This pumpkin chili is the ultimate cold-weather comfort food. It's warm, loaded with good-for-you ingredients, and full of flavor. Plus, it's an easy-to-make recipe that all goes into one pot, and it's ready in an hour!

For more comforting vegetarian chili recipes, also try our sweet potato chili with chickpeas and easy vegetarian chili.

Butternut squash Pumpkin Chili in a bowl.

We're not exaggerating when we tell you this pumpkin chili might be our favorite chili recipe yet. It's completely vegetarian yet has a flavorful rich and creamy broth with soft chunks of butternut squash, chewy corn, and lots of beans.

You definitely don't need any special skills or tools to make it, and most of the cooking time is hands-off. It's made with mostly pantry ingredients, and all you need is one big pot or dutch oven.

To make it, start by sautéing the onion, garlic, and red pepper. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except for the corn) and simmer until the butternut squash is fork-tender. Add the corn in the last few minutes of cooking, scoop it into bowls, and serve it with the suggested toppings, or anything else you can think of.

Bourbon is one of the not-so-secret ingredients we add to the broth for depth of flavor. Most of the alcohol cooks off and what's left is a rich deep flavor that marries nicely with the mild heat and smoky chipotle peppers.

Whether you love or loathe the change of seasons, you can look forward to cozying up with this warming one-pot chili with pumpkin. It's perfect for fall or winter weeknights and it's a great recipe for meal prep. It'll feed you for a few meals, and it freezes beautifully.

a bowl of bourbon Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin chili ingredients

This pumpkin chili recipe calls for straightforward ingredients that you're likely to have in your kitchen already. Here's everything you need:

  • Olive oil – for sautéing the garlic. You can also use avocado oil or coconut oil if that's what you have on hand.
  • Onion + garlic – these two aromatics make a flavorful base for this pumpkin chili.
  • Red bell pepper – red pepper adds both nutrients and a bit of color. Feel free to swap the pepper for other vegetables like diced zucchini, mushrooms, or carrots if you like!
  • Cumin, chili powder, and sea salt – you can play around with the amounts of these classic chili spices. The heat of chili powder varies quite a bit so keep that in mind when you're deciding how much to use.
  • Bourbon – you won't taste the bite of bourbon, but it adds a whole new depth of flavor to this chili.
  • Canned pumpkin – while this might seem like an odd ingredient, it makes the broth rich and creamy. It doesn't overpower the broth at all, and adds a boost of extra nutrients.
  • Crushed tomatoes – crushed tomatoes make up the base of the tangy broth which goes well with the beans, pumpkin, and other bold flavors. If you only have diced tomatoes on hand, use an immersion blender to puree them.
  • Beans – we use kidney beans and navy beans, but you can use a mix of your favorites. Black beans, pinto beans, and even chickpeas are tasty options!
  • Butternut squash – chunks of soft cooked butternut squash are subtly sweet and add wonderful texture. If you've never cut a butternut squash, here's a great tutorial. You can also buy bags of pre-cut butternut squash.
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo – chipotle peppers add a distinct smokiness along with heat, and a touch of sweetness. We purée them so they're smooth and then mix them well into the chili.
  • Frozen corn – you can certainly use fresh corn if it's available to you, but frozen is convenient and works perfectly. Canned corn (drained) works well, too.
  • Chives or green onions, and cheddar cheese – these are the toppings we use, but use what you love like a dollop of sour cream, sliced jalapeños, fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice!

How to make pumpkin chili

This recipe for pumpkin chili is a warming and oh-so-satisfying meal you can enjoy all winter long! Here's how to make it in a few easy steps:

  1. Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, and red pepper in olive oil in a large pot until they soften, followed by the seasonings.
  2. Turn up the heat and add the bourbon, followed by the pumpkin puree, crushed tomatoes, beans, butternut squash, and chipotle peppers. Bring it to a boil, then lower it to a simmer and cook until the butternut squash is tender (be sure to stir occasionally). Add the corn in the last few minutes of cooking, and season with salt to taste.
  3. Scoop it into bowls and serve it with some minced chives or green onions, and cheddar cheese (if using). Dig in!

Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.

A ladle scooping some Pumpkin Chili out of a pot

Storing and freezing instructions

How long does it keep in the fridge?

Store any leftovers in your refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days. If you don't think you'll finish it in that amount of time, freeze it for later!

Can I freeze chili with pumpkin?

Definitely! Chili is one of those make-ahead meals that freezes beautifully. Store it in an airtight container or reusable silicone bag (we love these Stasher bags) and store it in your freezer for up to 3 months!

FAQS

What does adding pumpkin puree to the broth do?

Adding pumpkin puree to the broth gives it more body. We add just enough to make it rich and creamy, with a subtle earthy sweet taste, without tasting overly like pumpkin.

What are chipotle peppers in adobo?

Chipotles in adobo are dried and smoked jalapeños rehydrated and canned in purée of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and other spices. You can find them online or at most grocery stores alongside other Mexican foods.

Can I add meat to this chili?

Yes! Ground beef, ground turkey, and even shredded cooked chicken taste great in this recipe. To cook the ground meat, sauté it with the onion and garlic (in step 1) until it's cooked thoroughly. If you're adding shredded chicken, make sure it's cooked thoroughly then add it to the pot when you add the corn (in the last few minutes of cooking).

What to eat with pumpkin chili

One of the (many) things we love about chili is that it's a complete one-pot meal. It's hearty and satisfying on its own, but we often serve it with some crunchy tortilla chips or our cheesy chili zucchini cornbread to dip in the delicious broth.

Of course, it pairs well with other Mexican foods like tacos, quesadillas, corn salad, and a refreshing fizzy lime margarita to wash it down!

This chili recipe with pumpkin in a pot.
A bow of hearty pumpkin chili

Pumpkin Chili Recipe

This pumpkin chili is the ultimate cold-weather comfort food. It's warm, loaded with good-for-you ingredients, and full of flavor. Plus, it's an easy-to-make recipe that all goes into one pot, and it's ready in an hour!

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!

4.92 stars (35 ratings)
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 14 ounce can of pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie mix
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 19 ounce can of kidney beans
  • 19 ounce can of navy beans, or a combination of your favorite beans
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers pureed with adobo sauce
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • Chives or green onions and cheddar cheese, to serve

Instructions 

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until it is soft and brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper and continue to cook until the red pepper is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and let it cook for 1 minute more.
    1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 medium red pepper, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons sea salt
    image for recipe instruction
  • Add the bourbon and bring the pot to a boil. Add the canned pumpkin, crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, navy beans, butternut squash, pureed chipotle peppers and 2 cups of water and stir the pot well. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil then reduce the heat and let the chili simmer for 30 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender. Add the corn to the pot and let it cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt.
    ½ cup bourbon, 14 ounce can of pumpkin, 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 19 ounce can of kidney beans, 19 ounce can of navy beans, 1 small butternut squash, 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers pureed with adobo sauce, 2 cups frozen corn
    image for recipe instruction
  • Serve the pumpkin chili with some minced chives or green onions and a little cheddar cheese on top.
    image for recipe instruction
Serving: 1 serving = ⅙ of the recipe, Calories: 424kcal, Carbohydrates: 75g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1255mg, Potassium: 1680mg, Fiber: 19g, Sugar: 18g, Vitamin A: 24905IU, Vitamin C: 73mg, Calcium: 205mg, Iron: 7mg
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