Pumpkin Chili

I am aware that you came looking for a vegetarian pumpkin chili recipe, but surprise! This dish actually calls for kabocha squash. (Did you know that while not all squashes are pumpkins, all pumpkins are squashes?) Kabocha, also referred to as “Japanese pumpkin,” is a deliciously creamy fruit with a luscious, sweet flavor. It has a rich flavor with flowery fragrances and earthy chestnut overtones that resembles a hybrid between butternut squash and a starchy sweet potato.

You don’t need to spend any time removing the kabocha’s forest green rind before adding it to your chili because it is quite edible when cooked through. You can also use your preferred kind of sturdy squash or pumpkin. If you exclude the dairy toppings, this vegetarian chili is completely vegan. Roasted cauliflower is used in place of the ground beef that you may find in a traditional beef chili.

Butternut squash and sweet pumpkin will also work nicely if you can’t find kabocha squash; just remember to peel them before cutting. Increase the amount of red pepper flakes or add 1 teaspoon of your preferred dry chile spice blend to make it spicier. Poblanos not to be found? Replace with a bell pepper of any color!


1 head cauliflower, finely chopped

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. steak seasoning

1 tsp. smoked paprika, divided

2 tsp. sweet paprika

2 tsp. cumin seeds

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic, diced

2 small poblanos, seeded and diced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

Kosher salt

6 c. cubed kabocha squash (about 1 ¾ lb.)

1 (28-oz). can crushed tomato

1 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomato

1/2 c. water or low-sodium broth

2 (15.5-oz.) cans beans, any kind, drained


Sour cream

Shredded cheddar

Chopped fresh herbs


  1. Set the oven to 375 degrees. Combine riced cauliflower, 3 tablespoons oil, steak seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika on a sizable baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until brown.
  2. 3 tablespoons of oil should be heated in a big pot over medium heat. Stir in the remaining paprikas, cumin, pepper, and garlic for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add the poblano, onion, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. About 8 minutes into cooking, toss the onions often until they soften.
  3. Bring to a simmer after stirring in the squash or pumpkin, tomatoes, water, beans, and sugar (if using). For 45 to 55 minutes, with the lid on, simmer the pumpkin, stirring regularly, until it is soft.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower and mix well. Ten minutes later, serve.
  5. If preferred, garnish with sour cream, cheddar, and herbs.

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