Best Ever Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili

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

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


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (271 votes, average: 3.96 out of 5)

  • 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
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3/4 cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 28 ounce diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 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

Keywords: Instant Pot Chili, Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili, Instant Pot Vegan Chili, Pressure Cooker Chili, Pressure Cooker Vegetarian Chili, Pressure Cooker Vegan Chili

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

47 Comments

  • Reply
    Alicia
    October 28, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    I have just made this chili for dinner and it was DELICIOUS! Sooo easy!

  • Reply
    Bob
    December 8, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Fabulous! Only suggestion — and it’s a small one – is to add a wee bit of sugar to cut the acidic taste from all the tomatoes.

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    January 6, 2020 at 6:51 am

    I only have a 3 quart Instant Pot.. it’s not big enough to make this recipe in. Can this be made on the stove? If so how long would you cook it for?

  • Reply
    JohnA
    January 10, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Will this work with dried beans? Can they be added with the lentils and other veggies or should they be cooked separately and added later?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 10, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      Hi! They’d take a lot longer to cook so you would need to cook them previously.

      • Reply
        Bridgette
        January 21, 2020 at 10:44 am

        So are we using raw Lentils or cooked lentils?

        • Reply
          Alex Overhiser
          January 21, 2020 at 7:49 pm

          Raw lentils.

          • Heather Martineau
            October 27, 2020 at 12:46 pm

            I feel like this should be stated in the recipe. Try as I might I could not find that info until I looked at the comments. I rehydrated my lentils first…darn.

          • Sonja Overhiser
            October 28, 2020 at 1:39 pm

            We updated the recipe to state “dry” lentils! As a rule recipes that call for just “lentils” in the ingredients should mean dry lentils, and “canned lentils” would signify that they’re before using. But you never know, so thanks for checking!

  • Reply
    Phil Hjemboe
    January 10, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    I made this supper this evening and it tastes great. As another commenter said, a bit of sugar cuts the acidity of the tomato sauce. This is a big batch – I’ll have a lot of leftovers for days to come.

  • Reply
    Lynne
    January 11, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    I just wanted to say that this recipe blew me away!!! I have not eaten meat in 6 months and have tried several ways to make my chili. This was sooo good. Thank you so much for sharing!!! It is going to be a must at every occasion to come!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 11, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      So glad you enjoyed!

    • Reply
      Catherine
      January 12, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      Hi
      Do you think this would work with red lentils?

      • Reply
        Alex Overhiser
        January 13, 2020 at 7:41 am

        Hi! I think that the red lentils might cook too quickly for this one!

  • Reply
    Bethany
    January 14, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    I just made this for dinner and it was so deliciou Thank you for sharing recipies! I will definitely make this again!!

  • Reply
    Allison
    January 17, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    will my 6-8 quart insta pot hold a double batch of this chili?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 17, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      I don’t think there would be room, but I’m not certain!

  • Reply
    Lori Patterson
    January 31, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    This is delicious but a bit too spicy! What’s the best way to cut some of the heat? Less cumin or less chili powder? I only had chipotle chili powder, so that may be the difference?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 31, 2020 at 11:23 pm

      Yes, the chipotle chili powder probably had a bit more quick than the standard type! Glad it was still good :)

  • Reply
    Kira
    February 3, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Hello! Are you using dry lentils? Can’t wait to make this (:

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 4, 2020 at 10:18 am

      Yes, dry lentils. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Alex
    February 6, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    Made this tonight for my friends and I. I was a bit nervous cause I had never made it and I was hosting but wow! So delicious! All my friends loved it as well and got seconds. Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 7, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      So glad you loved it!

  • Reply
    Katie
    May 3, 2020 at 11:20 am

    Hi! I love this recipe! I’m just wondering — is there any specific reason you recommend adding the beans in AFTER the lentil mixture has cooked in the Instant Pot? Is it just a space issue? Just wondering whether cooking the beans with everything else is an option. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 4, 2020 at 10:36 am

      Hi! Canned beans would turn to mush in the Instant Pot, and dried beans would need an extra 30 minutes. That’s why we add them at the end!

