Recipe: Spicy Red Lentil Chili

I’ve discovered a great many wonderful foods in my adult life that were foreign to me as a kid.  Arguably one of the greatest discoveries is lentils.  I love lentils.  French lentils and red lentils and brown lentils and whatever kind of lentil you can put in front of me, I will surely like it.

Healthy, hearty, budget-friendly and so very versatile, lentils are eaten a lot in my home.  This dish uses red lentils (so often used in dals and curries) and turns them into a spicy, Mexican-inspired chili.  Similar to lentils, chili is another thing eaten often in my home.  Most often, though, our chili dishes feature beans (a fine choice, don’t get me wrong), so using the red lentils to create this chili was a fun and slightly out of the ordinary way to create this meal.

The heat can be easily adjusted up or down on this to your preference.  Want more?  Add a hot pepper to the mix.  Want less?  Skip the crushed red pepper flakes.  Easy, peasy adjustable spice quotient.

By the way, this made really good leftovers, too.  If you like that sort of thing.

I do.


Spicy Red Lentil Chili

Makes approx. 9 cups

Inspired by



½ tblspn olive oil

1 small yellow or white onion, chopped

1 medium bell pepper, chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tblspns white cooking wine (optional)

2 tblspns apple cider vinegar

2 cups dried red lentils, picked through and rinsed

3 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade!)

28-oz can diced tomatoes

6-oz can tomato paste

1 tblspn dried oregano

1 tblspn chili powder

1 tspn paprika

1 tspn kosher salt

½ tspn crushed red pepper flakes

½ tspn black pepper

2 tblspns fresh Italian parsley, chopped



  1. Warm oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic.  Saute vegetables over medium heat, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes, until the carrots begin to soften and the onion starts to brown.
  2. Add cooking wine (if using) and vinegar to the pot, stir cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the liquid is cooked down.
  3. Add in all dried spices and herbs.  Stir and cook until all vegetables are coated with the spice mix, approximately 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils, broth, diced tomatoes with their juices, and tomato paste to the pot.  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through.
  5. Uncover and check for done-ness and liquid absorption.  If preferred, continue to cook uncovered for approximately 3-5 minutes in order to give excess liquid time to cook off and make a thicker chili.
  6. Top with the fresh parsley and serve.