Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili

I have been meaning to try pumpkin chili for a very long time. What has kept me from it? The fact that pumpkin, tomatoes, beans, and nearly everything else in chili is a hard sell for most of the people in this family. So, seriously, why not combine them all together in one large pot? What have I got to lose anyway?

I finally got around to it. It was excellent. Mark liked the tomato-y broth. The girls liked the meat. Kip liked all of it, but the beans were not his favorite. Everyone had a little (though for some, this meant a very very little).

A few important notes:

1. For super cheapskates: Since this is done in the crock pot, it's easy to use dried beans and reconstitute them the night before. Just put them in the crock pot the night before, cover them with water, so that it's an inch or two above the beans, and set it to low. Cook all night. In the morning, drain the water off and rinse the beans. They're ready for this recipe. (Note: 1 C dried beans equals about 2 1/2-3 C reconstituted beans, so for this recipe, you'll want about 1 C dry black beans and 1/2 C dry kidney beans.)

2. For super picky eaters: Picky eaters don't often love beans. Kip actually really liked the flavor of this chili, but he disliked the texture of the beans. If you've got one (or five) like that, you could double the meat and omit or significantly reduce the beans. I bet it would work and there's still plenty of good stuff in here to make it worth your love.

3. Peppers. The original recipe called for hottish ones. I, um, pretty much left them all out. What can I say? I'm weak. If you're not, you can add diced Anaheim chile peppers (2-4 oz) and more chili pepper.

4. I halved this and cooked it for about 5 hours starting on high and then moving to low. I feel like it would be really hard to overcook--possible, but difficult.

5. Let's talk Spike seasoning. I didn't really know what it was and figured I could buy it or make a sort of copycat recipe. Nope and nope. Evansville does not seem to carry it (anybody know of a place here that does?). And when I looked online I found that it contained 39 ingredients (pretty much every spice and/or powder you've ever heard of whether or not they seem odd together plopped into a spice blend) and that no one was brave enough to really copy it. So I tried it without the Spike (which, incidentally, is supposed to be one of those amazing spices you can't do without). It was actually pretty good, although admittedly a bit bland. To remedy this, I added a bit of better than bullion (1/4-1/2 tsp) and then just a small dash of every random spice that I happened to have that happened to be included in Spike (dill, curry, celery salt, basil, oregano, mustard powder, tumeric, cumin, ginger) plus a generous sprinkling of salt. It worked and turned out really well. Would it be even better with the Spike? Maybe, though I can say with confidence that a little salt and some random seasonings go a long way if you don't have it.

6. Let's talk pumpkin. Just about a week before I tried this, a friend told me she'd tried a pumpkin chili and it hadn't been great. So I was a little nervous. Then I tasted this before it had cooked--right when I threw it into the crock pot. It was not good. It tasted very pumpkin-y and I was sad because I was sure that I now had a big pot of food my family would reject and that I wouldn't even want to eat for lunches. Have faith, people. After 4 hours of simmering, I could not in any way tell that there was pumpkin in this at all. It was delicious and just like chili. But you know what? I bet it'd be even better with butternut squash or sweet potato puree. I don't know this; I haven't tried it. But I'm betting that the bit of sweetness in either of those vegetables would play beautifully against the salty savoriness of this chili without screaming "There's a random orange vegetable in here." 

Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili
adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen
Serves 10-15
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: 4-8 hours (in crock pot)
Cost: $8.50, but this makes a LOT. Also, dried beans will save you about 1.50
beef: 3.00, onion: .10, pepper: .50, beans: 2.00 (only about .50 if using dry), tomatoes: 1.50, pumpkin: 1.00, stock: .30, seasonings: .10

1 lb ground beef
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1 pepper (I used a few banana peppers, but think I really would have enjoyed a red bell pepper)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried cilantro or 2-3 Tbsp fresh (I used fresh)
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp Spike seasoning
2-4 oz diced green Anahiem chile peppers if that's your thing (It's not mine, so I skipped this)
3 C beef stock (I used homemade)
1 Can red kidney beans, rinsed
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 15 oz pumpkin puree
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
sour cream and cheese for garnishing if you wish

Brown the beef. Add onion and pepper and cook about 3 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, cilantro and Spkie seasoning. Add hot chiles if using. Saute a few more minutes.

Put this into the crock pot. Use the beef broth to deglaze the pan if necessary and add that to the crock. Add the beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin puree.

Stir it all up and cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10. (Crock pots are really different so know if yours cooks crazy hot or not, though as I said, I think this is a bit hard to overcook.)

Serve with cheese and sour cream if you want.



  1. This may seem like a strange question, but I honestly don't know who else to ask? I understand the idea of adding pumpkin to chili - as in possibly sneaking in some extra vitamins (if you really can't tell its there after cooking the chili), but how do you find out what vitamins are left when cooking the pumpkin? Even ... say for pumpkin pie? Are the nutrients left even after the cooking process? I'm just curious and I really don't know who to ask? I would definitely be interested in sneaking pumpkin in my chili but am curious if the nutrients remain after the cooking process. Anybody have any ideas?

    I have never tried any savory pumpkin recipes. I have a pumpkin no knead bread recipe I'm trying this weekend but still I wonder how many nutrients are left after the baking happens?

    Thanks for any thoughts on this... I loved reading your post!

    1. I am not a dietitian or scientist or a food extremist in any way (meaning I'm not interested in only raw foods, although I certainly enjoy them), but here are some thoughts. First of all, any time you cook anything, you're going to be killing some enzymes. Enzymes are good for us, so that's a loss. However, if you've gotten the pumpkin from a can, it has already been cooked at a high temp because it's been pressure canned in some way. The info on the can says it still has a bunch of nutrients and I believe that is true. Especially of pumpkin since it is so vitamin rich to begin with. Secondly, the good thing about a chili is that you're eating all the "juices" that would be lost if you were, say, boiling the pumpkin and discarding the water you boiled it in (and, um, yuck--boiled pumpkin). Anyway, so any nutrients going into the water will still be consumed so that's a plus. Thirdly, pumpkin is not a food many people would eat raw. Even if some did, I believe it would be more difficult to digest, which brings me to another point, which is that sometimes cooking a vegetable is actually helpful because it allows us to digest and use some of the nutrients in a food we wouldn't be able to otherwise. I hope this helps.

      Oh, and one more thing. Although adding pumpkin does "sneak" some vegetable into the chili, I think that another benefit of pumpkin chili is just that you're putting two seasonally appropriate together.

    2. Makes sense to me! Thanks for the terrific reply! And I agree 100% about putting two seasonally appropriate together. I guess I always wonder if the nutrition labels are based on the vegetables themselves as raw veges, but it does make sense that they couldn't put that on the can unless it was true. I so much appreciate your reply. Thanks!

  2. I made a Pumpkin Turkey recipe last year for a chili cookoff and got second place -- to a freshly-butchered venison chili, which is honestly hard to beat! The pumpkin turned out tasty but I feel like with most chillis what makes it awesome is the toppings -- fresh cilantro, melted mozzarella, sour cream. Here is the recipe I used: And as I recall I added a few warming spices like cumin and coriander.

  3. I just tried a ground turkey/pumpkin chilifrom ourbestbites blog and it was great. Onions, peppers, jalapeño, sweet potato cubes, and pumpkin. The 2 spices that were super yummy additions were cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder. I figure now that I am not in Vanessa's ward, I have a chance at a chili cook off :). This is going to be my new go to chili.

    1. I never would have even thought to add unsweetened cocoa powder.



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