I wanted to substitute the homemade chile powder with something else?

  7. C says

    Wow, so, so good. I also added zucchini, liquid smoke (because I only had sweet paprika), and maple sugar (just what I had on hand). So, so good!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

  8. Manderz says

    I make this all the time and it’s always been so popular! I’m making budget friendly meals this month, and have a ton of green lentils in the pantry. Would they work too? I know the texture will be different, but I assume they’ll cook up similarly?

  9. The Vegan Goddess says

    I had a request for vegan chili and chose this recipe. It did not disappoint!

    Even the picky eater that requested chili heartily approved this hearty and healthy chili.

    It takes a while for it to all come together but is worth the effort and time for a true chili experience (minus meat, of course). It wasn’t too spicy but flavorful and satisfying. Thank you!

  10. Winnie says

    I made this chili with modifications tonight. I used what I had on hand, so. . .
    I used brown lentils. I added chopped carrots instead of sugar. I used white kidney beans instead of red, and I omitted paprika and instead used cinnamon.
    I served it over pasta with greek yogurt and shredded cheese.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Winnie. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

  11. Carla @ Foodie Digital says

    This chili recipe ticked all the boxes for my family – not too tomato-ey, nice and thick, tons of flavor but not overly spicy. We played a game of “guess the thickening ingredient” and nobody could detect the red lentils!

  12. Sam says

    Thank you! This turned out absolutely delicious and I had zero doubt! I should’ve used lentils in a Chili a long time ago. I always go for Indian or middle Eastern when cooking lentils.

    So I just made a huge batch for the next 4 days. I made a few adjustments to get a bit more nutrients: I used a mix of red kidney, pinto and black beans, added 4 cups of Kale and 2 cups of broccoli!

  13. Courtney B. says

    I love chili and wanted to try using lentils – thanks so much for the advice! I was afraid it would need extra cooking but it worked just fine adding lentils straight to the pot.

  14. Lisa says

    OUTSTANDING! Made this last night and my taste buds were dancing with joy. Note: make sure to cook the lentils long enough so they get soft. Mine was not quite there, but still great nonetheless. For toppings I added cheese (sorry vegetarian only), chopped onions and cilantro. Next time I will also include avocado. This is definitely a winner. My only question was why the chili powder and cumin were divided?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Lisa! Thank you for sharing your experience! Adding the spices in stages helps build flavor.

  15. Paula says

    Love this. Didn’t have tomato paste but did have 3/4 of a can of leftover pumpkin purée that went in instead. So good with cilantro and avocado on top!

  16. Lin Newbury says

    Really fabulous hearty chili recipe! This will definitely be in my fall/winter rotation! Made it for the first time last night and yummm I love the lentils in the chili…why did I never think of that?!?! I did add some mushrooms and used frozen corn instead of canned….And just FYi I plan on having a bowl for breakfast! :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, yay! We’re so glad you enjoy the recipe, Lin. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

  17. Julia says

    I come back to this recipe every fall to kick off soup season! One of my favorite Minimalist Baker recipes and simply the best vegan chili recipe out there!

  18. Chris says

    Loved it.
    I like my chili more hearty and spicy though, so I added an extra jalapeno and a tablespoon of corn starch. Served with some habanero hot sauce and cream.

  19. Sabrina says

    Best chili recipe EVER!! I add a small zucchini and a few mushrooms because I want a few more veggies in it. But my husband says it’s better without my extra veggies in it haha

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you both enjoy it, Sabrina. Thanks so much for the lovely review! xo

  20. Kate says

    This is my favourite chili recipe now, I don’t even want a meat version! Is there a way to adapt the recipe for a slow cooker? Maybe pre-soak the lentils and add closer to the end? Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! Thanks so much for the great review, Kate. We haven’t made this in a slow cooker, but you’d want to be sure to still cook the onions/peppers separately for the same flavor. According to google red lentils should cook in ~3-4 hours in a slow cooker. Let us know how it goes if you try it!

  21. Angelique says

    I have been making this recipe for years now and decided to leave a comment to say how awesome it is. I am a vegetarian and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a food group with a delicious hardy meal like this :) I followed the recipe except I use half a jalapeño. I can’t handle the whole lol.
    Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Angelique. We are so glad you enjoy it! Next time, would you mind leaving a star rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

  22. Margaret says

    Today is my second time making this chili because it got great reviews from a group of teenagers the first time. I used home canned hot peppers instead of the fresh jalapeno, because these home grown peppers turned out a lot hotter than we expected. Added some liquid smoke, just a few drops. The rest of the spices, I kept about the same ratio. Loved how garlic-y this is! One need not be afraid of the generous garlic, chili powder, cumin, and paprika! This mixture works! I added a bit of Better than Bouillon vegetarian soup base instead of some of salt because that’s something I keep on hand and think it really improves soups. I also used a whole package of red lentils (1 pound), increased the water to 4 cups and added an extra can of tomatoes and an extra can of black beans because I wanted a fuller pot (using an 8-qt. cast iron Dutch oven ).

