Lentil chili is an easy and delicious twist on traditional chili, making use of tender and delicate lentils in place of the usual kidney or pinto beans. Delicious to simmer up and enjoy as a hearty and warming dinner, my cozy lentil chili recipe is brimming with ground beef, chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, diced chilis, and a zesty combination of spices!
A Hearty and Delicious Chili with a Twist
Rich, hearty and delectably smoky chili is a favorite comfort meal in our home, especially when we're craving a nice, stick-to-our-ribs offering that we can ladle up and enjoy by the cozy bowlful.
Often times, I prepare a more traditional chili using a combination of kidney, pinto and black beans, and perhaps even add in some diced sweet potato to balance the flavors and add a bit more texture.
But since we absolutely love lentils in our household, and typically have a package in our pantry, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to create a lentil chili recipe to give my more traditional version a bit of a makeover.
This scrumptious lentil chili is filled with lots of smoky spices, diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers, diced green chilis and lean ground beef, all simmered together until the lentils are splitting and tender in just about 1 hour.
Topped with a little cool and creamy sour cream and cheese, plus a flourish of green onion or cilantro, this mouthwatering and healthy lentil chili is the perfect comfort food in a bowl, and ready for a few corn chips for dipping!
A Lentil Chili Recipe Brimming with Rich Flavor
Lentils are wonderful little legumes that are packed with fiber and protein, and break down into a thick and hearty texture when simmered up in a soup or stew recipe.
My lentil chili happens to feature lean, ground beef, but here's the beauty of this tasty recipe: you could easily substitute ground lamb, ground turkey, or even slices of smoked sausage as delicious alternatives if you're craving a slightly different flavor profile.
Or, you could go a completely vegetarian route, or even vegan, with this—it's incredibly versatile!
To create that rich flavor, I add in a hint of tomato paste as well as diced tomatoes with their juices, plus a touch of beef stock or broth.
And, of course, no chili recipe would be complete without lots of spices, so I use a warming blend of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and chili powder.
All of these delicious ingredients add layers of flavor to this slightly unconventional chili, and come together to create a version that's a bit more velvety in texture rather than super chunky.
Here's a glance at my lentil chili recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I brown my ground beef in my soup pot along with some onion and spices.
- Next, the garlic and chilis are added in, with a bit of adobo sauce and tomato paste, followed by the diced tomatoes and some of their reserved juices, the lentils, plus my beef stock/broth.
- The lentil chili is covered and simmered until the lentils split and soften, and until the texture is thick and hearty. I finish the chili with some chopped, fresh cilantro for fresh flavor, and then ladle into bowls and top with a bit of sour cream and green onion, and serve with corn chips on the side.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 406 calories per serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- Black pepper
- 1 pound organic ground beef (85/15 ratio)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 2 chipotle peppers, finely minced
- 1 (4 ounce) can of diced green chilis (mild or hot)
- 3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from chipotle peppers)
- 2 (heaping) tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained with 1 cup of juices reserved
- 1 pound green or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 4 ½ cups beef stock or broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro, plus extra for topping/garnish
- Grated jack or cheddar cheese, optional topping
- Sour cream, optional topping
- Sliced green onions, optional topping
- Corn chips, optional topping
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of your ingredients according to the ingredient list above to have them organized and ready for use.
- Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat, and add in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil; once hot, add in the diced onion along with a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until softened.
- Add in the ground beef, and using a spoon, break it up into small chunks. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper, plus the cumin, coriander, chili powder, smoked paprika and dried oregano, and cook the beef until no longer pink.
- Next, add in the garlic, the minced chipotle peppers, the diced green chilis, the adobo sauce and the tomato paste, and stir to combine. Cook this mixture for 30 seconds to 1 minute, to cook out the raw flavor from the tomato paste.
- Add in the diced tomatoes along with the 1 cup reserved juices, followed by the lentils and the beef stock or broth, and bring the lentil chili to the boil; then, cover the chili, reduce the heat to low, and allow it to gently simmer until the lentils are tender and splitting, roughly 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- To serve, ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings
Tips & Tidbits for my Lentil Chili:
- Your choice of meat: While I opt for ground beef in my recipe for mild flavor, ground lamb, with its slightly more “gamey” flavor is also terrific, as is ground turkey or pork, or even sliced smoked sausage.
- Vegetarian lentil chili: This recipe is delicious when made completely vegetarian. You could sub ground soy, or simply omit the meat and add a finely diced sweet potato or sliced mushrooms. You can skip this altogether and only use the aromatic ingredients, the lentils and tomatoes for a deliciously simple preparation, and sub in vegetable broth/stock for the beef.
- Best lentils to use for chili: I love the classic green or brown lentils here, as they keep their shape nicely. The yellow, orange or red lentils tend to become a bit mushy once cooked. Feel free to use either variety, just know that the texture of the green or brown work best for chili.
- Tasty toppings for lentil chili: Feel free to use any of the usual toppings you would normally use for more traditional chili with this version. A little sour cream is delicious, as is some cheese, if you'd like, and green onion and/or cilantro adds a pop of fresh flavor as well. Serve with your favorite corn chips for dipping, if desired!
Craving more zesty and warming recipes like this one? Check out this Sweet Potato Chili, this White Chicken Chili, this Curry Lentil Soup, this Split Pea Soup, or this Chorizo Soup!
I came across Ingrid’s website while doing a search for hand pie recipes using puff pastry. Her recipe for Savory Hand Pies sounded so good and was so well written that it prompted further investigation, which led me to three chili variations: chickpea, lentil and white chicken. I am an experienced cook who loves one pot concoctions with plenty of leftovers and have made many stews and hearty soups with lentils and chickpeas as well as a few variations on white chili.
This lentil chili is hands down the best thing a bag of lentils can hope for.
I just made my second batch and can't keep my face out of the pot! The delicious medley of seasonings, spices and peppers is just what lentils need and makes any toppings or garnishes completely unnecessary. The consistency is perfect and makes a great, filling meal in chilly (chili?) weather. Thanks, Ingrid!
PS: The Chickpea Chili is a winner, too!
The Cozy Apron
Marguerite, thanks so much for such a lovely comment. I'm thrilled you enjoyed this lentil chili (as well as the chickpea chili!), and are getting come coziness and warmth from it! The leftovers are often the best part, with flavors melding together and deepening even more.
Glad you had the chance to peruse the site, and I hope you find many more enticing recipes to have some fun preparing and enjoying. Happy cooking to you, Marguerite! 🙂