July 25, 2021

Easy Vegan Recipes

Eat Vegan – Eat Well

Lentil Cincinnati Chili

5 min read

Lentils stand in for meat in this flavor-packed vegan Cincinnati chili! Serve over pasta with a sprinkling of onion and optional vegan cheese shreds for a delicious meal that comes together in under an hour.

Bowl Vegan Cincinnati Chili with a Cluster of Spaghetti Wrapped Around a Fork

I’ve had a few requests for Cincinnati chili over the years. Sometimes reader requests sit on my to-make list forever, even though I have every intention of making them. That was the case for vegan Cincinnati chili, not so much because I didn’t want to make it, as because I never had the real deal and wasn’t sure what exactly it was supposed to taste like.

Cincinnati Chili

Close Up of Vegan Cincinnati Chili Over Spaghetti

Some of you might be asking what exactly is Cincinnati chili?

Cincinnati chili is a normally meat-based chili that’s served over spaghetti. So it’s pretty different from your typical Tex-Mex chili recipes.

But also, it’s got some unusual seasonings going on, namely, cinnamon, allspice, and cocoa powder, in addition to those spices you’d normally find in chili, like cumin, paprika, and chili powder.

Could I successfully veganize this one without compromising those distinctive Cincinnati chili flavors? As luck would have it, I didn’t have to!

Green Plate Club

Bowl of Vegan Cincinnati Chili with Water Glass, Napkin and Blue Pot in the Background

Enter Green Plate Club. Green Plate Club is a new meal planning service offering vegan and vegetarian plans.

If you follow lots of vegan and vegetarian food blogs you might know Green Plate Club’s creator Kiersten from Oh My Veggies, a site that she started nearly ten years ago. I worked with Kiersten as a contributor for Oh My Veggies for a while before she sold the site and I left to devote my full attention to Connoisseurus Veg.

I’ve made many of Kiersten’s recipes over the years and can personally attest to the fact that they are excellent. Always delicious, easy to follow, and in the case of her recipes on Green Plate Club, nutritionist-approved!

If you struggle with meal planning, are newly vegan and looking for ideas, or just need some easy weeknight recipe ideas, definitely check out Green Plate Club. The plans are well put-together, designed to minimize food waste, and come complete with tips and shopping lists. Also, it’s the most affordable meal planning service I know of, with the plans costing just $6 a month, $15 a quarter or $50 a year.

Click here to check out Green Plate Club. And by the way, these are affiliate links, meaning I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you sign up, BUT also know that I was totally ready to tell you guys about this service before I knew it even had an affiliate program, because I really do believe the recipes and plans are great!

So when Kiersten invited me to share a recipe from Green Plate Club over here I immediately knew it had to be the Cincinnati chili. It did not disappoint!

How to Make Vegan Cincinnati Chili

This one is so easy and the prep work is minimal. Cook some spaghetti according to the package directions. And the only thing you need to chop is an onion. Woo-hoo!

Start by heating up some oil in a large pot, and then add that onion. Cook it for a few minutes to soften it up, and then add those spices we talked about.

Collage Showing Steps 1 and 2 of Making Vegan Cincinnati Chili: Cook Onion, and Add Spices

Toast the spices for just a moment, then add some broth, lentils, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar and a bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil and let everything simmer with the lid partially covering the pot until the sauce is thick and the lentils are tender.

Lentil Cincinnati Chili

When it’s done simmering you can season the chili with some salt and ladle it over your pasta. Traditional Cincinnati chili is topped with shredded cheese and onions. I just served mine with onion, but a shredded cheddar-style vegan cheese like those made by Violife or Daiya would be great with this dish.

Grab a fork and enjoy!

Table Set with a Bowl of Vegan Cincinnati Chili, Fork and Water Glass

Cincinnati Chili Tips & FAQ

  • Leftover storage: If you have leftovers, I recommend storing the chili and pasta in separate containers. The chili can be heated up in a saucepan or in the microwave — it’ll thicken up as it sits, so you might need to add a splash of water. My favorite way to reheat pasta is by bringing a pot of water to a boil, adding the pasta and letting it boil for just a few seconds. Drain and serve.
  • Is this recipe gluten-free? It can be! Just substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta for the spaghetti.
  • My lentils have been simmering for a long time, but aren’t softening. What’s the deal? Usually this means they’re old, having either sat on the shelf at the store or in your pantry for a while.
  • Switch things up! Try serving the chili over a different pasta shape. I also suspect it would be awesome over a baked potato or on a Field Roast frankfurter.

Like this recipe? If so, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter. And please stop back and leave me a review and rating below if you make it!

Bowl Vegan Cincinnati Chili with a Cluster of Spaghetti Wrapped Around a Fork

Lentil Cincinnati Chili

Lentils stand in for meat in this flavor-packed vegan Cincinnati chili! Serve over pasta with a sprinkling of onion and optional vegan cheese shreds for a delicious meal that comes together in under an hour.

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 40 minutes

Total Time 50 minutes

Servings 4

Calories 481 kcal


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or any cooking oil you have on hand)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (reserve a few tablespoons for garnish, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces dry brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces dry whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Chopped onion and vegan shredded cheese, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add chili powder through cloves; stir to coat and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

  2. Add the broth, tomato sauce, lentils, vinegar, and bay leaf. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, stirring frequently.

  3. Divide the spaghetti into four bowls and ladle the chili on top. Serve with cheese and onions, if desired.

Nutrition Facts

Lentil Cincinnati Chili

Amount Per Serving

Calories 481 Calories from Fat 52

% Daily Value*

Fat 5.8g9%

Saturated Fat 1g5%

Sodium 404mg17%

Potassium 993mg28%

Carbohydrates 86.4g29%

Fiber 20.5g82%

Sugar 5.2g6%

Protein 26.3g53%

Calcium 7mg1%

Iron 46mg256%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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