Spicy Red Lentil Chili

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This spicy red lentil chili is super heaty, loaded with flavor, and easy to make! Deliciously comforting and perfect for a weeknight dinner.

This red lentil chili is my new go-to weeknight dinner.

Chili, by nature, is pretty easy to whip up. But it’s easy to go overboard with a zillion different ingredients. This is especially true for vegan chili: you can add so many beans, so many veggies, and allllllllll the spices.

This easy lentil chili requires only requires a handful of ingredients, and because red lentils cook up so quickly, it can be on the table in about 35 minutes.

Let’s talk about how it’s made!

Jump to:
  • What You’ll Need
  • How to Make Red Lentil Chili
  • Red Lentil Chili Tips & FAQ
  • More Vegan Chili Recipes
  • Spicy Red Lentil Chili

What You’ll Need

  • Olive oil. You can substitute just about any high-heat oil for this. Use what you have on hand!
  • Onion.
  • Red bell pepper.
  • Garlic.
  • Spices. We’re using mild chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and oregano.
  • Vegetable broth. I used Better Than Bouillon in roasted vegetable flavor.
  • Red lentils. Make sure you’re using split red lentils. The chili will take much longer to cook if they’re not split.
  • Fire roasted tomatoes. You can sub regular old canned tomatoes if you’d like, but fire roasted ones add a delicious smoky flavor.
  • Green chilies. Use the canned variety, which you can find in the international foods section of your supermarket.
  • Salt & pepper.

How to Make Red Lentil Chili

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

  • Heat up your oil in a large pot, then add diced onion and bell pepper. Sweat the veggies for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften up.
  • Now add minced garlic, along with the spices. Cook everything for just about a minute, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes very fragrant.
  • Stir in the broth, lentils, tomatoes and chiles.
  • Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Simmer your lentil chili for about 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally and adding a splash of water if the mixture becomes too dry.
  • The chili is done when it’s nice and thick, and the lentils are super soft (they’ll be falling apart).
  • Serve your red lentil chili with your favorite toppings — I like scallions and diced avocado on mine!

Red Lentil Chili Tips & FAQ

  • Is this recipe gluten-free? It sure is!
  • Leftovers & storage: This chili keeps very well and makes for great leftovers! Store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • My chili has been simmering forever and the lentils are still firm. What’s going on? It could be a few things:
    • Did you substitute another type of lentil? Most varieties take longer than red to cook.
    • Are your lentils split? Split lentils cook up quicker than non-split.
    • Are your lentils old? Lentils that have been sitting around for a while can take forever too cook, or they might never completely cook at all.
  • Can I substitute another variety of lentil for red lentils? Probably, but you’ll need to make some adjustments.
    • Most other types of lentils take longer to cook, so increase the simmer time.
    • You might also need to add more water, since the liquid will be simmering longer and therefor reduce more.
    • If your lentils are not split (aside from red lentils, most aren’t), you’ll need to add the tomatoes late in the cooking process — probably during the last 5 minutes. Otherwise your lentils might not cook all the way, as the acid causes their outer coating to harden.

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