Home » Easy to make Lentil Chili | Healthy Meatless Chili

Easy to make Lentil Chili | Healthy Meatless Chili

Although we eat meat here on the homestead, I like to have some meatless meals throughout the week. This easy lentil chili is the best alternative to chili made with meat. You are going to love this!

Several years ago, I started experimenting with lentils as a meat substitute. I make a lentil loaf muffin that we just love! Making this lentil chili is a great way to get more fiber and protein in our diets with relatively low fat.

hot dog with lentil chili on top and mustard

My husband and I actually ate a plant-based diet for over a year and I learned to make a lot of meatless meals.

Lentil chili is a great source of plant-based protein.

Lentils were my go to for burgers, chili, and meatloaf. There are so many lentil recipes I make that replace meat in my kitchen!

They are so versatile and make a wonderful addition to any diet.

Another amazing recipe using lentils is chili!

This vegan lentil chili recipe is just as delicious as its meat filled counterpart, but, has a lot less fat!

Lentils are full of protein and fiber making them very satisfying and filling.

They cook quickly and can be used for so many recipes!

Using lentils as a meat substitute is actually pretty easy to do. I like to make a large batch of lentils and mash them up for meals throughout the week. I can use them for lentil chili, lentil burgers, or lentil meatloaf.

Why you will love this recipe:

If you are trying to add some meatless meals into your diet, lentils make for one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen!

Packed with protein and fiber, they make the best filler for recipes that usually called for ground beef.

This lentil chili is flavored so well and is perfect on hot dogs or even on sliced bread for a delicious meal!

bowl of lentil chili with a spoonful of chili

What you will need for this recipe:


While you can buy canned lentils, they are much more cost effective to buy dried lentils and cook them.

There are a few different varieties of lentils. I prefer using brown lentils. You can use green lentils or red lentils as well.

They are so easy to make in the instant pot and come out great every time.

cup of dried lentils

Water or Vegetable Broth

Cooking the lentils in vegetable broth will impart more flavor, but water works just fine.


I’ve been adding salsa to my chili recipes for years. We preserve a lot of salsa every year with our homegrown tomatoes, so I always have a lot on hand.

Of course, you can use store bought salsa. You can also use tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Chili Powder

The quintessential chili ingredient is chili powder. It is widely available in stores and makes for that signature flavor!


Cumin adds a smokiness to the chili that just hits the spot when it comes to flavor!


Adding dices red onions to chili is a must for me! I like to cook the chili about 10 extra minutes to allow the onions to soften and flavor the chili.

You can use red onions, yellow onions, or white onions.


I measure garlic with my heart!

You can use powdered garlic if you choose but fresh is always best!


I use Redmond’s real salt in my kitchen. Of course, any salt you have available will work just fine.


This is optional but a tiny pinch of cayenne takes this chili from delicious to AMAZING!


I have always added a bit of apple cider vinegar to my chili to give it a bit of a tang.

You can leave it out, but, I highly recommend trying it!

Black Pepper

Using freshly milled black pepper adds a dimension of flavor to any recipe, this chili is no exception!

pot of chili

Step by Step Instructions for making the Best Lentil Chili:

Preparing the lentils:

Rinse your lentils under cool water until it runs clear.

If you prefer you can soak the lentils overnight.

Cover them with cool water and add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

Cooking the lentils in the Instant Pot

Add the lentils and water into the instant pot pressure cooker. Put the lid on and set the valve to seal.

Press the beans and chili option and set time to 10 minutes on high pressure.

Alternatively, you can cook the lentils in a large pot. Cover with water and bring them to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

This amount of cooking time makes for a tender but not mushy lentil.

For this chili you don’t want the lentils to be too soft.

Releasing the pressure from the Instant Pot

Allow to naturally release the pressure. This can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes.

Drain the lentils and return to the instant pot liner.

mashed lentils

Mashing the Lentils

Take out 1 cup of cooked lentils and mash with a potato masher.

You could also pulse them in a food processor. Just take care to not over process into a paste.

Place this mashed mixture back in with the rest of the lentils.

Mixing up the Lentil Chili

Mix in with the rest of the lentils.

Turn the instant pot on the sauté function.

a bowl of chili

Add the onions, seasoning, salsa, and vinegar. Give it a good stir.

Cooking the Chili

Cook for 10 minutes or until onions are soft stirring occasionally.

This makes a thick chili but you can thin it out if you want with some vegetable or chicken broth for more of a soup style chili.

Serve over hot dogs or on sliced toast for a delicious meal!

Want a hot dog bun to go with your chili?

I have a sourdough hot dog bun recipe that will pair perfectly with this lentil chili: https://therosehomestead.com/easy-sourdough-hot-dog-buns/

Top your hot dogs with mustard for a summertime favorite!

You can also serve this on its own with toppings of your choice.

We prefer adding avocado, greek yogurt, and green onions for an amazingly tasty dinner!

This lentil chili is even better the next day! The flavors meld together and just taste so good!


How can I store the chili?

Store the lentil chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to week.

Can I freeze this chili?

Yes. This lentil chili freezes very well! Placed cooled chili in a freezer safe airtight container and store for up to 6 months in the freezer.

Can I substitute a different legume or bean for the lentils?

Absolutely! If you don’t have lentils on hand you can use black beans or red beans and get a very similar result.

Can I cook the Lentils on the stove top or in a slow cooker?

Yes! Just prepare the lentils for cooking and add to the pot. Cover with water and cook until tender. Take care to keep an eye on the water level during the cooking process and add more water as needed.

Even if you eat a lot of meat in your home, having an arsenal of meatless meals is a good idea.

One of the healthiest ingredients in the kitchen is beans!

Full of fiber and protein, they are a staple our home.

The addition of high fiber foods to your diet not only makes the meals more satisfying but also adds in prebiotics which are so beneficial for digestion.

Having 1/2 cup of beans or lentils can be a very healthy addition to your diet.

Beans and lentils are easy to cook, very inexpensive and make for a delicious ingredient in your from scratch kitchen!

Serving Suggestions

Add kidney beans for a heartier chili and top with sour cream or your favorite toppings. Serve over tortilla chips for a delicious meal.

Serve over pasta and drizzle with a bit of olive oil for the added healthy fat. This meal is very filling and kids will love it!

overhead of bowl of chili with spoon in the bowl

The Best Lentil Chili

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A deliciously tangy meatless chili for your summer barbecues!


  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 16 ounce jar of salsa of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Rinse 1 cup of dried Lentils.
  2. Add to liner of instant pot and cover with 2 cups water.
  3. Place lid on instant pot and set to seal.
  4. Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes.
  5. Allow to naturally release the pressure.
  6. Drain the lentils and transfer back into the instant pot liner.
  7. Take 1 cup of the lentils and mash with a potato masher.
  8. Return the mash to the rest of the lentils.
  9. Add all other ingredients and set the instant pot to sauté.
  10. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until onions are tender.
  11. Serve over hot dogs or on it's own with a side of toast.


You can use any lentils you have on hand.

If using canned, take the 1 cup out and mash before proceeding with the recipe.

This chili can be frozen. Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight freezer safe container. Store frozen for up to 6 months.

Did you make this recipe?

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