Easy Pumpkin Chili

$9.73 recipe / $1.62 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.95 from 56 votes
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I love all things pumpkin, and I’m not sorry about it. I also love just about every iteration of chili that is out there (see my Homemade Chili recipe and the long list of variations you can make). So it’s only fitting that I combined my two fall loves. Adding pumpkin is a super easy way to add a dose of nutrients to your pot of chili without changing that classic chili feel. The flavor and texture blend seamlessly into a pot of classic chili and even kind of makes it feel a tad lighter, so I’m totally into it!

A bowl of pumpkin chili with cheese and tortilla chips

What Does Pumpkin Chili Taste Like?

Okay, if you’re looking at me with a side-eye over the idea of putting pumpkin into your chili, just hear me out. The flavor difference is subtle. It makes the chili a little more saucy and rich, without being overly heavy. The pumpkin adds a little earthiness and a super subtle sweetness, which is nice because I usually add a little bit of brown sugar to my chili, but I was able to skip that with the pumpkin. And since I like to load up my chili with a lot of spices (see my homemade chili seasoning), the flavor of the pumpkin is not super noticeable.

And I think this is a good time to mention that you don’t want to taste your chili until it has simmered on the stove a while. You might be tempted to give it a taste right after you add everything to the pot, but at that point, it does not taste good. The chili needs time to do its thing. The spices need to bloom, the flavors need to cook down and combine. Give it time, and then taste. Be patient!

Make it Vegetarian or Vegan

It’s super easy to make your pumpkin chili vegetarian or vegan. Just swap out the ground beef for an extra can of beans, cooked lentils, some crumbled tempeh, or your favorite ground beef substitute. Most of the flavor in this chili comes from the chili seasoning, tomatoes, and other vegetables, so you can safely substitute the beef without too much of an effect.

Use a Different Meat

You can also swap the ground beef out for a different kind of ground meat. Ground turkey is very popular for pumpkin chili because it has a lighter flavor to match the lighter flavor of the pumpkin, but I also think that some Mexican chorizo would be awesome. Those smoky spices would pair perfectly with the flavor of the pumpkin.

Is Pumpkin Chili Spicy?

The recipe, as written below, is only as spicy as the chili powder you use. Many grocery store chili powders tend to be quite mild, but some brands can be spicy. So, if you’re sensitive to heat, make sure you use a chili powder that is mild. I find that McCormick brand chili powder is pretty mild.

If you want to add more heat to your pumpkin chili, feel free to dice up a jalapeño and sautéing that with the onion and garlic in the beginning. You can also add some chipotle powder to the chili seasoning, or dice up a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and stir that into the chili. There are a lot of options!

Overhead view of a pot of pumpkin chili

By the way, you should totally make some cornbread to go with your pumpkin chili. Try my classic homemade cornbread, jalapeño cheddar cornbread, or sweet potato cornbread!

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Easy Pumpkin Chili

4.95 from 56 votes
Pumpkin chili is hearty but light and packed with fiber and other nutrients. It's the perfect warm and cozy bowl of fall flavors.
Overhead view of a bowl of pumpkin chili with cheese and tortilla chips
Servings 6 1.25 cups each
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 50 minutes

Ingredients

Chili

  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.28)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1 lb. ground beef ($5.35)
  • 1 15oz. can kidney beans, drained ($0.59)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained ($0.55)
  • 1 15oz. can petite diced tomatoes ($0.69)
  • 1 15oz. can pumpkin purée ($1.05)
  • 1/2 6oz. can tomato paste (5 Tbsp) ($0.25)
  • 2 cups water ($0.00)

Chili Seasoning*

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Instructions 

  • Mince the garlic and dice the onion. Add the garlic, onion, and olive oil to a large pot. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onions are tender (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the ground beef and continue to cook until the beef is browned and cooked through.
  • Add the kidney beans (drained), black beans (drained), diced tomatoes (with juices), puréed pumpkin, tomato paste, water, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and salt to the pot. Stir to combine.
  • Place a lid on top of the pot and allow the chili to come up to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the chili to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • After simmering for 30 minutes, give the chili a taste and add salt if needed. Serve hot with your favorite toppings (sour cream, cheese, green onion, corn chips, etc.)

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Notes

*You can use your own store-bought chili seasoning or your favorite mix of chili herbs and spices.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.25cupCalories: 431kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 24gFat: 21gSodium: 1131mgFiber: 14g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Video

A spoon lifting a bite of pumpkin chili with melted cheese stretching from the bowl

How to Make Pumpkin Chili – Step by Step Photos

diced onion and minced garlic in a pot with olive oil

Dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the onion and garlic to a large pot with 2 Tbsp olive oil and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes).

browned ground beef in the pot with onion and garlic

Add one pound ground beef and continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through.

remaining chili ingredients added to the pot, unstirred.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot: 1 15oz. can black beans (drained), 1 15oz. can kidney beans (drained), 1 15oz. can petite diced tomatoes (with juices), 1 15oz. can pumpkin purée, ½ of a 6oz. can tomato paste, 2 cups water, ½ tsp smoked paprika, 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Stir until everything is well combined.

simmered chili in a pot with a spoon

Place a lid on the pot and allow the chili to come up to a simmer. Let the chili simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After simmering 30 minutes, give the chili a taste and add salt if needed (I did not add any extra).

