Healthy Lentil Chili

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This Healthy Lentil Chili recipe is packed full of whole foods, plant-based proteins, and flavor. You won’t even miss the meat! Lentil chili is a hearty vegan/vegetarian recipe, and perfect for a cold winter day.

a bowl of chili with cilantro and peppers on top

Homemade Vegetarian Lentil Chili

Have you tried lentils yet? They are one of my favorite “pulses.” Isn’t that a cool word? I just learned about what the word “pulse” in relationship to food meant last year and I find myself saying it often; it makes me feel smart/fancy.

Dry beans, lentils, chickpeas, and yellow and green split peas are the types of pulses that I most commonly use and eat, but pulses include all kinds of things that I had never heard of before, like cowpeas, Bambara beans, and lupins (Harry Potter anyone?!). Fun stuff, huh? When I think about meatless meals, I often try to include a pulse in the mix because I know they are a great source of plant-based protein.

This lentil chili is an awesome example of a healthy whole food protein-packed meatless meal. It is delicious! Plus, it’s full of fiber and really keeps you full. Add it to your meal plan for next week!

Healthy Lentil Chili in two bowls with peppers to the side

How do I get my chili to the right consistency?

Start by adding 6 cups of vegetable stock and see how things go. If it’s looking a bit thick during the cooking process, add a little more. If it’s a bit thick once you have added your blended lentils, add a bit more. Lentils cook differently depending on their age (which you don’t have a lot of control over most of the time). And your preference on the thickness of the chili will be different than mine. Feel free to add more liquid to your liking.

What is a pulse?

According to USA Pulses, “Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Pulses are annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely as dry grains, which differentiates them from other vegetable crops that are harvested while still green. Pulses are healthy, nutritious and easy to cook with. Growing pulses also promotes sustainable agriculture, as pulse crops help decrease greenhouse gases, increase soil health, and use less water than other crops. Pulses are a low-fat source of protein with high levels of protein and fiber. Pulses also contain important vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, and folate.”

Are lentils gluten-free?

They are! This makes this chili a great dinner option for feeding people of all kinds of diets.

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Two bowls of lentil chili

Healthy Lentil Chili

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Melissa Griffiths - Bless This Mess
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 1x


This Healthy Lentil Chili recipe is packed full of whole foods, plant-based proteins, and flavor. You won’t even miss the meat! Lentil chili is a hearty vegan/vegetarian recipe, and perfect for a cold winter day.


  • 23 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound bag of brown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with the juice (14.5 ounce), fire-roasted if you can find them
  • 68 cups vegetable stock
  • ⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: tortilla chips, avocado, hot sauce, jalapeños


  1. Add the oil to a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, 6 cups of vegetable stock, and dry lentils, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low and allow it to gently simmer. Cook, covered, until the lentils are soft and cooked through, stirring often, about 30 minutes.
  3. When the lentils are cooked, place a few cups of the cooked lentil mixture in your blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and blend. Add the blended mixture back to the pot and stir to combine. Adjust the thickness of your chili to your liking with additional vegetable stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Stir in cilantro and serve.
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: American

More recipes with pulses:

This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in July 2019.

This protein-packed, gluten-free, and vegan HealthyLentil Chili is delicious and thick, and you won’t notice its meatless!

Lentil Chili

About Melissa

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  1. Hello Melissa,
    Thank you for your recipe, which brought something new to our kitchen tonight. Everyone loved the corn bread with the lentil chili.
    I didn’t have all the ingredients (pepper is out of season and I didn’t know about smoked paprika but will try). I used ground chili (piment d’espelette in France) and ground coriander.
    Well, we all enjoyed it thoroughly, so thanks for sharing.

  2. I wonder if an immersion blender for a few seconds would work instead of putting some of the chili into a blender.

    1. I really think it would, I’ve been wanting one for years but don’t have one so I used the blender. An immersion one sounds much easier.