Chipotle Bourbon Pumpkin Chili
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.
Table of contents
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.
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:
- Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, and red pepper in olive oil in a large pot until they soften, followed by the seasonings.
- 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.
- 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.
Storing and freezing instructions
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Popular vegetarian chili recipes
- Black Bean and Corn Chili with Avocado Salsa
- Vegetarian Chocolate Quinoa Chili
- Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili
Chipotle Bourbon Pumpkin Chili
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Serve the pumpkin chili with some minced chives or green onions and a little cheddar cheese on top.
I won a work chili contest using these ingredients. Corn squash and all. I think the Jim Beam Devil’s cut helped quite a bit!
Would a Kentucky whiskey work instead of a bourbon you think?
I think that it would work great!
This was delicious. I followed the recipe (which is unusual for me) and am making it a second time today. Makes a nice huge pot full and froze beautifully. Thanks for sharing.
You’re very welcome!!
I attempted a double batch and unfortunately it came out very soup like rather than chili. What would recommend to remedy that?
I would suggest simmering it with the lid off for a little while. The liquid will evaporate. 🙂
Could you swap beer for the bourbon?
Absolutely you can!
Love the chili had to put beef for the men in my family !
I bet it was delicious with beef!
Do you think I could swap sweet potato and peppers for the butternut squash and corn without losing the overall taste?
Absolutely you could. This recipe is very flexible. I’d add the red peppers near the beginning just after the onions. 🙂
Can you make this in a crock pot?
Yes, I think it would work well in a crockpot!
Made this chili and won my families Chili cook-off!!! Great receipe and the bourbon is such a great addition!! Thanks for the inspiration!
You are so welcome! I’m so happy to hear the recipe was a hit!
Can you make this without the squash and add in ground beef?
Absolutely you can!
Really want to make this! But over here I can’t get hold of canned pumpkin or Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce.. Do have smoked paprika powder and liquid smoke.
Can I make that work? Any suggestions?
I bet that a little smoked paprika and a few drops of liquid smoke would be enough to give it that smoky flavor. Since the canned pumpkin adds texture to the chili, try mashing a little of the butternut squash to mimic the canned pumpkin. 🙂
Delicious! 5 minutes of prep time? HA! Are you buying your onions already minced? And cutting that butternut squash took some serious time too. But it was really delicious and I’ll make it again. Thanks!
I chop everything as I go! Start with the onion and get that cooking. Move onto the garlic and peppers. Then cut up the squash while the other things are cooking. It’ll all come together at the right time!
Totally random question, but your description says pieces piece of roasted butternut squash, but the recipe doesn’t call for roasting it before adding to chili. I love roasted butternut, but wondering if it’s worth that extra step if its added to the chili?
Well, that’s a bit embarrassing! My fingers must have spazzed out and written roasted cause so often it’s what I write before butternut squash. Going to fix that now!
Haha, the words roasted and butternut do pair perfectly, so understandable! 🙂 Thanks!!
Just wondering how many cups would equal a small squash? I froze a bunch of squash when it was in season. Thinking 3 cups for this recipe?
I Can’t wait to make this it sounds and looks amazing!!
3 cups would be perfect!
Used half the amount of pumpkin bc I’m not a big fan. Chili is delicious! Added some Hungarian paprika, fresh jaleono.
Really good and recommend.
I’m so happy you liked the chili! And good call on the jalapeño!
What is the serving size – need to see if it will be filling enough for your given calorie information It sounds delicious!
This recipe makes a generous amount for 4 people, but can easily serve 6 well if served with bread or a side salad. 🙂
This looks delicious! Can this be made with meat?
Absolutely it can! Just add some ground beef, pork, or chicken after step #1 and let it cook before continuing with the recipe. 🙂
Love the bourbon! SO much flavor! Hearty chilis are the best and really the only “soups” I will gladly eat!
They really are the best this time of year, aren’t they? It’s funny how I start to crave chilis as soon as the weather turns cold. 🙂
You are killing me with these AMAZING photos! Love everything in this and even though I don’t drink, I believe this would still be just as good without the bourbon. #Drooling and Pinned.
Thanks, Kevin! For sure you could make this without the bourbon. 🙂
I would love to make this without the bourbon as well. What do you suggest as a substitute Kristen?
If you’re not a bourbon fan you can just go ahead and leave it out. It will still be delicious. 🙂
What would be your recommendations if I made this in my crockpot? Just put everything in (w/o stove top cooking prior) and for how long?
That’s a bit of a tough one as crock pots cook a little differently that stove tops. I would start by following the step 1 directions and then put everything into the crock pot in step 2. Also, I wouldn’t leave it for more than 4 hours without being able to check on it. Prob best to experiment with turning this into a crock pot recipe when you’re home on the weekend!
Did it end up working out in the crockpot?
I was going to ask for advice to make it this way too!
Do I need to drain the beans and tomatoes?
Do drain and rinse the beans, but not the tomatoes. 🙂
Oh my gosh this chili was fantastic! Bourbon, chipotle AND pumpkin in chili!?! Yes please! So amazing Kristen!
Oh wow! This was super deeeeeelicious. Love how flavorful this is.
Pumpkin chili? Where have you been all my life?!?! This looks absolutely beautiful and sounds absolutely delicious
It really was so good!
Hmm… I think I may have accidentally sent my comment before I was done. In any event, I was just saying that I am also a big fan of bourbon! The flavor combinations in your dishes always astounds me and this dish is certainly no different. You have such an incredible flavor palate and your photos are always gorgeous!
I am, too! I can get a little carried away with Boulevardiers and Bourbon Sours. One day we’ll have to go for some bourbon together!
Ha! I also love bourbon… a little too much sometimes 😉
When I see two of my very favourite words in the name of a recipe, I just KNOW it’s going to be great. And I’m not talking about pumpkin OR chili. Chipotle and bourbon. Oh yes!
Those my favourite words too!
Oh dang, yeah, wow! What a great combination. Super impressed with this one. Great job. I love the addition of the bourbon and chipotle. Must try soon.
Talk about packed with flavour! I don’t think I could drink the bourbon from the bottle or my throat would be on fire but the rest of it — I’m in!
I love the burn! Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not though lol. 🙂