Overhead view of a bowl of pumpkin chili with cheese and tortilla chips

Serve hot with your favorite toppings! I especially like something creamy on my bowl, whether that is cheese, avocado, or sour cream. :)

Overhead view of a pot of pumpkin chili with toppings on the sides
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Comments

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  1. This was a huge hit in my house! Absolutely delicious!! Kid approved too, my 8 year old asked for it on leftover day!!
    The only thing I did differently was pinto beans instead of black beans because I didn’t have any on hand. Otherwise it was exact and very flavorful!

  2. This is absolutely phenomenal! I used chicken instead of turkey as I needed to use up my chicken. Added a bit more salt at the end & topped with sharp white goat cheese instead of cow’s cheese. I heard raves all night about this recipe and I agree! I had no idea it’s possible to find cheap recipes that are also scrumptious!

    1. Made this with beef this time & it’s even better! Accidentally thought it called for turkey last time. Oooops.

  3. Love this one! I’ve made it several times. The pumpkin adds such a nice mouthfeel.

  4. This is delicious and have made on repeat. My son loves it as well and doesn’t suspect the can of pumpkin lol. I was wondering if bell peppers can be added for extra veggies and if so should it be sautéed with the onions or added at the simmer stage (don’t want them turning soggy). Thanks!

  5. My vegan daughter made this as a hearty replacement for turkey at Thanksgiving. She substituted a can of chickpeas for the ground beef and the rest of the non vegan family members really liked it! I have made it twice myself…once vegan and once cooking the ground beef separately ( because the other family members always ask if there’s meat😊) having 1/2 vegan and 1/2 with meat. The recipe is sooo easy and a well stocked pantry has everything you need. Thanks for a great recipe🙏💕.

  6. Found a single serving of this squirreled away in the freezer and am enjoying it for lunch – SUCH a good combination of flavors, hearty and nourishing in every way.

  7. This is probably a stretch, but I’m wondering your thoughts on how this would turn out without the tomato. It would be perfect to make for my one year old’s birthday party, but my mom hates tomato…. Any good sub?

    1. Unfortunately, since tomato is such a large part of the flavor profile, I wouldn’t be able to guess at this one without actually testing. :(

  8. I was all set to make this when I realized my ground beef had gone bad. So I made the recipe as written (other than the beef) and added 1/4 bag (3-4oz) of cooked lentils at the end. Thanks for the recommendation for that substitution! It turned out super tasty and filling. On a whim I served it on top of a bit of rice to make it stretch even further. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, especially after seeing the beef and thinking dinner was ruined.

  9. This is so good and easy! I was trying to replicate a chipotle pumpkin chili I’d had before so I changed this a little to get that flavor and consistency. I added about ½ a can of chipotle in adobo with the sauce and minced chipotle peppers. I also added a little flour with the spices that I stirred into the ground beef after it had browned to allow the spices to bloom, then stirred in the tomato paste to cook that a little before adding the beans, tomatoes, etc. Definitely glad I made this!

  10. I can’t buy canned pumpkin purée in Poland. Is it just blended pumpkin, or was it roasted first? Because I’m thinking about making it myself, but not sure what it is.

    1. It is cooked first, although I don’t know if they roast it, boil it, or steam it.

    2. On replacing canned pumpkin puree if it isn’t available:

      Roasted, otherwise there is too much moisture in it. From my experience, it is still more moist/less dense than the purée in cans so keep that in mind when adding other liquids.

      Do not use oil or spices/salt if you are trying to replicate the basic canned purée from States.

      Also, it is best to use the types of pumpkin or other winter squash intended for eating rather than the type grown primarily for decoration or livestock consumption. Some pumpkin varieties are very stringy and not dense enough to make a decent puree.

  11. I liked the lightness that the pumpkin gave this chili. However, I should have stuck to my rule of thumb of doubling the spices for Budget Bytes recipes. It definitely needed more salt at the end, and could have used double the chili spices. It was fairly bland as written (and my chili powder was a fresh bottle).

    1. When I first read this review after reading the others, I kinda thought it was rude how it was stated; however, I kept it in the back of my mind while making the chilli tonight. I have to say, I’m very thankful you wrote those comments bc I felt like I needed to double the spices, too. I REALLY enjoyed this chili recipe…with the extra spices.

  12. Second recipe I’ve made from this site and it’s so good! I did add andouille sausage but otherwise followed exactly. Delicious’