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The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili (Gluten & Dairy Free)

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Pumpkin isn’t just for dessert! This healthy pumpkin chili recipe is a savory, filling meal you’ll make over and over (Gluten-free, dairy-free)

BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili from One Lovely Life

I remember once going through the checkout with a few cans of pumpkin in my cart and the cashier holding it up, bewildered. “What do you make with this? I’ve only ever tried pumpkin bread.”

My heart broke for her.

I LOVE pumpkin things. Always have. Especially this time of year! Our family has been making these pumpkin muffins since I was in junior high, which sort of opened the door for All The Pumpkin Things ever since.

As much as I love sweet applications–blender pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cake, pumpkin oatmeal, etc. I really REALLY love savory pumpkin recipes, too.

Sometimes that’s pumpkin corrnbread muffins, or a pumpkin curry, or pumpkin taco soup, but this healthy Pumpkin Chili Recipe has been the most popular pumpkin recipe on my site since 2013. It’s won more than a dozen chili cook-offs for readers over the years! It’s the perfect recipe for pumpkin season, and it’s one that’ll please the whole family.

It’s AMAZING, if I do say so myself, and here’s why I think you’ll love it too.

The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili from One Lovely Life

5 Reasons You’ll Love This Chili Recipe:

  1. IT’S GOOD FOR YOU! Pumpkin (even canned pumpkin!) is SO full of nutrients. It’s an amazing source of vitamins, fiber, and all sorts of other goodies that keep us young and healthy. It’s another reason we try mixing it in whenever we can.
  2. IT HAS AN AMAZING TEXTURE. In savory pumpkin recipes like this one, you actually don’t even really know the pumpkin is there. Instead, you just get an extra layer of vegetable-y goodness, silky texture, pretty color, and delicious flavor. It’s a trick you can use to take almost any homemade chili recipe to whole new level. Just stir in a can of pumpkin to your favorite chili recipe and enjoy all the benefits!
  3. IT WORKS WITH ANY GROUND MEAT. You can make our pumpkin chili with ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, or ground turkey. Many folks have also made it with ground meat alternatives (like Impossible) over the last few years. It all works!
  4. IT’S PERFECT FOR COOL WEATHER. Our healthy pumpkin chili makes a spectacular Halloween pre-trick-or-treating meal. Hearty, festive, and, well, not candy. This savory pumpkin recipe is a family favorite all through the colder months (and throughout the year because #teamforeverpumpkin). Add a side of pumpkin cornbread muffins and you’re in business!
  5. IT GETS BETTER WITH TIME. I often like to make this chili ahead of time (the day before or morning of) so the flavors can develop even more. It just gets better with time!

WHAT DOES PUMPKIN CHILI TASTE LIKE? Honestly, you won’t taste the pumpkin flavor, and it won’t taste like the sweetness of pumpkin spice or pumpkin pie spice. It tastes like traditional chili, but with a thicker, more velvety texture.

The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili

Simple Ingredients For Pumpkin Chili:

  • Lean Ground Beef (Or Chicken, Turkey, or Pork). You’ll start your pumpkin chili with ground meat. Pick your favorite or choose from whatever’s on sale this week!
  • Onion & Bell Pepper. Our flavor base starts with colorful veggies–yellow onion & green bell pepper. They start the classic savory flavor I’m going for.
  • Our Chili Spices. For our pumpkin chili seasoning, I use a blend of chili powder, cumin, garlic & onion powder, and salt. For a bit more kick, feel free to add some chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika. These warm spices add so much flavor!
  • Pumpkin Puree. Here’s how we turn this into pumpkin chili! The addition of pumpkin puree adds thickness without making this taste like pumpkin. (It won’t be like pumpkin spice!)
  • Two Kinds Of Beans. Next up is two types of beans. I like pinto beans and black beans for my pumpkin chili, though you can certainly use other options, like kidney beans or great northern beans.
  • Diced Tomatoes. I love fire-roasted tomatoes, especially Muir Glen brand. They have a nice char and feel less acidic than other brands.
  • Goods On Top! I usually finish my chili with some fresh cilantro (the pop of green is so pretty!), but don’t miss the FAQ below for more of our favorite chili toppings.

Method: How To Make Pumpkin Chili, Step-By-Step

  1. Brown The Meat. In a large pot, brown ground beef with pepper, onion, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Add Chili Seasonings. As the meat and veggies are cooking, sprinkle over chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion, powder, smoked paprika an/or chipotle chili powder (if using), and salt. 
  3. Add Pumpkin, Beans & Tomatoes. When the meat is cooked through and the veggies are tender (10-15 minutes), add pumpkin puree, undrained beans, and the tomatoes with their juice to the pan.
  4. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until ready to eat.
  5. Garnish. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, cheese or dairy-free cheese, as desired!
  6. Store leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3-4 days, or freeze up to 2 months. (I love to make this chili in advance–it tastes even better the next day!)
The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili from One Lovely Life

FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The Best Pumpkin Chili Recipe:

PALEO? TRY THIS! This is healthy pumpkin chili recipe is a SUPER adaptable recipe and can fit almost any dietary restrictions. If you’d like to adapt it to be a whole30 or paleo pumpkin chili recipe, just skip the beans and add an extra bell pepper and another 1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey.

CAN I MAKE THIS AS VEGAN PUMPKIN CHILI? You bet! I’ve got a Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili Recipe here. It’s delicious and meatless, using an extra can of beans, vegetable broth and a few other tricks to make it as a meatless chili.

CAN YOU FREEZE PUMPKIN CHILI? Yes! My favorite way to freeze pumpkin chili for easy thawing is to put it into a freezer-safe bag, squeeze out any extra air and lay it flat on a plate or in a pan while it freezes. That way, you don’t end up with any surprise spills in your freezer and it freeze flat which helps it thaw faster later!

CAN I MAKE PUMPKIN CHILI IN A SLOW COOKER? YES! That’s another reason it’s so great. You can choose to brown your beef in a skillet and drain the fat before adding it to the crock (no need to cook any other ingredients), or if you’re using lean meat, you can toss it in raw. Just give everything a good stir and set to cook 2-3 hours on HIGH or 4-5 hours on low. I love this slow cooker because it has an automatic warming function (switches to warm when it’s done cooking) and is so easy to program.

ANY TIPS FOR TOPPINGS? Absolutely. While the traditional cheese and sour cream might be your faves, I love using diced avocado or a dollop of this avocado ranch (paleo or vegan!) on top of my pumpkin chili for a great dairy-free option. Try serving it with gluten-free corn bread or our baked tortilla chips!

The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili

⭐ Don’t forget to leave a star review and comment below when you make our easy Pumpkin Chili recipe. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili from One Lovely Life

BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili (Gluten & Dairy Free)


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4.7 from 24 reviews

  • Author: One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: About 10 cups 1x

Description

I love making this easy pumpkin chili the day before I need it. It tastes even better the next day! Don’t miss the notes section for tips on adapting this for vegan or paleo diets. (It’s SO EASY!)


Ingredients

Scale

For The Pumpkin Chili:

  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil.
  • 1 lb. ground beef*
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional, for more heat: 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/4-1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
  • 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, not drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, not drained
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, not drained (I like fire-roasted)

For Garnish:

  • chopped cilantro, sliced green onions or snipped chives, sliced jalapeno, diced avocado, sour cream, yogurt, cheddar cheese, or dairy-free cheese, as desired.

Instructions

  1. Brown The Meat. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, brown ground beef over medium heat with pepper, onion, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Add Chili Seasonings. As the meat and veggies are cooking, sprinkle over chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion, powder, smoked paprika an/or chipotle chili powder (if using), and salt. 
  3. Add Pumpkin, Beans & Tomatoes. When the meat is cooked through and the veggies are tender (10-15 minutes), add pumpkin puree, undrained beans, and the tomatoes with their juice to the pan.
  4. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until ready to eat.
  5. Garnish. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, cheese or dairy-free cheese, as desired!
  6. Store leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3-4 days, or freeze up to 2 months. (I love to make this chili in advance–it tastes even better the next day!)

Notes

FOR A PALEO VERSION, skip the beans and add an extra bell pepper and another 1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish, Soup, Chili
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

85 Comments

  1. I love anything pumpkin, so I made this for lunch and it was so delicious. This recipe goes into my
    “favorite” recipe box. Thanks for sharing.






  2. Do you think I could make it the night before and refrigerate it? It’s for a birthday party and I’d love to have it done ahead of time.

  3. Looks so yummy!!
    I am going to make this for our chili cook off at our church. I’m thinking I have to double this. Would you double every ingredient.
    And if I use a slow cooker would you add beef broth, and how much?

    1. Nancy – I apologize for not getting back to you sooner! I would double every ingredient. I don’t think you’d need to add any extra liquid to it. Good luck at the cook off!

  4. This has been one of my favorite chili recipes for the last year. I love making it for people and then after they’ve eaten some, the shock on their face when I tell them there’s pumpkin in there is pure gold!

    When I make this for cook-offs, I like to add a little extra kick depending on my mood. I always make it in the slow cooker (6 quart) and I throw in 1 or 2 jalapeños, depending on the size, I get one can of diced tomatoes with chiles and one without (15 oz), toss in some red pepper flakes, and maybe a habanero if I’m really feeling spicy.

    I also stick in two cinnamon sticks to cook the 5 hours with the chili and pull them out before serving. It complements the pumpkin really well. I’ve also started adding a bottle of dark stout beer to it to make it less thick and further compliment the pumpkin flavor. The beer also compliments the beef!






  5. Would you still use the full contents of a tin a beans, including liquid if it was beans in salted water? What about beans in water with a firming agent like Calcium carbonate? I wasn’t sure about either of these, so ended up rinsing the beans that had firming agent in with them and using the liquid & beans from one tin that was just beans and water.






    1. Beth – That’s a great question! I hadn’t thought about that since I usually buy low-sodium or no salt added beans. I think I’d do exactly what you did. 🙂

  6. This turned out amazing. I did make a few changes. I used 2 lbs of ground beef (only because I like thick chili) , one whole yellow onion, 5 cloves of fresh garlic (in place of the powder), a can of kidney beans (along with the other beans mentioned), 18 oz can of tomato paste, a tsp. of cinnamon and about a cup of chicken broth because I needed some more liquid. Oh!! And I quadrupled the chili powder and added some extra cumin. It turned out slightly sweet, mildly spicy, and soooo good. Thank you for the recipe!






  7. I wanted to love this recipe as I LOVE anything pumpkin but I feel this chili lacked flavor. We doubled the recipe to take to a chili cook-off this evening but can’t pinpoint exactly what is missing.






    1. Ash – Oh, bummer! I’m sorry it wasn’t what you were hoping for. A few thoughts–I wonder if all the spices were doubled when you doubled the recipe? I’ve accidentally forgotten to double 1-2 in the past, which can make a big difference. Also, sometimes, the amount of salt in your recipe needs to be increased, depending on how much salt was in your other ingredients (like tomatoes). Salt will wake up all the other flavors in the recipe. If you give it a try again, I’d start there.

      Those things aside, everyone’s chili preferences are different. My mom LOVES this chili, but also likes adding additional cumin since she loves more cumin in her chili. It could be that my blend just isn’t the same as your favorites. Hopefully it does well at the cook-off!

      1. Thank you for the response- we had to doctor it up quite a bit and it seems to have gone well at the cook off so I think we will try again without doubling it!

  8. What are your thoughts on using chicken vs beef in this recipe? (Either ground or shredded.)
    I’m having a chili bar for my sons birthday party and already have a beef chili planned so I’m looking for another option to have! Would love your input. Thanks so much.

    1. Brittanee – I bet it’d totally work! For ease, I’d probably go with ground so it feels more like traditional chili, but shredded might be nice!

  9. I’m wondering why you don’t recommend draining and rinsing the beans, since I’ve always been told this greatly reduces the chance of causing gas😬

  10. Hello Emily,
    I look forward to trying this recipe on Halloween but I ‘m wondering what type of ground meat we could use instead of beef. Chicken, Turkey, sausage?
    Thanks

    1. You can totally use turkey or chicken. I’m not a huge fan of ground turkey (the flavor is too strong for me), so my favorite is ground chicken breast. Hope that helps! 🙂

  11. This was amazing as you said!!
    And YES…I won a chili cook off!!

    I made it with beans and ground beef, added chunks of pumpkin and fresh corn.
    Absolute hit!
    Thank you for sharing!






    1. Oh WOW!!! I’m SO GLAD! I bet it was amazing with the pumpkin and corn in it! I’ll have to try that sometime. Congratulations on your win!!!

  12. Great recipe! One pot, super easy and delicious! I used ground chicken and it was delicious! I think any ground meat would work just as well!






  13. I felt it lacked flavor my first go at it, but after adding some salt to it, it definitely kicked it up a bit. I recommend adding some hot sauce on it for some heat and additional flavor (Franks or cholula work best). I also used ground chicken which could have resulted in a bit of a dull flavor. Luckily everyone else in my office loved it!






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