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 – are native to Mesoamerica (a region that includes parts of Mexico and Central America). And they are 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:

Hearty
Smoky
Flavorful
Not too spicy
Healthy
Comforting
Satisfying
& 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
Print
Big bowls of Red Lentil Chili garnished with sliced jalapeno, cilantro, and red onion
4.88 from 366 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4 Days

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

*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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    • 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.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. Thabi says

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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. 😋

  17. 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).

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

    Kudos!