Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

One can never have too many simple, filling, delicious chili recipes in their repertoire I like to say. And so I present to you our latest chili treasure – with a strikingly wonderful secret ingredient: pumpkin. Now don’t go and get scared off by that thinking “Where does pumpkin get off claiming it belongs in chili?” because I promise you’ll be doing yourself a great injustice by not giving this chili a chance. The pumpkin acts as a silky binder to the chili, adding depth and creaminess. I wondered how strong the pumpkin flavor would be but was pleasantly surprised at the mildness. When playing “What’s the Secret Ingredient” Game at the dinner table  my husband couldn’t guess it for the life of him but shook his head knowingly when I told him, almost like “Yeah, I should have known!” It’s there, but not too there, you know?

The combination of the warm pumpkin, hearty black beans, fresh onions and peppers and other gentle spices makes for a significantly delicious chili. Made in the slow cooker (alternatively, you could simmer it on the stove), this chili is such an easy dinner prep and the finished product is wow-worthy.

Perfect for this very hectic Thanksgiving week, this chili is a no-brainer of a weeknight meal and will fill all the little (and big) tummies you are feeding. P.S. I used round steak I had sitting around the freezer, which was tender and tasty, but the original recipe calls for leftover, cooked turkey. Um, hello? Think there might be a plethora of that around later on this week?

*Got your Thanksgiving A-Game on? Click HERE for any last minute Thanksgiving menu ideas…and may the force be with you this week!*

What To ServeCornbread Muffins or Cornbread and Fluffy Honey Butter
Broiled or griddled cheese quesadillas (for a fancier quesadilla these Crispy Cheese Wraps)
Fresh, seasonal fruit

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Cobbler
Two Years Ago: Tuscan Mac & Cheese Bake
Three Years Ago: Frozen Hot Chocolate

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili

Yield: Serves 6-8

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15-ounce each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey or 1 pound round steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 can (15-ounce) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the oil until hot and rippling over medium or medium-high heat. Add the round steak (if using already cooked turkey, proceed to adding the vegetables) and brown the pieces lightly. Transfer the meat to a 5-quart slow cooker, leaving oil in the skillet. Add the onion and yellow pepper to the skillet and saute until barely tender, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Taste of Home

45 Responses to Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili

  1. Alonna says:

    I plan on making this tomorrow night but I only have ground beef, not turkey, would that be ok?

  2. Jen says:

    Hi Mel,
    This procrastinator is wondering if I could throw all the cooked ingredients into the Instant pot? Do you think that would give all the flavors enough time to fuse together?

  3. Autumn says:

    Hi! No one in my family is big on cooking, so I’m on my own in this adventure! I bought everything for this recipe, and I bought frozen Turkey breast tenderloins. Do I cut up the Turkey breast raw and put it in crock pot to cook with the rest of the chili? Thank you!

  4. Kim says:

    I pinned this years ago but finally made it last night. My family LOVED it. I thought for sure I’d get to eat the leftovers myself for lunch, but alas, I had to share with my three and one year olds. I used a couple of frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of steak or turkey – just threw them in frozen at the beginning and chopped them up before serving. Worked like a charm and was so easy and so delicious.

  5. kt says:

    Mel’s site is my ‘go to’ for recipes. This was a rare loser. My family thought it was bland.

  6. jen says:

    This is my new favorite chili! And I almost didn’t try it because I loved my old favorite so much. My 2 kids and husband loved it too, and no one could believe there was squash in it (I had squash puree to use up so used that in place of pumpkin ). I also added a small can of tomato puree because we like a lot of tomato flavor. So, so rich and delicious. Thanks again Mel!

  7. Sarah says:

    Just made this, and it is a winner! Thank you for sharing. I actually used up leftover pumpkin from your Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins… searched through your pumpkin recipes and decided on this for a hearty lunch.

  8. Megan says:

    I just wanted to finally comment and tell you that this is my favorite chili. I discovered it last fall and I probably make it every other week. I use ground turkey, 3-4 cups broth, and just let it simmer for an hour on the stove instead of using a slow cooker. Everyone I make it for loves it. The pumpkin makes this so delicious! Thanks for reviving my love for chili!

  9. Alyssa says:

    Can I leave out the meat to make it vegetarian or does it mess up the dish?

  10. Marie says:

    Wish I had read the instructions before starting to make this, I dont have a slow cooker. heh. I just went by the steps to make chili normally and am guessing on cook time. Its on the stove right now simmering. Wish me luck! 🙂

  11. Christen says:

    Made this yesterday with left over Rotisserie Chicken!!! Loved it!!!

  12. Michelle says:

    Made this last night. It was a huge hit! I had ground turkey in the freezer and it was perfect in this chili. I cooked it on the stovetop in my Dutch oven. Probably left it on a low simmer for about an hour. Can’t wait for leftovers today!

  13. Molly says:

    I made a double-batch of this on the stovetop for a crowd last night and they were scraping the bottom of the pot. Delicious! I love being able to find a recipe on your blog and KNOW that it will be a hit – thanks!

  14. Chari S. says:

    I was at a birthday party tonight, and the birthday girl’s mom made this chili. When I asked her if I could get the recipe she said, “I got it from a website called Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.”! I was like, “Heck yeah, I know Mel!” Long story short, the chili was fantastic, and I found another Mel’s Kitchen Cafe fan. Small world.

