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This pumpkin turkey chili is a breeze to pull together and will feed an army! Great for cold nights and football-watching, this chili will be loved by the whole family.
Many of my favorite recipes fall into the “minimal effort” category, and this one is no exception! While I LOVE really delicious, special, hands-on recipes, sometimes I just need a little break from the effort (I bet you do too). When this need for “easy” strikes, I tend to really lean on big, one-pot-but-will-feed-an-army dishes. Enter, pumpkin chili!
What’s the one food that (at least in Texas) qualifies for its own food group? CHILI. There are hundreds (thousands?) of ways to make chili! It’s the ideal one-pot meal because all you need to do is brown a little meat, add whatever vegetables strike your fancy, and then load it with some signature chili spices. With the addition of pumpkin, this chili recipe is a bit different from your usual chili, but will feed your body and soul just the same!
What you will love about this pumpkin chili?
There are many reasons to love this chili, but a few of my very favorite things about it include…
- It feeds a crowd. Seriously, one batch of this chili will feed 12-15 adults. That means that it’s perfect for a game day or get-together!
- It is loaded with flavor. Seeing “pumpkin” and “chili” in the same recipe title might throw you off a little bit, but trust us on this one. It is *so* good! The pumpkin not only adds a really delicious, festive flavor to the chili, but it also makes the finished product ultra-creamy.
- It saves really well! If you aren’t planning on serving this to a large crowd, know that it saves exceptionally well. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in an airtight container (or gallon-sized freezer-safe bag) in the freezer for 4-6 months.
How To Make Pumpkin Chili Turkey
Here’s how this Paleo chili comes together (it’s easier than it looks and tastes AMAZING): first off, you must know that using fresh pumpkin is totally optional. YES you can use canned and YES that will eliminate half of the work.
- Cut + Bake the Pumpkins (Optional) – if you’re roasting your own pumpkin, you’ll need to start by cutting up a couple of baking pumpkins. Note: they’re about as difficult to cut as an acorn squash – so don’t be intimidated! Cut each pumpkin into wedges, scrape out the seeds, rub the wedges down with olive oil, and then pop those cuties in the oven to bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, or until they’re easily pierced with a fork. If you’re a little short on time but still want to use fresh pumpkin, check out our Instant Pot Pumpkin Puree tutorial!
- Saute the Onions + Garlic – get out your biggest heavy-bottomed pot and get the butter melting in it, then start browning the onions and garlic.
- Add the Ground Turkey – once the onions and garlic are looking fragrant and delicious, add the ground turkey. Stir until the turkey is broken up and cooked through!
- Add the Pumpkin – here’s where it gets fun! Take out your baked pumpkin and add the gorgeous flesh to the pot! Note: this is where you’d add the just-as-acceptable cans of pumpkin puree. Stir the pumpkin into the meat mixture – the flesh will be soft enough to stir and start to melt into the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the Tomato Puree + Spices – add the tomato puree and spices, stir to combine, and bring up to a simmer. Taste test the Paleo chili to see if it needs any more salt, season to your liking.
- Serve + Enjoy!
Best Tips to Making the Perfect Pumpkin Chili
Here are a few tips that’ll ensure the most delicious, creamy, turkey chili you’ve ever had!
- Use baking pumpkins – if baking pumpkins are in season, 2 small (or 1 larger) baking pumpkins will give enough pumpkin for this chili and is a super fun way to use this unique produce!
- Swap the pumpkin – if pumpkin isn’t your thing, use butternut squash! 1 (4-pound) butternut squash should do the trick here. For how to roast a butternut squash, click HERE!
- Make it nightshade-free – if you want to make this chili nightshade-free, swap the tomato puree for pureed beets (about 3 beets, roasted or boiled, and then blended with water until you have 48-ounces worth), and omit the chili powder and cumin. Then, add oregano for extra flavor.
- Use a different protein – the turkey in this recipe can be swapped 1-for-1 for ground chicken, ground pork, or ground beef.
- Make it ahead of time – like with most chilis, this chili gets more flavorful with time, so it is a GREAT option to meal prep in advance and then enjoy within 5 days.
Pumpkin Chili Topping Ideas
I like my pumpkin chili topped with fresh green onion, cilantro, sometimes pickled jalapenos, and sour cream (real or Paleo friendly as found in my ‘Fed & Fit’ book)
Cooked and crumbled bacon, diced avocado, diced red onion, and shredded cheese would all be really delicious toppings as well!
Can you make this chili in the slow cooker?
Sure! You’ll need to brown the ground turkey in a skillet on the stovetop first, and if you’re roasting your own pumpkin, go ahead and do that ahead of time also! Then, you’ll just add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and let it cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low!
This recipe makes a bunch of chili and gets even better as leftovers! It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and frozen for up to 5 months.
- 2 small baking pumpkins or 4 15-ounce cans pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons butter sub oil for Whole 30
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 pounds ground turkey or leftover turkey
- 48 ounces tomato puree or sauce
- 1/3 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt additional to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper additional to taste
- 1 bunch green onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces, for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- Sour cream dairy-based or Paleo as found in my book, for garnish
- To prepare the pumpkin, cut each pumpkin into 8 wedges, scrape out seeds, and then rub with the olive oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool a little.
- Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium/high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Stir to combine and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and fragrant. Add the meat and break it up with a spoon. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Add the pumpkin flesh (or canned pumpkin) and stir to help break the flesh up. Add the tomato puree and spices, stir to combine, cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste test and season to your liking.
- Serve with fresh green onion, cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream, if you like!
Made this last night..so yummy, comforting, and perfect for leftovers. Thank you, Fed+Fit!
Angela Monahan says
As the weather gets colder, I am always looking for comforting winter meals and this totally hit the spot. I like that it’s such a hearty meal yet the vegetables are almost hidden. The freshness of the cilantro and green onion garnish was perfect. I will definitely be making this again!
Wanted to double checked on the amounts of cumin and chili powder. 1/2 and 1/4 cup seems like an overload. Perhaps tablespoon?
Just making sure—48 ounces tomato sauce or 28?
So good! I made this for dinner last night and my husband and I both loved it. I was a little nervous because I don’t like pumpkin very much, but in the chili I couldn’t taste it and made it creamier than a normal chili. I will be making this again!
Brandi Schilhab says
I made it for dinner last night too! So glad you loved it, Kristen!
This recipe surprised me! We usually add beans to our chili and I was curious if the pumpkin would add a weird taste to the chili but it was great! The pumpkin just made it really creamy tasting and we didn’t miss the beans. I halved the recipe because we only have a family of 2 and used 2 cans of pumpkin versus the baking pumpkins. I served with cornbread and it was delicious! I love that the pumpkin adds a vegetable to this but it doesn’t seem like you are eating vegetables. This is a new favorite!
Brandi Schilhab says
So glad you enjoyed it, Savannah! I actually made this for dinner last night too and loved it!
So creamy and comforting! The pumpkin adds a nice texture without being overpowering.
Brandi Schilhab says
I totally agree! We’re so glad you liked it, Dana!
I rarely leave reviews about recipes but will make an exception on this one. My husband is a retired chef and I have over 50 years cooking experience. Sometimes I have partial cans of pumpkin puree left over so I usually freeze it. I came across this recipe calling for pumpkin and remembered that I had some in the freezer. I had to reduce the amounts of the recipe for just my husband and I but we loved it. Used leftover turkey from a few days ago (also frozen) and also had enough chili leftover for lunch today.. Will keep this one to enjoy over and over. Thanks!
Brandi Schilhab says
Wahoo! That’s so great to hear, Catherine. Thank you so much for sharing this with us — it means a lot!