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Easy Crockpot Lentil Chili Recipe

by Jeanette on January 16, 2012 · 58 Comments
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Easy Crockpot Lentil Chili

Easy Crockpot Lentil Chili served with Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf

I woke up to chilly 14 degree weather this morning…brrr! I honestly don’t know why I live in the Northeast as I am not at all a cold weather person. Makes me wonder why I went to college near the Canadian border too. This kind of cold weather makes me want to just stay indoors and cook up a pot of chili like this Crockpot Lentil Chili. Just let it simmer on its own all day and you’ll have a nice warming bowl of chili for dinner.

I’ve never made chili with lentils, usually opting for black beans or red beans. I actually first made this lentil chili when my youngest son got his braces last month. It was the perfect consistency since lentils are small and require little chewing, perfect for a tender mouth. Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t need to be pre-soaked, and don’t take as long to cook as beans.

Not only are lentils a terrific source of vegetarian protein, but they are good for heart health too, containing nutrients that help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. One cup of cooked lentils provides 16 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of protein, 90% daily value (“DV) of folate, 49% DV manganese,  and 37% DV iron.

I decided to make this Lentil Chili in a crockpot so I wouldn’t have to worry about watching a pot on the stove. With multiple kids’ schedules to manage, it is the type of easy dinner that can be served on a busy night. Although I try to have everyone sit down to dinner at the same time, it’s not always possible. Crockpot meals like this Lentil Chili are perfect for these flexible dinners, since it’s hard to overcook chili, and it keeps well. Served with my Rice Cooker Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf, this is a super easy meal to put on the table. The Lentil Chili can be kept warm in the crockpot, and the Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf in the rice cooker.

5 from 1 reviews
Easy Crockpot Lentil Chili Recipe
Prep time
Total time
I served this Lentil Chili with my Rice Cooker Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf, but brown rice would be nice too.
Serves: 12
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • One 28-ounce box crushed tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • One 16-ounce package dry lentils (I used brown lentils), picked through for stones, rinsed and drained
  • 6-7 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Saute until onions are softened and lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano and mustard and stir well for a minute or two. Add tomatoes and salt to taste. Pour mixture into crockpot and add lentils and 6 cups of broth.
  2. Cook for 4-6 hours. Add more broth or water as needed to achieve desired consistency.
This chili is not very spicy. You can add some chipotle pepper powder or cayenne powder if you want it spicier.

This post has been linked up to Beyond the Peel’s Whole Food Wednesday event.

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  1. Lentils – red or green – are the staples of my pantry. Soup and stew are always easy with these little things. I have to remember my crockpot next time, it is buried behind everything on the top shelf.
    Yes, why do you live in a cold climate? :) I hope I never have to move to one of those cold states, I dont know how I would do it. My husband was very much interested in getting a post doc in Boston for a while and I was really afraid that I was going to have to deal with that cold for two years. Luckily he changed his mind :)

    • Hi Ilke, I’ve been using my crockpot a lot this winter – perfect for no-fuss meals and keeps dinner hot while I’m driving the kids around. I’m hoping to move to warmer weather one of these days 😉

  2. I love how the lentils break down on their own in the slow cooker, so if you are around during the cooking, you can control the texture of your finished dish by stopping the cooking sooner, or letting it go until the lentils break down almost to soup. I’d make a big batch of this and freeze some (which, this weekend, means putting it outside — brrrrr).

    • I like my lentils broken down, so the crock pot was perfect in this case, but I agree, cooking lentils on the stove as well as other legumes allows you to control how firm or soft you like your beans. Bean soups do freeze well…I will be making more this cold winter.

  3. Ooooh, I’m excited! I have lentils in the pantry! Love that it can be frozen also! Great recipe, Jeanette!

  4. I can’t wait to make this recipe. I love lentils!

  5. i love slow cooker chili recipes! especially vegan ones. i am totally bookmarking this. and i recently started avoiding canned tomatoes because of the BPA and the citric acid (yeast!) that is found in the (since i am on a sugar cleanse). i love how you used boxed tomatoes. this is perfect for family dinner!

    • I’ve been trying to use boxed tomatoes as much as possible because of the BPA. I’ve read that canned tomatoes are the worst compared to other canned vegetables. I did not know about the citric acid/yeast effect. Will have to look into that. Thanks for sharing that.

