Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili

$4.64 recipe / $0.77 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.91 from 91 votes
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Yeah, I know, it’s 90 degrees outside and most people don’t want to be eating chili right now, but I’m a year ’round chili eater. Especially back in the day when I worked in a building that kept their AC set to 68 and it felt like winter all year long. I know I’m not the only one who suffers in summertime office AC, so this one goes out to all you fellow members of the always cold club. And the rest of you? Just bookmark this page and set a reminder in your phone to revisit this awesome Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili two months from now. ;)

Two bowls of slow cooker vegetarian chili with chips and other toppings

It’s All About The Toppings…

I’ve written and priced this recipe for Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili as just the chili itself, without toppings because toppings are very personal, and often depends on what is already on hand. I love adding something creamy (cheese, sour cream, or avocado), something green (green onion, cilantro, or avocado), and sometimes something starchy (tortilla chips, oyster crackers, cornbread, or crusty bread for dipping). Make the chili your own with the toppings and take advantage of this opportunity to use up some leftovers from your fridge!

Vegetarian or Vegan?

The chili itself is actually vegan! But I titled it with vegetarian because I’m picturing it with non-vegan toppings, but you can customize that to your needs. ;)

Freezer Friendly

This chili is extremely freezer friendly, so as soon as you’re done cooking it, I suggest dividing it into single portions. Once those portions have cooled completely in the fridge, transfer at least a few to your freezer for long term storage. You can take one out at a time whenever the craving for chili hits and reheat either in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.

Chili Seasoning Short Cut

For this recipe, I used a slightly modified version of my Homemade Chili Seasoning, but if you want a shortcut you can use a store-bought packet of chili seasoning in its place. But I have to say, I think the herbs and spices listed in the recipe below will definitely yield a better result. ;)

Front view of a bowl of Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili with cheese and sour cream on top

Serve with a side of Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread

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Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili

4.91 from 91 votes
This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili makes a huge batch, is packed with flavor and nutrients, and can be made for only about 5 dollars! 
This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili makes a huge batch, is packed with flavor and nutrients, and can be made for only about 5 dollars!
Servings 6 1.5 cups each
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 4 hours
Total 4 hours 10 minutes


  • 1 yellow onion ($0.33)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 15oz. can petite diced tomatoes (with juices) ($0.48)
  • 1 6oz. can tomato paste ($0.48)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained ($0.59)
  • 1 15oz. can kidney beans, drained ($0.59)
  • 1 cup brown lentils, uncooked ($0.70)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ($0.10)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.03)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.03)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • freshly cracked black pepper ($0.03)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil* ($0.13)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth ($0.52)


  • Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker along with all the other ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Place a lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours (or low for 8 hours). After cooking, the lentils should be tender. Taste the chili and add salt to taste, if needed (this will depend on the salt content of your broth). 
  • Serve the chili hot, with your favorite toppings.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.



*I like to use coconut oil because it has a similar mouth feel to animal fat, but it does give a slight coconut aroma to the chili. Feel free to use your favorite oil or fat in its place.


Serving: 1.5CupsCalories: 368.75kcalCarbohydrates: 60.85gProtein: 19.72gFat: 6.75gSodium: 1169.77mgFiber: 14.28g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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A bowl of Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili with avocado and tortilla chips

How to Make Slow Cooker Lentil Chili – Step by Step Photos

Onion Garlic Tomatoes in Slow Cooker

Dice one onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker along with one 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (with their juices), one 6 oz. can of tomato paste…

Beans and Lentils in Slow Cooker

One 15 oz. can black beans (drained), one 15 oz. can kidney beans (drained), one cup of uncooked brown lentils…

Add chili spices to slow cooker

1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 20 cranks of a pepper mill). If you don’t have a well stocked spice cabinet, you can substitute one packet of store bought chili seasoning.

Add broth to slow cooker

Also add 4 cups vegetable broth and 2 Tbsp coconut oil. I like to use coconut oil because it has a similar mouth feel to animal fats (because it’s a solid saturated fat), but you can use your favorite fat or oil in its place. Give everything a good stir to distribute the spices and tomato paste.

Cook Vegetarian Lentil Chili

Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours (or low for eight hours). Once it has cooked the lentils should be tender. Give it a taste and add salt if needed.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili ready to top

Then grab whatever toppings you have in your fridge and GO TO TOWN.

