Spicy Red Lentil Chili

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!


What You’ll Need

Pot of Red Lentil Chili with Wooden Spoon
  • 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.
Collage Showing First 4 Stages of Red Lentil Chili Cooking in a Pot
  • 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).
Last Two Stages of Red Lentil Chili Simmering in a Pot
  • Serve your red lentil chili with your favorite toppings — I like scallions and diced avocado on mine!
Two Bowls of Red Lentil Chili, Avocado Half, Spoon and Tea Towel on a White Wooden Surface

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.

More Vegan Chili Recipes

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White Wooden Table Set with Loaf of Bread, Pot, and Bowl of Red Lentil Chili with Spoon


Spicy Red Lentil Chili

This spicy red lentil chili is super heaty, loaded with flavor, and easy to make! Deliciously comforting and perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Course Entree
Cuisine American
Keyword healthy chili recipe, vegan chili recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 229kcal
Author Alissa Saenz


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or high-heat oil of choice)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups dried split red lentils
  • 2 (14 ounce or 400 gram) cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (4 ounce or 113 gram) can green chilies
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  • Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place it over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onion and bell pepper. Sweat the veggies for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften up a bit and the onion becomes translucent.
  • Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano. Continue cooking and stirring the mixture for about 1 minute, until it becomes very fragrant.
  • Stir in the broth, lentils, tomatoes, and green chilies.
  • Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Lower the heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the chili thickens up and the lentils are falling apart. You can add a bit of water if it becomes too thick while simmering.
  • Remove the pot from heat and season the chili with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Ladle into bowls, top with toppings of choice, and serve.


Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.3g | Protein: 12.8g | Fat: 3.8g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Sodium: 470mg | Potassium: 879mg | Fiber: 8.4g | Sugar: 8.4g | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 4mg

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