    Have already shared this link with a couple of friends

    • Kim says

      This is our family’s go-to chili recipe now. Even the meat-eaters love it, so it’s something we can do at night family gatherings. I’ve shared the recipe many times, as people always ask for it!

      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

        Whoop! We’re so glad it’s a hit with your family, Kim. Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  23. Wendy says

    I made this for our Super Bowl party. I was very skeptical of this this recipe since it calls for a can of corn. Who the heck puts corn in chile? Well now I do! because this was great!!! Instead of making the chile powder, I used a whole can of Chile Adobado (with liquid) taking care to de-seed the chiles and chop the chiles in to very small pieces. Did not add the jalapeno. I put everything in to an instant pot for 5 minutes on high with a quick release and it turned out wonderfully. I also added 8 oz. of well chopped baby bella mushrooms (added when onions were cooked), 1 Tablespoon paprika (instead of 1 teaspoon) and the whole can of tomato paste. Super delicious!!!

  24. Bridget says

    This was super easy to make and very tasty! Even my selective 6 year old had seconds! I did make some small changes like omitting the jalapeno and adding in some chopped celery. I also only used half of the chili powder as my daughter doesn’t like spicy food. Thanks for the great recipe, this is going into our weeknight recipe rotation!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Michelle, We have an Instant Pot version here that’s adapted from this recipe! We found lentils didn’t work well in an Instant Pot chili because they lead to a burn warning unless making it watery.

  25. Lucy says

    Great chilli recipe. Didn’t have the jalapeño or cocoa, still tasted great. Love that the lentils kind of smush in, my partner didn’t even notice they were in the dish!

    This makes heaps so perfect for batch cooking.

    We paired this with the twice baked cauliflower stuffed baked potatoes and it was chef’s kiss!

  26. Kristine Simons says

    I couldn’t find my red lentil chili recipe so I searched and found this one. Boy, am I glad. This lentil chili is scrumptious: hearty, filling, flavorful without being overly spicy. The addition of the beans to the lentils ups the health benefits. Changes I made: used yellow instead of red pepper due to availability, left out the corn and ate tortilla chips with it instead, and used a 28 oz. can of salt free tomatoes along with the 15 oz. can of fire-roasted, and used vegetable broth for sauteing and instead of water.

  27. Tsa says

    This is great, I make it often. Would you consider including the ingredients for the spice mix individually rather than having a link to another recipe? I find it a bit annoying to have to reference another recipe and I’m not making the spice mix in larger quantities in advance just for this recipe.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tsa, chili powder is a fairly common spice (to our knowledge) so we choose to include it over the individual ingredients, you can always buy a chili powder blend instead of making the one we link to!

  28. Bob says

    I’ve made this several times and think it’s great as is! I did get a little crazy with my most recent batch though, and liked the results. I doubled the water and added 1/2 quinoa, 2 tbls of coco powder, 2 tbls of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbls woshister, and omitted adding any addition sweetener. Instead of cooking the lentils at a low simmer, I got more aggressive with the heat, yielding a different, somewhat hearty consistency to the chili. Thanks for the recipe…

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Wow! Thanks so much for the lovely review, Gemma. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a star rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

  29. Thabi says

    I tried this recipe for my vegetarian daughter, it has become a staple in my house and is enjoyed by everyone!

  30. Rachel says

    So impressed with this recipe! It’s probably the best chili recipe I’ve come across – with or without meat. We’re trying to reduce our meat consumption and save some money so this will definitely be on our regular fall/winter menu.

  31. Emelia says

    Wow, this is so good! Supposed to be meal prep for dinners this week but I ended up eating a bowl of it immediately for lunch. I was making your black eyed peas and greens at the same time so added a little liquid smoke to this recipe as well but otherwise followed the recipe exactly

  32. Bailey says

    Loved this recipe. We are a family of 3 and especially love a meal that gives us leftovers for lunches or easy dinners. I left out the chilli for the toddler and he loved it with some pasta. Husband and I ate it as is. It’s very adaptable (have also made it with carrot when red pepper isn’t in season) and have used it for nachos and burritos. Highly recommend!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you and your family enjoy it, Bailey. Thank you for sharing! xo

  33. Brittnie says

    1. We loooove this recipe!! We use it all the time!! 2. Can you use brown lentils? Or only red? I have brown right now so that’s why I am wondering! Thank you for this delicious recipe!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you enjoy it, Brittnie! You can use brown lentils, but it you’ll need to cook them longer.

