This hearty bean and lentil chili is delightfully warming.
It’s packed with brown lentils, pinto and black beans, plus fire roasted tomatoes.
Top it with vegan cheese, avocado, and green onions.
Then add tortilla chips or crackers for dunking. Vegan and gluten free.
Lentil bean chili is hearty and satiating. It’s one of those filling, one-pot meals that really sticks with you.
It’s flavorful, comforting, and filled with warming spices.
Lentils have a great bite, texture, and slight tinniness that makes them a surprisingly delicious substitute for ground beef.
Plus, a half-cup serving of lentils has 9 grams of protein. It offers 20% of your iron for the day. It’s low in fat, and high in fiber.
This vegetarian chili recipe makes the most of pantry and refrigerator staples.
Thanks to canned beans and pre-cooked lentils, it’s ready in less than half an hour. Great for a quick and easy weeknight meal!
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Oil: Any neutral-flavored cooking oil will work here. If you’d prefer an oil-free dish, saute onions & garlic in water instead.
Lentils: I recommend using pre-cooked lentils. They’re one of my favorite cooking shortcuts. Trader Joe’s sells steamed lentils in the refrigerated section of the produce area. Just dump in the whole package for this recipe.
If you’d prefer, you can make green or brown lentils from scratch instead. In total, you’ll need 2 ½ cups of cooked lentils.
Produce: Onion & garlic.
Spices: Coriander, cumin, and ancho chili powder. Ancho chili powder is made with just one ingredient (dried poblano peppers), while standard chili powder is a blend. You can use either one, but ancho chili powder is my favorite.
Canned items: Fire roasted chopped tomatoes (with juices), black beans, and pinto beans.
Stoneground mustard: Just a dab adds tang. It can be replaced with yellow mustard.
Hot sauce: I recommend a vinegar-based jalapeno hot sauce here. Add more, less, or omit entirely to suit your palate.
Salt: A pinch of salt brings it all together.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Sauté onions and garlic in a pot with oil, until softened and fragrant.
Add spices & cook with onions.
De-glaze the soup pot with water.
Then add the following:
- Fire roasted tomatoes with juices
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Hot sauce
Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes.
Optional but recommended: For a thicker chili, pulse an immersion blender inside of the pot for 3 or 4 seconds to break up some of the beans and tomatoes.
By breaking them up some, it adds a thicker viscosity & heartiness to the soup.
Brown lentil chili is infinitely more fun with tasty toppings. They add to the taste and texture.
Top with any or all of the following:
- Green onions or pickled red onions
- Vegan sour cream
- Shredded vegan cheese
- Quick pickled jalapeños
- Sliced avocado or guacamole
- Air fryer tortilla strips or tortilla chips
- Air fryer croutons
Make it your own
You can make this bean and lentil chili your own by varying the ingredients.
Make the beans and lentils from scratch
Remember when using dried beans that you’ll need to soak them ahead of time.
You’ll need 1 ½ cups of cooked beans to replace one can.
Dried lentils don’t have to be soaked before using.
I recommend brown or green lentils. French lentils du Puy would also work.
I don’t recommend red lentils, which disintegrate in liquid. They don’t have the toothsome bite you want here.
Vary the beans
Any of the beans can be replaced with a different type.
Use kidney beans, chickpeas, or navy beans.
Vary or add more veggies
You can fill this chili out with the veggies of your choosing.
Add corn, red bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, and/or mushrooms.
Replace the onions with shallots or leeks.
Nix the fire roasted tomatoes
I like the added smoky flavor you get from fire roasted tomatoes. However, they can easily be replaced.
Instead of fire roasted tomatoes, use plain canned diced tomatoes or jarred salsa.
Vary the spices
Add other seasonings like paprika, granulated onion, granulated garlic, red pepper flakes, and/or oregano.
Instead of ancho chili powder, use standard chili powder.
Vary the hot sauce
If you like a lot of heat, add more hot sauce or hotter hot sauce.
