You’re going to love this one-pot easy vegan chili recipe. It’s made with healthy ingredients like lentils and beans, canned tomatoes and lots of delicious spices. This easy recipe for lentil chili is the one-pot wonder you’re looking for on hectic weeknights, and tastes even better the next day…making it perfect for meal prep.
This post has been updated from the original posted September 12, 2016.
This vegan version of a classic chili recipe is easy to make with pantry ingredients. This delicious lentil chili is hearty and satisfying, and loaded with dietary fiber. My idea of healthy comfort food.
This delicious lentil chili recipe is the perfect weeknight family meal…even meat eaters will love this tasty recipe for meatless chili. Substitute lentils with my delicious vegan ground beef to satisfy everyone. Chili Recipes, like this one are perfect for chilly nights and game-day fun!
Why this is the best chili
- Compared to other chili recipes, this one really brings the flavor, texture and savory comfort food vibes that will leave you satisfied…without the animal fats. Garnish with avocado chunks or vegan sour cream to add whole foods healthy fats instead.
- So delicious, and loaded with all the chili seasonings..plus all the health benefits of hearty lentils and fiber-rich beans….win-win.
- Easy recipe that’s meal prep perfect and freezer friendly.
- Healthy meals that the whole family will eat make life so much easier.
- One-pot means easy clean up….and a great way to get a home cooked meal on the table on a hectic weeknight….cook for 30 minutes and bam! Dinner is served.
- This is also a good chili recipe to simmer on the stove all day while the game is on. Easy meals like this let everyone eat when they want.
- This vegan lentil chili recipe is the perfect meal to take in a thermos for a hot lunch.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Lentils: I used small black beluga lentils. I like the way they hold their shape and mimic ground beef. If you meal prepped a batch of my vegan ground beef, use that instead! You could also use green lentils or brown lentils, but I wouldn’t use red lentils in this recipe. They will fall apart and create a mushy situation. If you have red lentils consider making Vegan Cauliflower Soup with Red Lentils.
- Canned beans: I used black beans and red kidney beans. Pinto beans are another good choice. Use what you have in your pantry. If I have only white beans, I usually make my vegan white bean chili which is also super tasty.
- Canned tomatoes: A combination of diced and crushed tomatoes give this chili a thick base with tons of texture. Tomato sauce would be an ok substitute for the crushed tomatoes and if you only have tomato paste, thin it with a cup of vegetable stock before adding to the pot.
- Red bell pepper. If you prefer the flavor of green bell pepper, go for it. This is YOUR chili.
- Zucchini: Yellow summer squash would be a good substitute. Winter squash is also tasty, but takes longer to cook. If you’re using winter squash, cut into super small dice so it will be ready when the other veggies are.
- Yellow onion: Red onion will add a bit more sweetness to your chili, so will vidalia onions. The best onion for chili is the one you have! My preference is yellow onions.
- Jalapeno: Remove the seeds and membranes to add tons of flavor without the heat.
- Corn: I used fire roasted frozen corn. Any frozen corn will work well, or cut fresh corn right off the cob. Canned corn isn’t a good substitute.
- Chili spices: chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper are my top choices. If you prefer a more mild chili, swap black pepper for the cayenne. If spicy is your jam, add ¼ teaspoon adobe chili powder for some heat. A pinch of cocoa powder or cinnamon for a hint of sweetness without having to add brown sugar or maple syrup. Use homemade taco seasoning if you have some.
- The type of lentils you choose (red, black, brown, green) will vary their nutritional profile slightly, but generally speaking, lentils are nutrient dense.
- Lentils are low on the glycemic index and low in calories, but high in nutrition.
- They are high in fiber and complex carbs while low in fat and calories.
- Lentils are a good source of fiber, B-vitamins, potassium and folate.
- They are rich in poly phenols that bring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Thanks to their high iron content, lentils give you energy to burn while stabilizing blood sugar, and working to prevent heart disease.
How to make vegan chili
Recipe for vegan crockpot chili or instant pot chili recipe can be found in the recipe card.
Did you know that once you mince (or press or grate) garlic, the cell walls break down and interact with oxygen, triggering health benefits and creating a stronger flavor. Ideally, prep your garlic and let it sit 10-15 minutes to activate before you cook with it.
Step 1: First, dice the onion, zucchini and red pepper. Mince jalapeno and garlic and have the prepped veggies next to the stove.
Step 2: Heat a large pot or large dutch oven over medium heat. See recipe card for slow cooker or pressure cooker directions. You can use a swirl of olive oil or avocado oil in the bottom of the pot or a couple Tablespoons veggie broth or water work just fine to saute the vegetables.
Start with onions, after 3-5 minutes, when they begin to turn translucent, stir in the zucchini, red peppers, jalapenos and spices. Use Chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne and sea salt, or use my no-salt taco seasoning.
Step 3: Stir in the rest of the ingredients: canned tomatoes and beans, dry lentils, frozen corn.
Step 4: Pour in 1 cup water and turn it up to medium-high heat. Once chili mixture comes up to a boil, reduce the heat to keep at a gentle simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked. The cook time will vary based on the size you diced your veggies. Stir once in awhile scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Continue to cook, stirring frequently, adding in more water or broth as needed to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and green chiles and cook as the garlic becomes fragrant.
Chili will thicken as it cooks. Serve warm. You can keep this on low on the stove as long as you stir every once in awhile. The flavors will intensify as time goes on. Garnish with lime wedges, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeno or scallions.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- TOPPINGS add so much! Fresh cilantro, vegan sour cream, sliced green onion, lime juice, chunks of avocado, red pepper flakes or crushed tortilla chips are fun and flavorful.
- 1 Tablespoon white miso paste added with the tomato products will intensify the umami flavor.
How to serve and store and reheat.
- Serve with vegan cornbread, a simple salad and brownies for dessert.
- Storage: Let chili cool completely before storing in airtight container. If you used a dutch oven, you can put the top on and store directly in the pot.
- Fridge or Freezer: Chili will stay good in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for 3 months.
- Reheat: Reheat gently over medium-low heat on the stove until heated through.
Vegan Chili FAQs
Plant-based protein sources like lentils or beans are a great way to make vegan or vegetarian chili. For super umami flavor, add 1 Tablespoon miso paste or chopped mushrooms.
Zucchini, red peppers, green pepper, celery and mushrooms are great veggies to add into your pot of chili. Root vegetables like parsnips, sweet potatoes and carrots can also be added.
I know a lot of folks are concerned these days about carbs….and their affect on blood sugar levels. Beans do have a lot of carbohydrates….but they also have a lot of fiber. Fiber does not affect your blood sugar levels. Although fiber is a type of carb—-your body DOES NOT DIGEST IT….so you should subtract the grams of fiber from the total carb count. When consuming food with carbs, it’s always a good idea to note the cart to fiber ratio….it will give you a more accurate picture of what’s really going on.
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Easy Vegan Lentil Chili
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 large zucchini diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 ounce can chopped green chilies
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 15 ounce can black beans rinsed and drained
- 15 ounce can kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 cup dried black beluga lentils see note if you only have dried lentils
- PREP VEGGIES: Dice onion, zucchini and red pepper. Mince jalapeno and garlic.
- Heat a large, heavy pot, over medium heat. Add 1-2 Tablespoons water and onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, until they are translucent, stirring once in awhile.
- Stir in zucchini, red pepper, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, adding 1-2 Tablespoons water as needed to keep the pan from becoming dry.
- Add in the garlic and green chilies, mix well and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn, lentils and ½ cup water. Bring to gentle simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and cook uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked.