2 white bowls of spicy lentil chili on wooden cutting board

Easy Spicy Lentil Chili Instant Pot Recipe

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This lentil chili Instant Pot recipe is easy to make and packed with flavor. It’s hearty and filling with fiber from lentils, pinto beans, and veggies. Make it for a quick family lunch or dinner. I like to make a batch for lunches for the workweek This is the perfect plant-based meal to warm you up on a cold day!

Cooking with an Instant Pot

We recently got an Instant Pot and I am having a lot of fun cooking with it. A few times a week I use it to make vegetables, soup, or an entree. It is so nice to make broth, soup, and squash very quickly. One bowl pasta meals are also an easy solution to what’s for dinner.

A big reason I wanted one was for cooking dried beans. Pressure cooking can save a lot of time. I have definitely run out of patience waiting for beans to cook and THAT is why I have yet to make a really good black bean brownie!

For this lentil chili, I used canned beans instead of dried beans, because that is what I had. I have to get into the habit of buying dried beans, and then I can let you know how long to soak them and cook the chili if you want to try it that way.

Instant Pot next to spicy lentil chili in glass mug with spoon

My only previous experience was using a stovetop pressure cooker in a cooking class in college. Although the results were good, this always seemed pretty hard-core vegetarian to me. For a while I had been asking myself if I really needed it, and if it was worth the space – because I am getting to the point of probably too many appliances and they are already inhabiting a bedroom closet!

Ingredients for Spicy Lentil Chili Instant Pot Recipe

  • Light olive oil 
  • White or yellow onion
  • Yellow bell pepper 
  • Orange bell pepper 
  • Garlic
  • Dried brown lentils
  • Vegetable broth or water
  • Low sodium canned pinto beans 
  • Canned petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Bay leaf

More About Lentils

Lentils are one of my favorite protein sources. They are quick to cook (even quicker with an Instant Pot AND don’t need to be soaked ahead of time, which is a real time saver. Green or brown lentils hold their shape when they are cooked, so they are a favorite to replace meat in recipes like chili and tacos.

Besides protein and fiber, lentils also are a good source of important micronutrients like iron, folate, and potassium. Learn more from my article Lentils 101 on the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics blog.

What to Serve with Lentil Chili

This goes well over whole-grain spaghetti, spaghetti squash, a baked potato, or rice. It would be good with this Mexican Rice recipe too. Serve it with steamed green vegetables, a salad, or homemade bread – yum!

Chili Toppings

And then you can add all kinds of toppings too. I have it pictured here with fresh chives and a wedge of lime. Also, try:

  • Fresh parsley
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh or pickled sliced jalapenos
  • Tortilla chips
  • Chopped raw onions
  • Sliced avocados
  • Sliced green onions
  • Plant-based cheddar cheese or sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Hot sauce

How to Make Lentil Chili in a Slow Cooker

To make it in a slow cooker, just place all ingredients into it and cook for about 4 hours on high. You may also like this recipe for Slow Cooker Vegan Chili.

Other Cooking Tips

For more variety, add carrots, corn, or both! Another option is a frozen meat alternative – although I think the texture of the lentils works just fine for that. You could try some fresh tomatoes in place of the canned ones: you may want to peel and seed them first.

No pinto beans? No problem. Try black, kidney, cranberry, adzuki beans, or black-eyed peas instead.

Related Recipes You May Enjoy

Instant Pot next to spicy lentil chili in glass mug with spoon

Easy Spicy Lentil Chili – Instant Pot Recipe

Melissa Altman-Traub
This lentil chili Instant Pot recipe is easy to make and packed with flavor. It's hearty and filling with fiber from lentils, pinto beans, and veggies. Make it for a quick family lunch or dinner.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 16 minutes
Build and release pressure 24 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican, Tex-Mex
Servings 4
Calories 341 kcal


  • Instant Pot
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • paring knife
  • Large spoon


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil light
  • ½ onion diced
  • ½ bell pepper yellow, diced
  • ½ bell pepper orange, diced
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • ½ cup lentils dried, brown
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 15 ounces pinto beans low sodium, canned, drained
  • 28 ounces petite diced tomatoes canned, with juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin ground
  • ½ teaspoon oregano dried
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf


  • Set the Instant Pot to saute, on high for 6 minutes. Add the olive oil, onion, peppers, and garlic. Stir occasioanlly.
  • Sort through the lentils and rinse them. Add them to the Instant Pot along with all other ingredients. Set on Pressure cook, high, for 10 minutes (it takes about 9 minutes to get up to pressure).
  • Allow for natural pressure release, or release after 10 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf and serve the chili over rice, quinoa, or noodles if desired..


Slow Cooker Instructions: combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high.
Look for canned tomatoes and beans which are reduced in sodium and BPA free.
The nutrition estimate is from Spponacular, which is based on USDA data.


Calories: 341kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 20gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 283mgPotassium: 1392mgFiber: 22gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 1777IUVitamin C: 60mgCalcium: 147mgIron: 7mg
Keyword Chili, Instant Pot, Lentil chili, Vegan
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