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Vegan Lentil Chili

Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Cook Time:
15 mins
Prep Time:
10 mins

Chef notes

Hearty lentils and meaty mushroom take the place of animal protein in this rich chili. This healthy swap makes the dish so much better for you without leaving out any of the satisfying flavor or comforting texture from this cold weather classic.

Technique tip: Sauce will thicken as it sits; add a little water as needed.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • cups (8 ounces) mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • One 15-ounce can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 1½ cups cooked lentils
  • One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper



In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until softened.


Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, until almost soft.


Add the garlic, salt, chili powder and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute more, until fragrant.


Stir in the lentils, tomato sauce and brown sugar, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with black pepper and reduce the heat to medium.


Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the flavors come together. Taste and adjust the seasoning.