Pumpkin Chili

Whew, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after Christmas, isn’t it? Especially when New Year’s Eve lurks just around the corner. James and I spent Christmas at the ranch with his parents, siblings, aunt, nieces, and nephew (12 of us in total!), and we had an absolute blast. Our five days in Cross Plains were filled with lots of runs and walks on long dirt roads, snuggles with our 11-month old niece, playtime with all of the ranch puppies (Callie included!), many stolen naps, several game nights (have you ever played Telephone Pictionary? holy fun!), a triple date with James’s sisters and their husbands, and, of course, plenty of delicious food. We celebrated my birthday on Saturday and I got to pick out the menu, so I chose some of my favorite dishes from James’s mom’s repertoire – breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes with white gravy, beet & citrus salad, and spiced green apples. For dessert we had another one of my favorites, the rhubarb-strawberry crisp that James’s mom served at our rehearsal lunch. It was heavenly!

When we got home, James tended to some chores around the house (namely taking down the Christmas tree, le sigh) while I tossed in a load of dusty laundry and got to work on a super basic pumpkin chili that Becca passed my way. I tweaked the recipe slightly, adding in some grass-fed ground beef from the ranch as well as our favorite ranch-style beans. Don’t get turned off by the idea that there’s pumpkin in the chili – it just adds a good richness, no sweetness (as long as you don’t mistakenly buy pumpkin pie filling!). The cumin and chili powder in this dish are the stand-out flavors, and I love them. You can use any kind of beans that you like. I think this would be delicious served alongside some cornbread and topped with green onions and sour cream.

Pumpkin Chili

Recipe adapted from Julia’s Album (photo from Julia’s Album as well)



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes with diced chiles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can ranch-style beans with jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season beef with whatever you like – we prefer onion powder, hot salt, and pepper. Place ground beef in the skillet and cook until brown.
  2. In a large pot or second skillet, cook chopped onion and minced garlic in remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat until soft.
  3. Add pumpkin, canned tomatoes & chiles, vegetable broth, black beans, garbanzo beans, and ranch-style beans. Add ground beef.
  4. Add half the cumin and half the chili powder, stir everything well, and season with salt and pepper. Taste your chili and season if needed. If desired (and yes, we do desire it!), add the remaining cumin and chili powder.
  5. Bring to a boil. Make sure to stir all ingredients together well to combine flavors and spices. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes longer.
  6. Top with green onions and sour cream and serve with cornbread.

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