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Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Turkey pumokin chili in white bowl with cornbread on side

Fall is finally here! It's been a hot summer in north Georgia but today, it dropped to 78 with cool 66 degree nights. It's time to break out my soup and chili recipes. I was looking for something healthy, easy to make and hearty. Turkey Pumpkin Chili is a great way to ease into the season.

Chili is much easier to make than it might sound. Look through a few recipes online and see what catches your eye. Start with something that looks good and if there is an ingredient you don’t think you’ll like, switch it with something else. You don’t have to follow a recipe exactly for chili, or soups, unless you’re trying to match something you ate at a restaurant or the neighborhood chili cook-off. It might take a couple of times to nail the recipe to your liking but then you have it whenever you want it.

Turkey pumpkin chili in large purple pot

When making this recipe, everything is done in one big pot. Here are some tips.

You can cook the onions and peppers first before putting in the raw turkey, or you can brown the turkey in olive oil first, remove the meat onto a plate then add the onions and peppers into the pot with the turkey bits. Be careful not to overcook the turkey when browning. It can have a tougher texture at the end of the process.

You do not have to use Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning. There are many on the market. I prefer TJ’s because it has no preservatives. It’s a mixture of sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, cane sugar, paprika, onion, garlic, black pepper, red bell pepper, oregano, chili pepper and smoked paprika. This saves you from having to keep lots of spices on hand if you don’t cook often. If you want more control over the flavors, buy each spice separately and mix to taste.

Pumpkin puree is used in the recipe like any other spice. The flavor is subtle, not overpowering. If you want more of a pumpkin flavor, experiment by adding more than the one cup.

I’m not a fan of kidney beans. Without them, you don’t really get that rich brown chili look unless you let it sit overnight. If you do like them, add 7 ounces when you add the other beans.

Why Great Northern Beans? They have a great texture for soups and casseroles and can be used interchangeably with other white beans like cannellini and navy beans. They also hold their form after a long cooking process and help bind a dish together.

When simmering for one hour, taste the chili half way through. Does it need more salt and pepper? Usually. Is it missing something? I found that I needed more smoked paprika so I added 2 teaspoons. Checking the flavors half way through will allow more time for the newly added ingredients to combine during the simmering process.

I feel any hearty chili, or soup, is better the next day. I usually make it a day ahead so all of the flavors have time to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Turkey pumpkin chili in white bowl with spoon


To bring the heat, add 1 diced jalapeño or try dried ancho pepper or chipotle pepper.

Chocolate is good with heat, so add in cocoa powder with the other spices, or let a chunk of dark or semi-sweet chocolate melt in the pot as it simmers.

Want flavor but not much heat, try anaheim peppers.

Love kidney beans, add 7 ounces.

Don’t like turkey, replace with chicken, lean or extra-lean ground beef. Or, go vegetarian by adding sweet potatoes or other vegetables.

If using beef, add a dark, rich stout in place of some of the vegetable broth.

To brighten the flavors, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar right before you serve the chili.

Top with cheddar cheese, chives, raw onions, fresh cilantro and sour cream.

Turley pumpkin chili in pot with ladle

There are lots of possibilities. That’s the beauty of chili. Jump in and and create a batch with the flavors you love!

I made Jalapeño Goat Cheese Cornbread to accompany the chili. Give it a try!

Jalapeno Goat Cheese Cornbread in cast iron skillet



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