Dressed bowls of Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili with various toppings on the side

Each bowl can be unique, which means leftovers of this Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili will be a little less tiring…

A close up view of a bowl of Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili fully dressed with avocado, sour cream, cheese, and chips

But don’t you just want to dive in, tho?? 🤤

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  1. Were the onions supposed to be sautéed first? They are raw after 4 hours of slow cooking. I almost sautéed before with the garlic but decided to be very literal with the directions.

    1. That’s very odd! No, they should definitely be fully cooked and soft after that long. Were you cooking on high? Was everything else cooked through? The only other thing I can think of is maybe the onion itself was tough some reason.

  2. Delicious! Made exactly as written and turned out so well. Love a hands off, cheap, filling meal with tons of leftovers for the freezer! Thanks!

  3. I’m very new to cooking, I’ve been living off of frozen meals that didn’t make me feel happy or healthy. Your recipes have inspired me to start cooking, and this is absolutely amazing! I can’t believe I cooked something that tastes so good. Thank you!

    1. The type of lentils I used here are sometimes labeled “green lentils” it just depends on the brand. To find out if it’s the same kind, check the cooking instructions on the back of the bag. If it says to boil or simmer for about 20 minutes, they will work in this recipe. If it’s a lentil variety that needs more like 45 minutes to an hour to cook, I’d need to test it first to see if they’ll work in the slow cooker.

  4. This is the best vegan/vegetarian chili I’ve ever had, and I’ve been vegan for about 7 years. I love the simple ingredient list, and the fact that this chili is packed with flavor and protein without the use of meat substitutes.

  5. I’m usually a terrible cook but this recipe is pretty hard to f*** up. It’s so easy and tasted great!

  6. Another Budget Bytes winner! So many layers of rich flavor, and SO easy – I dumped everything in the crock pot before work, and came home to a delicious dinner (and a great-smelling house).

  7. Made this recipe in my instant pot instead, swapped out the coconut oil for vegetable oil as I didn’t have any on hand and wanted to keep cost down. Swapped beef broth for the vegetable broth purely for preference and added a small serano pepper for just a bit more kick.

    Based cooking time on the lentils, instant pot recommends 10 minutes for brown lentils, so went with that.

    It turned out amazing, the chili should hopefully get even hotter overnight, and the spice level came out juuuust under truly hot, so a jalapeño should be just fine for anyone looking for a bit more kick, but nothing too crazy.

    Total instant pot cook time was around an hour. Had it sit for natural release for 30 minutes after the pressure cycle, and then vented because I got impatient lol.

  8. So yummy! Swapped coconut oil for olive oil. Onion powder bc I didn’t have an onion. 9 oz of tomato paste. 3 cups of broth. Def will make again!

    1. This recipe means so much to my family. We’re all meat-lovers, but I made this one day because meat is so expensive and money is tight. All the meat-lovers in my family genuinely LOVE this meal, and get excited when I tell them I’m making it. Even the 2-yr-old likes it!

      I’ve made it as written, I’ve made it with different spices, I’ve made it with different beans, or chickpeas instead of beans, or double the lentils and half the beans, with different combinations of broth or water or bouillon—all based on whatever is left in the pantry. It has been delicious every time. I made it in the crockpot the first few times, but these days I usually make it in the Instant Pot (10 minutes on high pressure; natural release for 20 minutes).

      It always feeds my family of four for at least 3 dinners—sometimes 4. We’ll eat it for days in a row. A scoop of it over scrambled eggs, grits, or toast for breakfast is also wonderful!

      This recipe is firmly a part of our family culture now. Thank you, Beth!

  9. So good, and so easy! I didn’t have chili powder, so I used creole seasoning (I didn’t add an extra salt). This was super yummy and very easy to put together.

  10. Have made this a few times with swaps based on whatever I have and always love it. Times are particularly tight with the obv inflation but also moving and car repairs so looked in my cupboards to determine what to make for my Sunday meal prep. This immediately came to mind when I spied my lentil jar. Even when times are harder, we eat well. Your site and cookbook have helped me greatly over the years. Thank you

  11. My husband really liked this recipe especially the leftovers. He said the spices were nicely balanced.

  12. My whole family is obsessed with this recipe! I was out of vegetable broth so I used beef broth but it was still delicious! I also sautéed the onions first. Yum!