  34. Niv says

    The recipe is solid and delicious! I added some TVP to amp up the protein and just added a bit more water to compensate. The flavors were so well balanced. I would definitely make this again!

  35. SandyG says

    I only made half a recipe since there are only three of us and I made some substitutions based on what I had on hand. I used small white beans, part of a poblano pepper instead of the jalapeño and a small zucchini since I didn’t have any corn. I also only used 1 tablespoon of chili powder since two of the people I cook for can’t handle spice. I’m looking forward to making this again when I have the corn.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yum! Thanks so much for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Sandy. So glad you enjoyed!

  36. Sherrie says

    I knew when when I saw this recipe that I would have to make it. But I have a hard time making recipes without a few tweaks to my tastes (= I’m on a low-fat diet so I sautéed the veggies in water. I didn’t add any salt because all my canned beans and tomatoes had salt. Also I subbed 1 tablespoon of chipotle powder and 1 tablespoon of Trader Joe’s Chile lime seasoning for two of the three tablespoons of chili powder. Yum! I also topped my bowl with a handful of finely chopped greens that wilted nicely when I mixed them in. Delicious! And with the sweet corn, I didn’t find the need for the sugar. I’ll be saving this recipe to make again.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yum! Thanks so much for the great review and for sharing your modifications, Sherrie!

  37. Ana says

    Absolutely loved this recipe. I didn’t have chili powder, I used a pinch of cayenne instead. That was enough for our taste. The cumin gives this dish a wonderful deep flavor. I will make it again adding corn and use it as salsa. I may use tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes to make it easier on picky eaters. Thank you for this great recipe!

  38. Carolyn says

    This site never disappoints! I made this as written except I didn’t add corn, I added diced zucchini instead. I served it with avocado & a squirt of fresh lime. Had some black bean corn chips with it. It is amazing! I wish I could freeze it though because it makes a ton and I will never eat all this in a few days.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Carolyn. Also – it is freezer friendly for up to 1 month. Hope this helps!

  39. Kate Peterlin says

    I absolutely loved the smokiness of this chili. I shared it with a friend of mine and she loved it so much she made it too! The only ingredient I did not include was the corn. This recipe is going into my favorites folder!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tami! We haven’t tried this recipe in the instant pot, so we cannot guarantee results. We do have an instant pot chili recipe that’s equally delicious, though! Hope this helps!

  40. Helen says

    This chili must be magic! A friend brought a big bowl of this chili when I was sick with ‘rona and it was so delicious, hearty, and comforting! I made another batch and put half in freezer bags – it froze and reheated perfectly. Thank you for posting this recipe. I love the addition of lentils (an ingredient I seem to always have and never know what to do with). I made cornbread to go with it. 😋

  41. Jocelyn Allen says

    The most perfect chili I’ve ever had! Perfect, smoky chili spice blend I’ve always been looking for. (Also, I subbed beef in for my husband and he loved it).

  42. Suzanne says

    This is the best recipe!! I recently discovered lentils and came across this recipe. I tweaked it a little bit with some additional spices; extra smoked paprika and turmeric. I also added a quarter cup more lentils and only one cup of black beans. I don’t care for kidney beans. It came out amazing. My whole family loves it. I will be making your red lentil curry next.

    • Manny McMeatDude says

      I’ll be upfront and say I’m a meat guy. Before I met and married my wife, I was /that/ guy who always made jokes about vegan food. And I still love me some meat. But now I’m married to a woman who doesn’t eat it. So when I wanted to make chili I came to this recipe.

      I make a few modifications these days (I add some anchor powder, a bit more jalapenos and mix and match the beans). But overall it’s still the same base recipe. I can say that this recipe absolutely fills the hole in my stomach I have when I need chili, meat be damned. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the perfect base for a vegan chili and from there you can experiment with adding other things and spices. Also, I highly recommend you add the optional corn.

  43. Nina says

    I just can’t stop making MB recipes! This chili is another winner! Made a large batch for my family and shared with sick friends – loved by all. I followed the directions exactly but didn’t make the chili powder blend and instead used a premade powder. Added the whole jalapeno with seeds – truly not that spicy, especially the next day. And like another review said, the next days makes it even better!! This will be on rotation. Super easy, healthy, flavorful, all with pantry staples. Added some avocado and fresh lime at the end. I so appreciate all the confidence I have gained in the kitchen by using your recipes!

  44. tc barr says

    Made this exactly as written and it was fabulous. Those who never take seconds absolutely did…even though it was vegan.

    Wouldn’t hesitate to make it again. Probably will make it with a little less heat.