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This is the BEST Instant Pot vegetarian chili, featuring two beans, lentils, and a robust flavor. (It’s vegan too.) Pressure cooker chili is fast and easy!

Instant Pot Chili
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Chili is the epitome of crowd-pleasing, and it’s a meal we often make for guests. So if you’ve got a pressure cooker, why not try…Instant Pot chili? This one is really the best Instant Pot vegetarian chili: it’s full of beans, veggies, and lentils to up the plant-based protein. Alex and I much prefer a pressure cooker to making Crockpot chili, which takes hours and can turn out soggy (ew!). This Instant Pot chili is full of savory, hearty flavor. In fact…we might like it the best of all of our chili recipes!

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili

How to make Instant Pot chili: a tutorial

We have a secret. Instant Pot chili is not done in an instant. Ugh, I know! We’re sorry to burst your bubble. (Oh, those clever marketers over at Instant Pot!) This Instant Pot chili takes about the same amount of time to make chili on the stovetop. So why even use a pressure cooker? It’s a hands off method. Once you’re done with the saute, it’s set it and forget it! Throw everything in the pot and move on with your day.

Here are all the secrets to this best Instant Pot vegetarian chili (which happens to be a vegan chili, too). For specifics, go to the recipe below.

Step 1: Dice 2 yellow onions and 1 green pepper.

The only knife skills required here is dicing two onions and a green pepper. For quick video tutorials on how it’s done, go to How to Cut an Onion and How to Cut a Bell Pepper.

Step 2: Saute the onions and peppers 6 to 7 minutes.

Turn on Saute mode of the Instant Pot and add the olive oil. Then Saute the onions, peppers, and a bit of fennel seed for 6 to 7 minutes, until tender. The fennel seed adds a meaty undertone to the chili (it’s a spice used in sausage).

Step 3: Add ingredients and pressure cook 12 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, and spices to the Instant Pot. Seal the lid and pressure cook on High for 12 minutes. Note that because of the amount of ingredients in the pressure cooker, it takes about 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to “preheat” or come up to pressure. In all of our Instant Pot recipes, we like to be honest about this preheat time: this timing is included in the cook time in the recipe below.

Instant Pot chili

Step 4: Quick release! Add the beans, garlic, spices and rest 5 minutes.

Here’s where the magic happens! Because the pressure cooker can sometimes dull flavors, it’s important to add ingredients at the end to brighten it up. (We use this same technique in our Instant Pot Lentil Soup.)

Do a quick release, then add the canned beans (drained and rinsed), grated garlic (you can grate it right into the pot), and additional 1 teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder. Allow this to stand for 5 minutes to let the garlic flavor meld into the pot. Then it’s ready to eat!

Pressure cooker chili

Toppings for this Instant Pot vegetarian chili

The best part about chili? The toppings! Alex and I have found that this Instant Pot vegetarian chili absolutely needs toppings to get the final flavor, like any vegan or vegetarian chili. Here’s what we think are essential for getting the right flavor:

  1. Hot sauce or lime: It’s important to add a tangy undertone! We like hot sauce, but if you can’t do spicy try fresh squeezed lime juice.
  2. Sour cream: Adding a little creaminess and richness is also key. If you eat vegan or plant based, use Vegan Sour Cream or Cashew Cream.
  3. Sliced green onions or fresh cilantro: The final element is a little freshness. We like sliced green onions or cilantro: it also adds a beautiful green pop.
  4. Cheese: To us, toppings 1-3 are essential. Cheese is optional, but it sure makes it taste good! Omit for vegan or use a dairy-free cheese option.
  5. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), tortilla chips, or crackers: Another optional topping, but it’s nice to have a little crunch too! Do you like Saltines in your chili? (Here’s a homemade version.)
  6. Pickled jalapenos: If you love heat, homemade Pickled Jalapeños add big flavor.
  7. Tortilla strips: Try our Crispy Tortilla Strips for a crunch!

Try our Chili Seasoning in this recipe! Add 5 tablespoons of the mix instead of the spices, then add 2 teaspoons at the end.

Want more? Try more of our Best Instant Pot Recipes!

This Instant Pot chili recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Instant Pot Chili

Best Ever Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.6 from 14 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x

Description

This is the BEST Instant Pot vegetarian chili, featuring two beans, lentils, and a robust flavor. (It’s vegan too.) Pressure cooker chili is fast and easy!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¾ cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 28 ounce diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin, divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chili powder*
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 2 medium or 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • For serving: sour cream or cashew cream, shredded cheese, hot sauce, cilantro, sliced green onion, roasted and salted pepitas

Instructions

  1. Dice the onions. Dice the pepper.
  2. Turn on Saute mode and add the olive oil to the Instant Pot. When it is heated, add the onion, pepper, and fennel seeds and saute for 6 to 7 minutes until translucent. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 3 tablespoons chili powder. Lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Place the pressure release handle (vent) in the “Sealing” position.
  3. Cook on High Pressure for 12 minutes: Press the Pressure Cook button, making sure the “High Pressure” setting is selected, and set the time. Note that it takes about 15 minutes for the pot to “preheat” and come up to pressure before it starts cooking. (During cooking, avoid touching the metal part of the lid.)
  4. Quick release: Vent the remaining steam from the Instant Pot by moving the pressure release handle to “Venting”, covering your hand with a towel or hot pad. Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam. Open the pressure cooker lid.
  5. Add the final flavorings: Drain and rinse the beans. Stir in the beans, grate in the garlic (using a microplane is easy), and add the remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Taste and season with additional salt and fresh ground pepper as necessary.
  6. Load it up: Load up with toppings, as they provide the final flavoring! Use sour cream or cashew cream, shredded cheese, hot sauce, cilantro, sliced green onion, roasted and salted pepitas, or your other favorite toppings. 

Notes

*Use chili powder which is a blend, not chile powder (like ancho chile powder, which is straight ground chiles and very spicy).

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian / Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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83 Comments

  1. Kallie says:

    This chili is a miracle dinner! My whole family (hubby and 5 kids between 4 and 10) love this! We have some picky eaters and it’s such a relief to have a meal everyone is excited about.
    The only change I make is cutting down on the chili powder. Thanks so much for a quick, easy and healthy dinnertime win!






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thank you for making!

  2. Angela says:

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet but it looks good and the comments are positive.
    Is it possible to use chickpeas instead of lentils?
    Can I add more vegetables? The more variety, the better for me.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      I’m not sure what the cook time would be for chickpeas. Sorry!

  3. Karen W says:

    This recipe was delicious, and I loved the additional flavor of fennel. The only thing was the lentils were a little chewy. My neighbor, who tried it, didn’t think it was a problem, and that it gave it a “meaty” texture. I would prefer them softer, and will try increasing the time by maybe 5 more minutes. What do you think? Thanks, we really enjoyed it.






    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Yes! A few more minutes should do it. Different brands of lentils can vary in cook time so these probably just need a bit more.

  4. Les mark says:

    Wow I really appreciate all the tips for using an instant pot yall included bc this was my first time using mine and had NO idea how to use it. You rule!

    Also the chili was delicious.






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