If you’re heat averse, leave it out.
Chili is a full meal in a bowl. So it doesn’t really need a side dish.
But if you’d like to fill out the dinner, lentil chili goes well with any of these side dishes.
Ways to repurpose leftovers
Lentil chili is one of those flavorful dishes that actually gets MORE delicious after a day or two in the fridge.
If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy it than by the bowlful, here are some ideas.
- Use a half cup in vegan chili cheese dip
- Slather it on a vegan chili dog
- Use it on chili dog pizza
- Use it to smother loaded tater tots
- Pour it over an air fried baked potato or baked fries
How to store & reheat
Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.
It will keep for about 5 days.
It also freezes beautifully.
Put it into a freezer proof container. Then freeze until you’re ready to eat it.
It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
When you’re ready to enjoy it, move it to the refrigerator to thaw.
Reheat in the microwave or on the stove until warm.
More chili recipes
Are you a big chili fan?
Here are more chili-style recipes I know you’ll enjoy.
Lentil chili with beans
- ½ teaspoon organic canola oil or your preferred oil
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted chopped tomatoes with juices
- 2 ½ cups (17.6 ounces) cooked lentils brown or green
- 1 ½ cups black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups pinto beans drained and rinsed
- ½ teaspoon stoneground mustard
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce optional
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- Bring a soup pot to a medium heat with oil. Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent and fragrant.
- Add coriander, cumin, and ancho chili powder to pot. Saute with onions and garlic for about 30 seconds.
- Then add the following to the soup pot: water, fire roasted chopped tomatoes with juices, lentils, black beans, pinto beans, mustard, hot sauce (if using), and salt.
- Bring the chili to a simmer. Cook for fifteen minutes, allowing the flavors to meld and the chili to thicken.
- Optional but recommended: After the chili has thickened, use an immersion blender in the soup pot for 3 or 4 seconds to break up some of the tomatoes and beans. It also thickens the soup further. You don't want to blend the chili completely. It should still be chunky. However, a few seconds with the immersion blender gives some added texture and thickens the chili even more. After blending, allow the chili to cook for a few more minutes.
- Ladle the chili into bowls. Serve with your choice of toppings, crackers, or tortilla chips.
I love how simple this chili recipe is, I wanted something healthy for lunch and discovered I already had all of the ingredients to make it (I used canned beans & lentils), and it was perfect on top of an air fried baked potato topped with vegan cream cheese and chives!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the chili, Penny! And great idea to put it on top of an air fryer baked potato. Sounds like a perfect lunch!
This was a damn good chili. I’ve never used ancho chili powder or coriander before in a recipe and was very happy with the flavors they added to this chili. And a very satisfying mouth-feel, too.
I’m so glad to hear it, Amber! Thanks for coming back to leave a review & rating. So appreciated!
So yummy! I had never cooked with brown lentils before. I added some fire roasted corn from Trader Joe’s which was a nice touch! Also a fairly inexpensive meal prep for a college kid on a budget, love your blog 🙂
That’s great, Grace! Fire roasted corn sounds like a terrific addition. Thanks for the kind words, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe!
Loving all the cold weather recipes I have been finding. Vegan Chili makes a great meal for everyone to enjoy.
Yes, there’s been a big change from all of the juicy, raw recipes of summer! It’s time to make something warm & cozy to combat the chill in the air.
It’s finally chili weather here in Atlanta, and I definitely need to make this for my fam!
I’m glad chili weather has finally arrived. I hope you & your family enjoy it!
This chili looks perfect for this time of year. I’ve never cooked with lentils before. They seem to be a great addition to a dish like this.
Oh, wow! You’ve never cooked with lentils? You really should. They’re so tasty, quick, and multi-purpose.
It’s cold and gloomy here today, and I could really go for a bowl of this right now! I never think to put lentils in my chili. Thanks for the reminder and the yummy recipe!
I’m sorry to hear that it’s cold and gloomy there, but chili sounds like the perfect cure!