  6. oh i have to try this! Yum!!

  7. I love lentils! This looks so great, Jeanette.

  8. Mmm, this sounds great! I always need new ways to use lentils and I love that this is cooked in a crock pot!

  9. Lentils are so versatile and wonderful. Love the idea of them in this Chili! and thanks for the reminding about the BPA in the lining of the canned tomatoes. I have been meaning to re-stock with Pomi boxes when my canned supply runs out.

    • Thanks Alyssa, I do love the versatility of lentils and the fact that they don’t need to be soaked before cooking like most legumes. I’ve been trying to buy boxed tomatoes whenever I see them; hopefully with time and awareness, tomatoes in non-BPA lined containers will become more readily available.

  10. You know, I’ve never made chili with lentils either but it’s such a great idea! I tend to use them as a substitute for ground beef anyway, so they’re really the perfect chili bean!

    • Actually when I first thought about making this lentil chili, the fact that lentils somewhat resemble ground meat did cross my mind – I think that may be part of the reason my boys liked it.

  11. I just bought a big bag of lentils…will have to give this one a try! Looks so yummy!

  12. Ooh. This one is perfect for my boys. They will adore this. And, yikes! 14 degrees? It was 38 here this morning and I could not get warm. LOL I must be a wimp!!

    • It has been really cold lately – hoping it’ll warm up a bit later this week! Meanwhile, lots of chili and soups!!

  13. Not to mention that this is perfect Gluten Free Lunch or Dinner fare! I love your combination of the chili with the pilaf. You used two of my favorite appliances – rice cooker and crockpot. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Thanks Ellen, my crockpot and rice cooker have been my best friends lately. They keep everyone warm until dinnertime!

  14. The perfect meatless meal, I actually have some cooked lentils in the fridge. I should use them in this :)

  15. I love the convenience of crockpot meals particularly when they are as healthful and delicious as this dish. This is crockpot season for us so I’m very happy to have this recipe! :)

  16. Oh yum – weve just got a slow cooker and Im somewhat obsessed!! So far we’ve only done meat based meals, so Im really looking forward to trying something veggie – cant wait to read more!

  17. What a nice idea to make chili with lentils! As you well no I have a not so secret love of lentils. I bet this would be great for younger children as well. Nicely done!

  18. This looks super tasty!!

  19. 14 degrees, yikes! This is absolutely delightful…lentils are high on my list of favorite foods :)

  20. Hi Jeanette – I just found this recipe through foodgawker and love it! I’m doing a cleanse series on my blog this week and wondered if you’d be okay with me using one of your pictures of this recipe and linking to your blog?

  21. This looks fabulous. You know how much I love lentils and I have yet to try them in a chili. What gorgeous presentation. I love all your healthy creations Jeanette. Thanks for sharing them with us at WFW. :)

  22. Glad everyone is liking this lentil chili. It’s a nice change from other beans and has a meaty texture since lentils are small.

  23. Hi,
    I found your recipe by accident because I just started eating lentils from the dairy section at Trader Joe’s and just love them. I have never used dry lentils so I know I will be using the crock pot for my dry lentils. My question is: where in the grocery store is boxed tomoatos? I have never heard of this and I too am going to change 360 degrees how I eat because I just watched the movie FOOD, Inc. and I was appauled at the mfg. of our meat in this country. If everyone who views this movie changes the way the eat, we will see a change in the country with food proccessing. Look what happened when people went after Phiip Morris…….
    I love your web site and look forward to following you.

  24. This recipe looks great. Do you cook on high or low?

  25. This looks great and I have everything except dry mustard at home. Do I need to go to the store? Or do you think it would be ok to leave it out or even (this may be a silly question, but…) add a squirt of prepared mustard?

  26. Hi Jeanette! I’ve been thinking of you! Putting this on my meal plan for this week! I’ve been craving chili, weird in August I know. I want something easy & healthy for crockpot. I pray my kids will try it, they aren’t chili fans yet, going to put it over rice & cross my fingers :)
    I on the other hand will love it! :)

  27. I dont know how I stumbled upon this recipe, but thought i’d give it a try since i had a bag of lentils in the pantry. And let me tell you, this is the BEST lentil crockpot recipe I’ve found. I’ve tried other recipes with lentils on the stove and in the crockpot with many many failures and dozens of bags of wasted lentils.

