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Pumpkin purée pushes chili from soupy to thick

By Mariko Jackson

LAST UPDATED: 7:20 p.m. HST, Jul 16, 2013

If chocolate lava cake was the courtship, one-pot chili is the "It's Tuesday night, we've been married for 10 years and I'm in no mood to impress you" dinner.

As opposed to the mystery of surprise, chili appears to have mystery ingredients. But the dish has real depth despite its unattractive features. I'd like to dispel the myth that chili is just a practical and thrifty meal. You could spend a long evening unraveling the spice list. A well-made chili is the one you want to come home to.

My husband doesn't share my sentiment. He avoids anything that resembles soup because it always leaves you wanting more. He's a bottomless pit of appetite, so I suppose it's the lack of body of most chili recipes that keeps him unfulfilled.

I cut through the acidic tomato sauce by adding pumpkin, which has the added benefit of a thicker texture. The Halloween season was the best thing to happen to chili. I've made this chili more than once for a group of friends before or after trick-or-treating.

This is packed with nutritional goodness, but if you're looking for a way to sneak in more greens, I like to top my bowl with a handful of baby arugula and just stir it in while hot. I sometimes load it up with more veggies (zucchini comes to mind) and consider it our nutritional balance for the sugar we are about to consume.

This one takes only one cutting board, one pan and about 30 minutes to whip up.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef (or turkey or soy crumbles)
Salt, to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
Cayenne or chili powder, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high. Brown meat, breaking up larger chunks. Sprinkle with salt while cooking. Remove to bowl and drain liquid.

If there is no oil left in pan, add a few teaspoons of olive oil, but otherwise just begin cooking onion and bell pepper over medium heat. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

Add salt (a couple of teaspoons is about right) and cayenne or chili powder according to your taste for heat, then cumin, paprika and cinnamon, and stir about 1 minute until spices are fragrant.

Add pumpkin purée, tomato sauce, sugar, water and beans. Add meat. Stir until combined.

Bring to simmer and lower heat, then cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per approximately 1 cup serving (based on 8 servings and 2 teaspoon salt): 160 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 950 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 10 g protein


Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at

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