I first encountered chili in the cafeteria at my old workplace. It was one of the few items I could order off the menu. I loved the spicy-sweet flavors, the hearty and all-is-well-with-the-world feeling it generated in me, and the sheer heat of the preparation. Over the years, I have seen many chili recipes, both vegetarian and vegan, but I never stirred to make it at home. I knew that it was simple enough but my list of ‘to-make’ recipes is constantly expanding… and so vegetarian chili stayed put on the list.

Until last night.

I had bought a can of organic pumpkin to make Pumpkin Spice Latte. I suppose I am one of the very few rare individuals who cannot understand the pumpkin madness that engulfs the United States this time of the year. But I wanted to give it a chance, so I went ahead and made the drink. Hmmm, still not a fan. Anyway, I found myself left with an almost full can of organic pumpkin. It occurred to me that I could buy a can of black beans, add the pumpkin, throw in a smattering of spices… and voila, chili would be ready!

That’s how this dish came about. I looked online for recipes, finally alighting on this one. I don’t drink alcohol or use it for cooking, so I skipped the beer component. Instead of using the various spices mentioned in the recipe, I took the lazy way out by substituting Taco Seasoning bought at Trader Joe’s some time ago. I didn’t have onion at home, so that was out as well. I had a giant clove of garlic but I was sure that the dish wouldn’t suffer from its absence, so I skipped it as well. At the end, when the chili was simmering, I tasted some, and thought that it could do with some sweetness. I squirted a few drops of agave in it but it didn’t make much of a difference, as I realized later.

All that being said, it was one rocking bowl of chili! It had all the heartiness and bite that I adore in this dish plus it had the subtle sensation of heat that doesn’t burn the tongue but warms your system in the nicest way possible. As I began eating, my nose started to run… Yes, it was that kind of heat. I suppose it came from the green chiles in the fire-roasted tomatoes. I felt that I could have thrown in more vegetables, some corn, chunks of butternut squash… the possibilities are endless.

What about the pumpkin, you ask? I think it contributed to the thick and creamy texture of the chili but its flavor was most likely masked by the other intense spices, I think. But the fact that it’s in there, swimming with the other ingredients, adding its nutritious punch to the dish… makes me happy.

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili


3 – 4 teaspoons of olive oil
1 can black beans
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 can pumpkin
1 – 3 teaspoons of Taco Seasoning
salt to taste

1. Warm 3 – 4 teaspoons of oil. I used extra-virgin olive oil but you can use any kind that you like. I wouldn’t recommend coconut oil, though.

2. Add chopped peppers. Saute for a couple of minutes until the peppers begin to sweat, then add the pumpkin. Stir thoroughly and let it cook.

3. Now add the fire-roasted tomatoes and black beans. Mix well. Add water until it has the thick soupy consistency you are looking for.

Simmering Chili

4. Add the Taco Seasoning, a little at a time, tasting as you go.

5. Reduce the heat, let it simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. This will help the flavors to meld, and for the dish to come together as a whole. Taste for salt, add as appropriate. Turn off the heat. Serve piping hot!

I like to garnish my serving with a blob of Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread. You can use the topping of your choice. I should think that sour cream or butter would do the trick.

If you plan to eat later, then keep in mind that the chili will thicken a little with time, not a lot.

I assume that this is a dish that only gains in flavor with time, so I am looking forward to the leftovers tonight!