Red Lentil (Vegetarian) Chili

This red lentil chili is simple and a classic. A very quick and easy meal to make, and I personally LOVE chili this time of year so much I tend to double recipes like this so I can eat the leftovers as lunches for days. Viva la chili!
If you are looking for a vegetarian chili that feels traditional and still packs a decent protein punch (not to mention fiber), then look no further than this red lentil chili. It’s a good one.
You can certainly use canned (already cooked) lentils if you find them. But I usually only see dry red lentils at the grocery stores I frequent most often. You do not need to be intimated by cooking dry lentils. There is no soaking needed, and it is as simple as boiling water and waiting 15 minutes—honestly!
This red lentil chili almost looks meaty, doesn’t it? And all those little chopped cilantro bits make me so excited. Ha.
For toppings, I am a big fan of shredded cheese, sour cream, and Fritos. In a pinch, I substitute sour cream for Greek yogurt sometimes and it’s almost just as good. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Red Lentil (Vegetarian) Chili

Course Main Course
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Emma Chapman


  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups water or vegetable stock (or a mix)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • salt and pepper


  • Prepare the lentils. Rinse well. In a medium to large pot, boil the liquid. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook for 3-8 more minutes, until the lentils are splitting and very tender.
  • Chop or mince the ingredients that need this including garlic, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. I remove the seeds and veins from the jalapeno to reduce the heat some, but this is up to you and the level of heat you prefer.
  • In a small to medium saute pan or skillet, add the oil over medium heat and saute the onion and jalapeno for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
  • Once the lentils are done cooking, assess the remaining liquid before adding the tomato sauce. If your lentils still seem very soupy, you may want to drain some of the liquid off, but this may not be necessary.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, sauteed vegetables, cilantro, chili powder, cayenne, and season well with salt and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.


Serve alongside chips, crackers, shredded cheese, and sour cream.