Pumpkin chili is so rich and flavorful! You can't actually taste the pumpkin as a separate flavor, but it adds great texture and thickens the dish.
I love making chili in the fall and winter. It's warm, well-seasoned and comforting. I like to make a big pot and enjoy the leftovers over several days - they actually get better as they sit in the fridge.
The idea of pumpkin chili may sound suspicious, but it's really, really good! It's actually my favorite chili recipe to make these days, and I make it year-round.
The ingredients you'll need
These are the ingredients you'll need to make this tasty recipe (the exact measurements are included in the recipe card below):
For the seasoning mix: Kosher salt, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
Olive oil: I like to use extra-virgin olive oil. It's wonderfully flavorful.
Extra-lean ground beef: Or use lean ground beef if you prefer.
Veggies: Onions, garlic, and bell peppers.
Petite-diced tomatoes: If using regular diced tomatoes, give them a quick extra chop.
Canned pumpkin puree: Make sure it's not sweetened.
How to make pumpkin chili
It's so easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Mix together the spices for the seasoning mix and set them aside.
Cook the beef, the onion and the bell peppers in olive oil.
Add the garlic and the seasoning mix. Then add the tomatoes and the pumpkin.
Add water if needed. Depending on how much liquid the tomatoes contain, you might need to add 1 cup of water.
Cook the chili. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
What does pumpkin chili taste like?
Let me reassure you... it is not sweet! It does not taste like pumpkin pie, and you actually can't even taste the pumpkin as a separate flavor. Adding it simply results in a lovely, thick, very flavorful stew.
I made this recipe for the first time almost exactly five years ago, on October 13th, 2014. Cooking pumpkin recipes this time of year is a beloved tradition of mine, and I know I'm not alone in this. 🙂
The first time I made it, I expected it to be a purely seasonal (not to mention experimental!) recipe. But this chili turned out so well, that it is now my favorite chili recipe which I make throughout the winter (actually, throughout the year!).
I even prefer it to my excellent no-bean chili. I think it's richer and more flavorful.
The tomatoes I use in this recipe
For an even texture, it’s best to use petite-diced tomatoes in this recipe. If all you can get is regular diced tomatoes, give them a quick extra chop before you use them.
What beef to use
I like to use extra-lean ground beef because it doesn’t release the large amount of liquid fat that lean ground beef releases. I dislike the liquid fat and tend to drain it. Using extra-lean ground beef saves me from this extra step of draining the fat.
However, this is a personal preference of mine. If you prefer, you can absolutely use lean ground beef (85/15).
Add water if necessary
Add water depending on how much liquid is in the tomatoes. My canned tomatoes usually have almost no added liquid as you can see in the video, so I usually add 1 cup of water.
How to serve pumpkin chili?
It's good all by itself, simply served in bowls and topped with yummy toppings. But if you'd like to serve it with something on the side, here are a few good options:
What about leftovers?
As with all chilis, leftovers of this pumpkin chili are excellent and in fact, it tastes even better the next day.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. I reheat them covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
You can also freeze the leftovers. I prefer to freeze them in individual portions because then it's easy to defrost them (covered) in the microwave.
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- 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons fine salt)
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef (93/7)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 2 medium bell peppers, any color, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- 2 (14 oz) cans petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree
- 1 cup water if needed
- Prepare the seasoning mix: In a small bowl, mix together the kosher salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a very large, deep saucepan (I used a deep 14-inch stainless steel skillet) over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes.
- Add the beef, the onion, and the bell peppers. Cook, stirring often, breaking up the beef into smaller chunks, until the beef is no longer raw (but still pink), about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and the seasoning mix. Cook, stirring until well incorporated into the beef mixture, 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, the pumpkin, and 1 cup of water if needed. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.