    The flavor is AMAZING!! It actually does taste like chili, I was so shocked!

    I broke the recipe in half and used half a bag of lentils and half of all other ingredients. I did not have dry mustard so I used a tsp of dijon mustard that I had in the fridge. I also did not have ground coriander so I omitted that. Also, could not find box crushed tomato so I used a can of diced tomato and one of those small cans of tomato sauce. I put the can of diced tomato through my food processor to break up the tomato a bit. Lastly, I did not have chili powder so I used ground red pepper and only a little under 1 tsp of it. The lentils have a nice little spice to it but anymore then that 1 tsp would of been way too much I think. Since I cut the recipe in half I cut the time in half, so instead of 4-6 hrs I did set my timer for 3 hrs. At that point they were done but I wanted them a little more soupy so I did 4 hrs total, although 5 hrs would have been totally okay.

    I will definitely be trying it with the quinoa pilaf next time!!

    Other then that I followed the whole recipe

    • Vanessa, thanks so much for trying my recipe and for your feedback – I always love hearing when people try my recipes and tell me how they turned out. Thanks for all your tips too!

  28. Hi, I’m wondering why you have to heat up most of recipe before you put it in crockpot? Can’t you just dump it all in and maybe cook a tad longer?? Or hotter?

    Thank you!
    Ann-the lazy cook

    • Hi Ann, you can just put everything into the pot without heating it up. I just prefer putting items hot into the slow cooker to start it off.

      • Thanks! I had done some reconnaissance work and found most chili crockpot recipes just have ya dump and cook. :-)

        Can’t wait for my chili!

  29. I tried this recipe with the quinoa mushroom pilaf. This dish combo was AMAZING!!! Who needs a chili packet when the recipe is on here. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Hi Sasha – thank you so much for your feedback – so glad you tried it and loved it. I always love hearing back from readers who make my recipes and tell me how they turned out!

  30. Are you sure you meant 2 tablespoons of chilli powder? It was wasaaay to spicy I couldn’t eat it at all.

    • Kazzlyn, sorry to hear that. I used a mild chili powder mix so maybe that’s why. Some chili powder mixes are spicier than others.

  31. SO AMAZING!! I don’t know how to cook very well & don’t much care for it, but trying to be a healthy eater in the winter I bought my first slow cooker. This is the first recipe I tried & not being big on tomatoes I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but I was blown away. I like spicy dishes so all I had to do was add some crushed red pepper & it was perfect. This dish will definitely be one of my new staple recipes!! Thank you thank you sooooo much!

  32. I made this recipe last night and my 7 year old asked for a second helping. My husband and I laughed as we doubt we would have eaten it at her age. But it was wonderful.

    I hope you don’t mind but I use my fitnesspal.com and I wanted to get the calorie count for this recipe so I added it to their database but in the description of the recipe I put a link to this post. I did NOT upload the picture seen here though as I didn’t have your permissions. I just uploaded the ingredients and directions.

    Hope you don’t mind


    P.S. For the record I searched for another Easy Lentil Crockpot Recipe on myfitnesspal instead of uploading your recipe at first and the calorie count for that recipe was 560 calories! YIKES that’s why I went ahead and uploaded your recipe as I knew it would be less and it only came to 139 calories! YAY. I didn’t use regular chicken broth though so I didn’t add that to the recipe but I’m sure it would have bumped it up just slightly, but I didn’t have any on hand or in the freezer so I just melted 2 chicken bouillon cubes in hot water and used that and it was still delicious!

    • Mel, so glad your 7-year-old enjoyed this and that this was a healthier version of lentils than the one you found originally.

  33. I have been meaning to leave a comment about this recipe for months now. I have made this chili about once a month. My husband used to claim he only liked all meat chili….until he ate this!! The texture is so similar to a meat based chili and tge flavors are amazing!!! We love your chili recipe ( even my picky 7year old)!! Thanks so much for sharing this delight, Jeanette.

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      Molly, thanks so much for leaving a comment! So glad you’ve been enjoying this lentil chili recipe with your family.

  34. This recipe is awesome! Thank you! I make this once a week now

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