Recipe: Vegan Chili

updated Feb 5, 2020
Vegan Chili

Red lentils and a duo of beans makes this vegan chili super meaty, and a slew of pantry ingredients impart a ultra-deep, rich flavor.

Serves6 to 8

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

In this bowl lies every single thing I want in a really good batch of chili. A slew of pantry ingredients leave it with just the right balance of spicy, sweet, and bitter flavors, making this a plant-based pot of chili that will leave you fully satisfied. The chili gets its heft from red lentils and a duo of beans. As a result, it has a texture so meaty, I have to remind myself that there’s not actually any meat in the pot. It checks all the boxes, and then some. If you’re looking for a simple and satisfying vegan chili recipe, this is it!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Use Cocoa Powder + Molasses for a Deeper Flavor

Not only are cocoa powder and molasses baking staples for full-flavored cookies and cakes, but here they are also the power couple responsible for the hearty depth of flavor in this meatless chili. Neither stands prominently at the forefront — instead these pantry ingredients enhance the warmth of the spices and impart subtle undertones, including chocolatey notes from the unsweetened cocoa powder and sweet, bitter notes from the molasses.

Vegan Chili

Red lentils and a duo of beans makes this vegan chili super meaty, and a slew of pantry ingredients impart a ultra-deep, rich flavor.

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 large

    yellow onion, diced

  • 2 stalks

    celery, diced

  • 1 medium

    jalapeño, seeded and diced

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsweetened natural cocoa powder

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    light or dark molasses

  • 1 cup

    dried red lentils

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    fire-roasted diced tomatoes

  • 3 1/2 cups

    low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    kidney beans, drained and rinsed

For serving (optional):

  • 2 medium

    avocados, diced

  • 4 medium

    scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 medium

    jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced


  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, celery, jalapeño, and garlic, and cook until soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the cocoa powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the spices don’t burn. Stir in the molasses and lentils and cook for a minute more.

  2. Add the tomatoes, broth, and beans, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  3. Serve topped with avocado, scallions, and jalapeño, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.