As soon as fall arrives, grocery stores line their shelves with cans of pumpkin. The purée pops up in every baked good, from pumpkin bread to pumpkin cheesecake, and rightfully so. But the bright orange gourd is often overlooked in savory dishes.
If you’re only picking up canned pumpkin to make pumpkin pie, think again. The convenient product is great for adding body, a bit of creaminess, and a lightly sweet, squashy flavor to dishes and sauces.
One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin purée is in chili. In fact, it genuinely upgrades chili.
Why Add Pumpkin?
For one thing, it’s a seasonal treat. Get on the bandwagon already!
In all seriousness, pumpkin adds great flavor and texture to this chili. It adds body and a bit of creaminess, giving the chili a hearty backbone with minimal effort. It also adds a nice pumpkin flavor that pairs extremely well with the spices.
Tips for Making Pumpkin Chili
Do Not Use Pumpkin Pie Filling: I was inspired by Summer Miller’s delicious vegetarian chili recipe, and I tweaked it in a number of ways to accommodate the pumpkin. It sounds obvious, but it bears typing out loud: do not use pumpkin pie filling. Double check that the can says pumpkin purée, 100% pumpkin. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a sickly sweet chili.
Use a Food Processor or Chopper: I like to take a shortcut on the prep and use my mini food processor to chop the veggies. They’re ready to cook by the time the oil is hot in the pan. If you have a chopper, this is a good time to use it.
Easy Recipe Variations
- Vegetarian/vegan: Exclude the meat and substitute it with 12 ounces of Beyond or Impossible meat or another can of beans.
- Spicy: Add more jalapeño and/or cayenne pepper. Serve with hot sauce or pickled jalapeños for topping.
- Purée swap: Butternut squash and sweet potato purée work equally well as pumpkin.
- Vegan Cincinnati Chili
- Copycat Wendy’s Chili
- Best Beef Chili
- Easy No Bean Chili
- Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
Cook the vegetables and meat:
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and bell pepper, and sauté until the onions are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the ground meat, jalapeño, and garlic and cook, breaking up the meat as you go, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, pepper, and cinnamon (if using), and stir until fragrant, about a minute.
Add the canned goods:
Add the fire-roasted tomatoes (undrained), green chiles (undrained), drained beans, beer or broth, and pumpkin purée. Stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover with a lid and adjust the heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t scorch on the bottom.
Add lime, taste, and serve:
Squeeze in 1/4 of a lime and stir. Taste, adding salt, other seasoning, and/or more lime as needed. Serve with your choice of toppings.
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