Pumpkin Chili, Three Ways: Beans, Beef, or Venison

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I owe my pumpkin chili to my friend Alexis. She introduced me to this glory about three years ago at her daughter’s birthday party. I was there early and was helping to throw ingredients into a crock pot for her when she asked me to add a can of pumpkin to the onions and peppers cooking up in the bottom.

Pumpkin?!? In chili?

The idea seemed novel to me then. However, in the three years since I tried it, I’ve never gone back to making pumpkin-less chili.

A quick, healthy, and flexible staple meal to sustain you through the cold months. Try this delicious pumpkin chili with beans, beef, or venison.

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I began making my own rendition of pumpkin chili, and it’s one meal that my whole family generally gobbles up. (I can’t make promises for the toddler.)  We have some variation of this chili almost every week through the winter!

If you’re hesitant about the pumpkin, fear not. It gets an extra vegetable in and rounds out the flavor nicely, but it doesn’t scream “YOU’RE EATING SQUASH!!!” from the pot. I took this chili to  a chili taste-off once, and I had a few comments something to the effect of, “I really hate pumpkin and if I had known it was in this I wouldn’t have tried it but I didn’t know and I tried it and I really like it and good job sneaking in the pumpkin.” Except maybe they didn’t speak in run-on sentences. 😉

You can decide how you like your chili: meatless or meaty. I started out making this as a vegetarian chili, and it stands alone as a very hearty meatless meal. Over the years, however, we’ve discovered that the recipe is very flexible. Beef is another obvious choice for this chili, but we’ve recently been enjoying it with chopped venison. Absolutely delicious.

Some of the veggies for a delicious pumpkin chili.

(Some of the veggies for the chili. I added some random kale this time.)

Please feel free to add or subtract ingredients according to your personal preferences and get creative. Try adding chopped yellow squash, greens, or another favorite vegetable.

Here it goes…

Three Way Pumpkin Chili

  • Your choice: 2- 3 cans of beans (I like to use a mix of black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and/or great northern beans), 1 pound of ground beef, OR 1 lb of chopped or ground venison.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 bell peppers, any color
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-32 oz. can tomatoes, diced or stewed, with juices.
  • 1-15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1- 15. oz can corn

If you’re using beans: drain and rinse beans and set aside.

If you’re using beef: cook beef over medium high heat until brown. Season with salt and pepper. Drain fat and set aside.

If you’re using venison: cook over medium high heat with salt, pepper, and butter or olive oil. You won’t need to drain venison. Set aside to add later.

Venison going into our pumpkin chili.

(Browned venison, ready to go in the pot!)

Now, for the rest of the chili:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large pot. Saute onions, peppers, and garlic for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. Add spices and cook for just a minute til fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, and corn. (You can throw in other veggies too if you like them.)
  3. Add beans or meat of your choice and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

Give it a taste after a while. You may find that you want to add another teaspoon of one spice or another.

If this chili is too thick for you, you are welcome to add vegetable or beef stock if desired. However, I love a good, thick, chunky chili, so I leave mine as is. Here’s a bad cell phone picture of the bean version:


As you can see, it’s delightfully chunky even without the meat!

There you have it, folks. A simple, healthy, and delicious dinner for a fall or winter warm-up. Make it one of your staples!

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