Vegan Pumpkin Chili
(Gluten free, dairy free, vegan, paleo)
It had been staring at me on the kitchen counter for weeks. This large orange orb which most people use this time of year as a Halloween or Thanksgiving decoration had other plans than to have a scary face carved into, only to be discarded a few days later.
I remember the first time I ever actually ate pumpkin in something other than pumpkin pie. I was in Jamaica sitting down for a lovely 3 course meal. The butler brought out the soup course. Pumpkin soup! It was excellent and I thought surely was full of heavy cream as it was so rich and thick. Upon asking the chef, she let me know it was just pumpkin, a splash of coconut milk and salt, all pressed through a mesh strainer to form a very smooth and delightful texture. This was the first time I had ever eaten pumpkin that didn’t come from a can and I’m not going to say it was life changing, but it definitely got me to think differently about making healthy and silky vegetable soups.
This raised a question though, is pumpkin actually a vegetable or is it a fruit?
Based on the savory flavor profile, most would consider it to be a vegetable and just about any chef would agree. But if you think about pumpkin from the point of view of a botanist, the definition of a fruit is the part of the plant enclosing the seed or seeds. This concept puts pumpkin in the same league as avocado or tomato but also apples and mangos as fruits while vegetables are more associated with flowers, roots, stems or leaves. I’ll leave it up to you to decide!
It’s a real shame we don’t use unprocessed pumpkin more in our diets. The convenience of buying it canned I suppose makes it easier to work with but we can do so much more than fill a pie shell with pumpkin and I hope this recipe helps get your mind moving towards different ways to use it. Pumpkin is also very inexpensive and has an abundance of health benefits.
Pumpkin is an antioxidant that contains loads of vitamins and carotenoids like beta carotene which helps reduce your risk for stomach cancer. Vitamins A and C are in a large concentration which help your organs to work properly and boost your immunity. Pumpkin is also high in fiber and is nutrient dense but low in calories so it’s a great item to regularly include in your weight loss diet.
We’re going to also be using a few types of beans and chickpeas in this recipe. Really you can use whatever you have on hand. I’m using kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas all of which are great for your digestion and help to maintain a healthy balance in your gut. Gut health is one of those things not talked about enough in Western medicine and is a root problem for so many other medical issues. The whole probiotic industry is fueled by the need for balance in your gut. Did you know that the world-wide market for probiotic products in 2018 was nearly $50 billion?
In my opinion, a major flaw in Western medicine and treatment plans is that they are designed to solve one problem without taking into account that they are causing another. For example, 5 or 6 years ago, I was put on antibiotics for a chronic sinus infection. I took many refills of these drugs and upon reflection, I realize now it was just a vicious cycle of doing more harm than good. Let me explain. Your gut health is an extension of proper digestion and your immune system. Your lungs, throat and sinuses are an extension of your digestive system. It’s all connected. So if you’re taking antibiotics to kill the infection in your sinuses but it also kills all the good bacteria in your gut, you may never actually improve because your gut health is never regulated.
There needs to be more education around rebuilding proper gut health, especially after taking prescriptions that strip your body of essential bacteria. Western medicine could improve greatly with a post-antibiotic treatment plan to help heal the gut in order to really improve your overall health.
Now that we’ve had our science lesson for today, lets make some pumpkin chili! A perfect dish for a cool fall day. I will also note that the estimated cost for this meal is under $20 and you’ll easily have 6 portions. We’re talking about around $3 per serving! You’ll also have extra pumpkin puree leftover that you can use in a dessert, a soup or even as a replacement for coconut milk in a curry. In addition, you should save the seeds and roast them in a little olive oil and salt. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are not cheap and you’ll yield a few cups from a medium/large pumpkin. They are great as a topping for your chili or just as a tasty snack.
- 1 medium/large pumpkin (1 quart of puree)
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 5 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 bell pepper – any color (diced)
- 1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed – diced)
- 1 quart canned tomatoes (if you don’t can your own, use 3 cans of diced tomatoes)
- 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas- drained and rinsed)
- 1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 sweet potato (medium dice)
- 2 TBSP cumin
- 1 1/2 TBSP chile powder
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cilantro leaves (for garnish)
- Red onion (diced – for garnish)
The most time consuming part of this recipe is roasting the pumpkin. You can do this ahead of time and store the puree in ball jars or quart containers. It will last up to a week in the fridge.
Set your oven to 400 degrees.
Carefully cut the pumpkin down the middle with a large kitchen knife. I like to put a kitchen towel on the cutting board to help stabilize it.
Scoop out the seeds and toss out the stringy part that holds the seeds together.
Now that you have cleaned the pumpkin, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place flat side down on a rimmed baking sheet. I like to use a silicone mat for easier clean up.
Place in the oven and roast for about 40-45 minutes. While the pumpkin is roasting, you can also toss the seeds in a bit of oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a cookie sheet and roast, stirring often until done. Start checking these after 10 minutes and then every few minutes after. They will go quickly.
You can test the pumpkin doneness with a fork. The pumpkin is done when the fork easily passes and the flesh is tender.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Make sure you give it enough time to cool so you can handle it without burning yourself. It will be hot and may take 30-40 minutes to cool enough to process.
When the pumpkin is cool enough, scoop out the flesh and place in your blender or food processor. Process until very smooth.
The rest of the cook on this chili is simple and pretty quick.
I like to use a large cast iron dutch oven but you can use any good quality large pot.
Heat the pot and add your oil.
Add the chopped onion, bell and jalapeno peppers and cook until they begin to soften (5-7 minutes). Add the sweet potato then garlic and cook until fragrant. Add your spices and be sure to coat the sweet potato. Add your tomatoes (with juices), rinsed beans and the pumpkin puree.
Bring to a light boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally.
Cook for around 25 minutes or until the sweet potato has become tender. Taste the chili and adjust seasoning with salt if needed.
Ladle the chili into a shallow bowl and top with some of your roasted pepitas if you cooked those. These will add a nice texture and nuttiness.
Top with some chopped red onion and cilantro leaves. You can also add a squirt of lime juice to really pump up the flavor.
If you liked this recipe and want more, be sure to join my Chef Mac Premium Group https://mailchi.mp/c41e0cc38714/chef-mac-premium
You’ll find Premium free content, contests and giveaways!