  • Reply
    Myles Evan Timothy
    May 14, 2020 at 9:58 pm

    I absolutely love this recipe! This is my second time making it and it is incredible. Everyone I give it to loves it as well. Thank you for this recipe!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      May 15, 2020 at 10:08 am

      So glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Reply
    Heather
    May 17, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Great recipe and very easy! The chili was especially delicious with the toppings you suggested. I substituted regular diced and crushed tomatoes for the fire roasted since my daughter does not like spice.

  • Reply
    Rebeeca
    June 15, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    How big are the serving sizes? It says serves 6, but it seems like the servings would be big.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      June 15, 2020 at 4:42 pm

      Sorry, we don’t have a cup measure for you. It serves 6 large or 8 medium servings.

  • Reply
    Tiff
    July 19, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Hi there! I only have a 3 quart instant pot and am an absolute dunce when it comes to cooking. Could I half the ingredients and everything should still work out relatively okay? This is a general question for anyone lol

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      July 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Hi! Yes, this should work fine for most recipes. The time it takes to come up to pressure will be a little different, so you may need to occasionally adjust the cooking time but you’d have to try it once first.

  • Reply
    Carrie
    September 9, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Hi there. Do you drain the diced tomatoes before adding them?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      September 10, 2020 at 9:23 am

      No! Add with the juices.

  • Reply
    Andrea
    September 21, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    This recipe gave my my first burn warning! I emptied everything out of the pot, cleaned it, and started again but with no success. Cooks just as easily on the stovetop though & the chili is pretty tasty.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      September 21, 2020 at 12:12 pm

      I’m so sorry this occured! We haven’t had that issue on this recipe.

  • Reply
    Katie
    December 5, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Hmmm… when you say chili powder, do you mean actual chili powder or the chili powder blend sold in grocery stores? I used actual chili powder, (ancho) and it took over the flavor even before adding that last teaspoon.

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      December 6, 2020 at 9:24 pm

      Sounds like you are thinking of chile powder, which is quite different! Chile powder is made from ground chiles (like ancho chile powder, super hot!). Chili powder (with an i) is the blend of peppers and spices sold in grocery stores! The “chili” spelling refers to the blend and it’s what we’ve specified here.

  • Reply
    Katie
    December 7, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. Since you also had some of the other ingredients from the blend in your recipe, it wasn’t clear. I’ve seen powder from the pure Chile pepper referred to with both spellings, which makes it a challenge to discern one from the other, especially as I don’t tend to buy blended spices (make my own!), so I don’t tend to think of a blend unless it is specified: “chili powder blend” would eliminate the confusion.

    I’ll try the recipe again cutting the Chile powder and increasing the cumin and oregano, and maybe adding some allspice and coriander. Or maybe break tradition and get a bit of the blend to try.

    In the mean time, maybe adding a bunch of boiled potatoes, as well as more cumin and some coriander would help the chili I have. I can’t wait to try the recipe as it was intended.

  • Reply
    Katie
    December 7, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Ah, I see you made a note in the recipe! Yes, that clarifies!

  • Reply
    Cindy
    January 10, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    Two cans of 28 oz crushed tomatoes?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 11, 2021 at 9:52 am

      1 can diced and 1 can crushed.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    January 27, 2021 at 8:19 pm

    Made this tonight and recieved two burn messages. Since there is no raw meat inside I just left it. The pressure had built and set my own timer. After two burn messages it eventually went into the countdown timer 🤷‍♀️

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      January 28, 2021 at 8:43 pm

      We find that there’s a lot of variation between Instant Pots — even from the same brand! We’ve never had a burn message happen on this one and have made it several times. Sometimes the message can happen because of an improperly placed sealing ring: do you think that could have been the issue?

  • Reply
    Amy Simons
    February 3, 2021 at 8:24 pm

    just to clarify – you let the pot heat up for 15 minutes and THEN cook the first batch of ingredients for 12 minutes? so total cooking time for that phase is 27 minutes or thereabouts?

    also after cooking, how long can this sit? thank you!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 4, 2021 at 9:36 am

      Hi! You set the timer for 12 minutes minutes, but it doesn’t start counting down until it comes to full pressure (about 15 minutes) so the full cook time is roughly 27 minutes.

      It can probably sit for an hour or two.

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