This healthy pumpkin chili is a delicious and nutritious meal that is perfect for fall or winter! It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein, and it’s low in fat and calories. Whether you serve it up in mini pumpkin bowls for a dinner party, bring it to a tailgate, or enjoy it at home, this will be a recipe you’ll make again and again!
As temperatures begin to drop, my mind always turns to making a big pot of chili.
There’s something about chili that makes it the perfect dish for fall and winter, isn’t there?
For fall, I decided to play around with adding some pumpkin to my classic chili recipe, and this might be my new favorite!
- Why Use Pumpkin in Your Chili?
- How to Control the Spiciness of Your Chili
- What Makes This Pumpkin Chili Recipe Healthy?
- My Secret to Quickly Chop Ingredients
- Why Should You Rinse and Drain Canned Beans Before Using Them?
- Tips for Making Pumpkin Chili
- Is Chili Better If It Cooks Longer?
- Can You Make This Recipe in a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot?
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Store Leftover Chili
- Resources and Shopping Links
- Printable Recipe: Healthy Pumpkin Chili
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Why Use Pumpkin in Your Chili?
I know it might sound a little strange to add pumpkin to chili, but I promise it’s delicious!
The pumpkin’s flavor is very mild. I noticed more pumpkin flavor when I first tasted the chili, but after it simmered for a while on my stove, the pumpkininess became very subtle.
In fact, the pumpkin seemed to enhance the other flavors in the chili like the smokiness of the chipotles.
I chose to play up the pumpkin flavor just a bit by adding some cinnamon to the chili.
If you’ve ever had Cincinnati-style chili, then you know that a bit of cinnamon and chocolate really tastes amazing!
Pumpkin also adds some fantastic nutrition to your chili thanks to it being rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, potassium, and iron.
Studies have shown that pumpkin can boost your immune system, reduce your risk of cancer, naturally lower your blood pressure, lower your risk of stroke, improve your bone density, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
There’s even evidence suggesting that the nutrients in pumpkins are good for your skin and can reduce signs of aging!
Since pumpkins are naturally high in fiber, adding pumpkin to your diet can help you to feel full while actually consuming fewer calories.
Talk about a superfood, am I right?
I’m thinking I need to add a lot more pumpkin to my diet…
How to Control the Spiciness of Your Chili
Have you ever cooked with chipotles before?
They’re red jalapeno peppers that are smoked and then dried.
I love to buy them canned in adobo sauce to add some amazing flavor and a little heat to all kinds of recipes.
However, be forewarned: they’re pretty spicy!
You can reduce the spiciness a bit by cutting the peppers open and scooping out the seeds.
I typically only add about a Tablespoon of the adobo sauce to my recipes.
If you enjoy spicier foods, you can add more of the adobo sauce, or skip removing the seeds.
If you’re sensitive to spice or don’t enjoy the heat of a jalapeno, you can omit the chipotles altogether. Simply use mild green chiles instead plus a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke. The liquid smoke lets you still get that smokey flavor in your healthy pumpkin chili.
What Makes This Pumpkin Chili Recipe Healthy?
In addition to all the health benefits you’ll get from adding pumpkin, check out these other nutritious ingredients.
Bone Broth: This superfood is loaded with collagen which can support your joints, The glutamine (an amino acid) has been shown to be good for gut health. In addition, bone broth is higher in protein than other broths.
Bell Peppers: Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Beans: Rich in potassium and magnesium plus high in fiber.
I’ve been following the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating since 2016. Since this recipe includes ingredients with healthy carbohydrates like pumpkin and beans, I was careful to keep the amount of fat to a minimum.
I used 98% lean ground turkey breast for the meat and added an even more smoky flavor with Italian chicken sausages.
There’s no other fat added to this recipe, so you can even enjoy a little shredded cheese on top and still keep the total fat below the recommended 5 grams for a THM E meal.
My Secret to Quickly Chop Ingredients
For years, I’ve been chopping veggies by hand.
I’m not a chef, so chopping takes me a little time!
Typically, it would take me about 10 minutes to chop several bell peppers and a large onion.
Recently, I gifted myself this 4-in-1 chopper, and it’s quickly become my favorite kitchen tool!
I was able to chop all the veggies for this chili recipe in less than two minutes.
Now I use it for chopping almost everything from cucumbers and mushrooms, to tomatoes and cheese.
