Smoky Lentil Chili

I recently took this smoky lentil chili to our church Trunk-or-Treat and Chili Night, and it was almost gone when we came home (…to my husband’s disappointment. He is happy when no one likes our food and he can have all the leftovers). I labeled it “amazing chili that happens to be vegetarian.” It was the only meatless option on the table. Be that person who provides the option that’s different from the rest!

When the temperatures drop, and the days become shorter, there’s nothing quite like a warm bowl of chili to comfort your soul. If you’re on the lookout for a satisfying, plant-based option that’s not too spicy, incredibly nutritious, and tastes surprisingly meaty without any actual meat, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, I’m sharing our recipe for a smoky lentil vegan chili that’s sure to become a household favorite. Packed with protein, fiber, and rich flavors, this chili is perfect for both vegans and meat-lovers alike. I created this because I wanted to sneak in mushrooms, walnuts, and bulgur for that meaty-texture.

If you have a food processor (which I couldn’t recommend more!), the chopping is super fast and makes this a quick recipe to make.

The star of this chili in my opinion is bulgur. I’ve known what bulgur is (it’s like steel cut oats of wheat–chopped up wheat berries) but hadn’t actually used it until recently. It is in the bulk bins at my grocery store, but you can find the Bob’s Red Mill brand readily or the Whole Foods Brand. It creates a meaty texture that’s really satisfying! If you can’t eat gluten, however, you can sub quinoa or TVP.

I have another chili I love, using tofu crumbles.

Meaty Whole Food Plant-Based Chili

Smoky Lentil Chili
Prep Time
40 mins

One of the best vegetarian chilies out there! Take it to a chili cook-off!

Servings: 6 big bowls
Author: Faithful Plateful
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 8-oz package mushrooms, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 jalepenos, stems and seeds removed
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (blended up first if you don't like tomato chunks)
  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tsp vegetable bouillon base
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup dry bulgur (or TVP)
  • 3/4 cup brown lentils
  • 2 15 oz cans beans (such as pinto, black, or kidney)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1-2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (optional, for extra heat)
  1. In a large pot, start sauteeing the onions and mushrooms (I chop these with a food processor so they are not so chunky that my kids notice them and pick them out).

  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend up the jalepenos, soy sauce, can of tomatoes, and garlic until well blended.

  3. When the onions are translucent, after about 8-10 minutes, add the spices and stir.

  4. Then add the mixture from the food processor and let simmer for a few minutes to cook the jalepenos and garlic.

  5. Add the water, salt and bouillon base. Bring to a boil.

  6. Add the lentils and bulgur, reduce heat to medium and set timer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

  7. While that is cooking, chop up the walnuts really small, or pulse them in a clean food processor. Toast in a small skillet over medium heat until just golden brown and fragrant. Set a timer for about 3 minutes if needed, they burn easily!

  8. Add beans, toasted walnuts, and maple syrup. Taste and add whatever you think it needs-- additional salt, chili powder, or even chipotle peppers for more heat. I often add a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar or lime juice to soups and chilies for more acidity which brings out the flavors.

  9. Enjoy! Freezes well.

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  1. This is amazing. The best vegetarian chili I have ever had-and I’ve had a lot! I leave out the chipotle pepper so my daughter will also have it-she also loves it. Thank you so much for this recipe!

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