Pumpkin Chicken Chili

Celebrating fall’s pumpkin obsession with a savory dish.

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My taste-testers – otherwise known as my parents – put up with a lot. I invade their kitchen most nights and muck up their counters with flour and eggs and other various baking supplies. I make them try everything that comes out of the oven or off the stove, because I’m the worst kind of cook, the kind Gordon Ramsay shames every week on Kitchen Nightmares: the chef who doesn’t taste her own food. I’m a longtime anorexic, so my baking is described by my mother as “creepy” and my father as “weird.” It’s probably both, though the friends to whom I deliver weekly muffins and quick bread might disagree.

Pumpkin Chicken Chili

I do know, however, that my mother at least appreciates the Saturday dinners I make for her, the ones that don’t include the chicken- or steak-on-the-grill that my dad serves up during the week. As I’ve mentioned before, she’s not quite a vegetarian – she’ll eat meat, and it’s not that she has some moral problem with eating something with a face, but if left to her own devices I believe she’d be eating tofu breakfast burritos and black-bean rice bowls every day.

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This Saturday’s recipe – a fall-inspired chili – actually did involve chicken, but its inclusion of two cups of pumpkin were enough to scare my father away. So while he made up his plate of crackers, cheese and the dodgy-looking pickled green beans he claims are delicious, I made pumpkin chicken chili for my mother. The reaction of my official Taste Tester #1?

“It’s the best thing you’ve made.”

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It didn’t necessarily scream pumpkin, just a creamy, delicious chili. The tomatoes added bursts of sweetness, and the chicken was perfectly tender. Of course, the next words out of her mouth were, “You should try some.”

Someday. I’m working on it.

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Pumpkin Chicken Chili

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 6-8 people

Pumpkin Chicken Chili


2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground sage

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained

3 cups chicken broth


In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Saute for 3 minutes, then add green pepper and carrots. Saute, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender but not cooked all the way through, 5 or 6 minutes.

Add garlic and spices and cook for another minute.

Add chopped chicken and cook until meat is lightly browned.

Stir in pumpkin puree, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and chicken broth.

Bring the chili to a full boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.


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