It’s super easy to clean and dishwasher-safe.
If you chop lots of veggies, treat yourself to one of these choppers!
Why Should You Rinse and Drain Canned Beans Before Using Them?
Beans are canned in a briney liquid.
It’s important to rinse that salty, starchy liquid off the beans before using them in your recipes.
Not only does that liquid affect the flavor of your recipe, but it also adds a lot of sodium to the dish.
To drain and rinse canned beans, first dump the contents of the can into a mesh colander like this one. Then rinse the beans for a few minutes until the water runs clear.
Let the beans sit for another few minutes to allow the excess water to drain out.
Tips for Making Pumpkin Chili
I’ve always used a stainless steel Dutch oven or stock pot when I make chili, but cleaning the cooked-on mess from the pot afterward was such a pain.
Recently, I discovered how to make stainless steel virtually nonstick! Cold stainless steel is porous, so the key is to properly heat the pot before using it to cook.
First, preheat the pan over medium-high heat until water droplets bead up and dance across the surface. Don’t add cooking spray or oil until the pan is preheated.
After the pot is preheated, spray the bottom and sides lightly with avocado oil cooking spray.
You’ll find the turkey doesn’t stick to the pan, and if a little bit does, it easily scrapes away. Best part? Even when the tomato part of the chili starts to thicken on the edges of the pot, that wipes away easily with a sponge.
Chop up the browned ground turkey with a food chopper like this one. Next, add the sliced chicken sausage.
Stir it occasionally and let the sausage caramelize on the edges.
Next, add the chopped bell peppers, onions, and minced garlic.
Stir them into the browned meat, and let them cook a bit until the onions begin to soften.
Then, add the canned tomatoes, beans, and chopped chipotles.
The key to a great chili is in the seasonings!
I added some unique spices to this pumpkin chili in addition to the typical chili seasonings of chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
The pumpkin really lends itself to smoky flavors, so I used smoked paprika to enhance the smokiness of the chipotles.
Next, I included some coriander. Its bright, almost citrusy flavor with a touch of pepperiness adds a little something special to chili.
Finally, I leaned into the fact that there’s pumpkin in this low fat chili recipe and included a little ground cinnamon. It adds a little more warmth to the flavors and really takes this pumpkin chili to a whole new level.
Is Chili Better If It Cooks Longer?
While this easy pumpkin chili recipe is ready to eat after simmering for 30 minutes, it will taste even better if you let it simmer longer.
The longer it cooks, the more the flavors blend together and the richer it will taste.
In fact, not cooking chili long enough is listed as one of the biggest mistakes for homemade chili by Southern Living Magazine!
Have you ever noticed how day-old chili and soup that’s been sitting in the fridge overnight often tastes better than it did the day you made it?
It’s because the flavors meld during that extra time.
For the best flavor, I recommend letting it simmer for an hour or two over low heat.
Can You Make This Recipe in a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot?
While I’ve shown this chili being made on my stovetop, you can also use a slow cooker or pressure cooker to make this simple healthy chili recipe.
If you decide to make it in your slow cooker, I recommend browning the meat beforehand for the best flavor.
After you’ve browned the meat, simply transfer it to your slow cooker, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook it low and slow for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
To make it in a pressure cooker, start by using the saute function to brown the meat and veggies.
Then, switch to manual mode and add the remaining ingredients, stir everything together. Set the cooking timer to 15 minutes.
Chili cooked in a pressure cooker will taste like it’s been cooking for hours in a fraction of the time.
Variations and Substitutions
You have lots of flexibility with this recipe!
Some alternatives to the pumpkin are butternut squash or sweet potatoes. You could even do a combination of all three.
To make this recipe vegan, try substituting additional beans, textured vegetable protein burger crumbles, bulgur, tofu, or chopped portabello mushrooms.
If you prefer milder chili, omit the chipotles and use mild green chiles plus some liquid smoke to maintain that smoky flavor.
How to Store Leftover Chili
Store any leftover chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
You can also store leftovers in the freezer.
Frozen chili will last for 3-6 months in an airtight container in the freezer.
I love freezing soups and chilis in a large silicone muffin pan like this one so I can easily thaw individual portions.
Resources and Shopping Links
Printable Recipe: Healthy Pumpkin Chili
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