pumpkin turkey chili


What’s better on a cold Sunday afternoon than football and a pot of chili? If you’re not a fan of either, then I guess you can think of a lot of things, but in my house, football Sundays are sacred. And since MOST of us in this house are Redskins fans (I’m married to a Dolphins fan..whatever), this coming Sunday night is going to be the biggest football event around here since..well..almost forever, or at least since the last time the Skins won the Super Bowl..which really does seem like forever, doesn’t it?


In previous years my husband and I would spend our football-watching time snacking on chips, dip, pizza, soda, and whatever other junk food happened to be in the house. This year, we’ve eliminated the unhealthy snacking, and instead I usually make a hearty but healthy meal that I can throw together during half-time or between games, then let it simmer on the stove until we’re ready to eat.

Last Sunday, which was another big football day around here, I made this chili. Normally I use canned beans, but I made a huge pot of pinto beans a couple days earlier so decided to use them in my chili (just like my mom used to do) along some leftover cornbread (you just can’t eat pinto beans without cornbread..it’s against the laws of nature).

If you’ve never tried pumpkin in a savory dish, trust me, it’s great. The first time I used pumpkin, everyone who ate it loved it much more than my non-pumpkin chili, so I’ve vowed to never make pumpkinless chili again. Pumpkin really doesn’t have much taste to it, but when added to the chili, it seems to take away some of the acidity of the tomatoes while adding a healthy richness. Just give it a try and see for yourself!


Oh I almost forgot..go Redskins!!!

pumpkin turkey chili
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


Pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar, and chocolate..in chili?? YES! Even if you’re not a fan of pumpkin, you should give this a try..you will never taste the pumpkin, just the indescribable deliciousness it adds to an already tasty dish. And don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you away..most of them are spices.
Recipe type: soups and stews
Serves: 8

  • 2 TB olive or canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or omit if you don’t want any heat)
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups of cooked pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 cups water

  1. In a large pot over medium heat saute onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil over until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir often so that onion doesn’t brown.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, all of the seasonings (not the sugar or cocoa powder) and the turkey to the onions. Stir well to evenly distribute the spices. Cook over medium-high heat until turkey is done (no pink remaining), about 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the pot and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom.
  4. Add the beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, brown sugar, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
  5. Once chili begins to boil, reduce heat to low and place lid on pot slightly ajar so that some steam can escape.
  6. Simmer 45-60 minutes, stirring about every 10-15 minutes making sure the chili doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  7. If chili becomes too thick add more water ½ a cup at a time.
  8. Add additional salt and/or spices to taste.

I used pinto beans that I’d cooked from scratch, and rinsed and drained them before adding them to the chili. You can definitely use canned beans instead, just be sure to drain and rinse them first. If you don’t like pinto beans, feel free to use kidney beans, black beans, small red beans, or a combination of any of these. For the pumpkin, be sure to use the plain pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling..big difference!


Comments: 11

  1. Mandy December 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    What a great idea adding pumpkin to chili. I love spicy chilies but my husband is more a fan of the sweeter varieties. I will have to try this one and see if it’s a happy medium.

    • Lisa December 29, 2012 at 1:33 am

      The pumpkin is kind of an odd addition, but it really is good! If you don’t want it too spicy just cut back on the red pepper flakes, and if you want a little extra sweetness, just up the brown sugar a bit. Let me know how it turns out for you!

      • Lisa December 29, 2012 at 1:37 am

        Oops!! I just noticed that I actually left out the red pepper flakes on the recipe! I’m correcting it, but if you don’t care for heat just leave it out or use less.

  2. Erin January 9, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    We used a meat substitute (veg heads over here), and it still worked out great! Added extra garlic and pepper flakes because we like our food with a serious kick, but such a great recipe!

    • Lisa January 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Erin, thanks for letting me know how the chili out for you..glad you liked it! Extra garlic is always a good thing!!

  3. Traveling Pumpkins January 31, 2013 at 2:16 am


    I’m thinking of making this recipe this weekend and was wondering if the beans could be omitted. Unfortunately, some of my family members aren’t the biggest fans of beans! The recipe looks great, though!

    • Lisa January 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      You can definitely leave out the beans, just add some extra turkey to take their place. If you don’t want the extra turkey, then maybe some veggies or pasta. It’s one of those recipes that you really can’t mess up, and it is so good. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Traveling Pumpkins February 6, 2013 at 12:17 am

        Made the chili (with double the turkey and no beans) last Sunday and it was absolutely delicious! My guests were asking for copies of the recipe afterwards! Definitely one of the best chili recipes, ever!

        • Lisa February 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

          So glad everyone enjoyed the chili! Thanks so much for letting me know what a success it was!

  4. Stacey November 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Hi! Just came across this recipe and will be trying it out tomorrow. Any changes or suggestions on cooking in a crock pot rather than stove top?

    • Lisa November 9, 2013 at 9:28 am

      I think you’ll love this chile, and it will be perfect in the crock pot. Just brown your onions and turkey in a skillet first, then combine everything in your crock pot. Since everything will already be cooked, it should only need a couple of hours in the crock pot. Let me know how it goes!