  15. Caitlin says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. This is so freaking good! I went back for three helpings – poor husband won’t get much when he gets home. Whoops! I left the meat out of it (too expensive here in China!) and added an extra pepper and a few more beans to make up for it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to try this one. I already can’t wait to make it again. Thanks, Mel!

  16. Paula says:

    I need to try this again. My husband thought it was more like beef stew. Maybe it’s because he is used to ground meat in his chili. I really enjoyed the flavor and using pumpkin was such a great way to sneak in some veggies.

  17. Mamalala says:

    Made this w leftover turkey breast. It was a hit w everyone in the family. A keeper.

  18. Deb says:

    Made this for Halloween dinner last night (orange and black :)). It was a tasty way to warm up after trick or treating and was nice to have it ready and bubbling away in the slow cooker while we were gone. I used the round steak and thought it was a little tough, so would probably use something else in the future but will definitely make again. Thanks Mel!

  19. Katrina says:

    This recipe is pretty good, but if you are from the South (where we really like a kick to our dishes), you will want to kick this up a notch. I doubled this recipe, and added a can of Rotel Tomatoes. I also added about one tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakesl about two hours into the cooking process after tasting.

  20. Tami says:

    I thought I could sneak in a few veggies and serve this but my kids wanted to know why it was orange. I told them it was pumpkin. Even though they were licking their bowls and getting more, they still called it baby poo stew. Teenagers!!!

  21. Shauntel says:

    Another delicious dish! I didn’t use my slow cooker, and instead added an extra cup of chicken broth and let it simmer for about a half hour until it reached a thickness I preferred. I also used 1 lb. of ground turkey. I cooked it first, added onion, yellow pepper, garlic, then everything else and let it simmer.


  22. Andrea says:

    Made this today with deer steak. It was wonderful!! So easy and tasty. I added some corn I had in the freezer. Thank you!!!

  23. tonya says:

    Tomorrow is my MIL’s birthday. Knowing that she loves pumpkin I made this chili & we took it over for dinner tonight – wow!! We were all excited to try it & we loved it – great flavor!! MIL is also a fan of coconut so I made your Oatmeal Coconut Chewies for dessert – wow again!! We could’ve made ourselves sick indulging on those. You have yet to let me down – thanks as always!

  24. Chris says:

    I baked and pureed several pumpkins this fall, just so I could have plenty of puree to play with. I never would have thought of including it in chili, but I have to admit the photo looks amazing and it sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Kathy says:

    My family loved this chili! Everyone agreed it was a great way to use leftover chili. Thanks for another great recipe!

  26. grace says:

    just as buttercream frosting can cover a world of ills, so can black beans. they are, without a doubt, the savior of this chili for me. i’ll bet that i wouldn’t even be able to detect the pumpkin if no one told me it was present. 🙂

  27. Catherine says:

    Another hit, Mel! My boys wanted me to cook something with the pumpkins they decorated (not carved) for Halloween. I had the frozen puree in the freezer, and it came together beautifully. And they all liked it, even my picky middle child! Yours is my favorite cooking blog – the list is long, but yours is the one I check daily! I love the lack of processed ingredients and everything turns out yummy. I can’t believe how consistent you have been through pregnancy and morning sickness, you are amazing!

  28. Heather says:

    Ok, thanks. If I use cooked chicken, when should I add it so it doesn’t fall completely apart?

  29. Mel says:

    Heather – I think 45 minutes to an hour would be perfect.

  30. Heather says:

    I don’t have a slow cooker. How long should this simmer on the stove to meld flavors?

  31. Pauline says:

    We are finally getting into chili season…..YEA!!!!! And with the leftover turkey that will be here in a few days, I cannot wait to try this. Great recipe for lots of leftovers and pantry excesses! Thank you.

  32. Great idea to get extra veg into a meal! I also hoard canned pumpkin (and fresh cranberries which I freeze) as if the end of the world were upon us. A girl’s gottabe able to get her pulpit or cranberry fix year round. Am I right?

  33. This looks great!! So creative!!

  34. I will definitely give this a try. We planted 3 small hills of pie pumpkins and got – 36 of them! Keep those pumpkin recipes coming!
    -Laura, who is eating pumpkin custard for breakfast today. 🙂

  35. AnnetteBrunette says:

    Umm Yum! I wish pumpkin and black beans were a little more available over here. This looks really good!

  36. Katy says:

    Sending this to the allergic-to-everything kid. This sounds like a perfect, delicious recipe for her! Thank you so much!

  37. Judy B. says:

    “I ain’t scared”….and I’m going to fix this just as soon as we get a cold snap in Houston.

    BTW, I’m having your most delicious slow cooker Maple Brown Sugar Ham this Thanksgiving; can’t tell you how many copies of this recipe I’ve given out.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all….we are blessed.

  38. I, too, hoarded cans of pumpkin this year since it was so hard to find last year. I’m excited to see another slow cooker recipe. I hardly ever utilize that appliance except make homemade beans but this definitely looks worthy, even though I’ve never put pumpkin in anything savory like this.

  39. Kim in MD says:

    I hoarded cans of pumpkin this Fall, due to having a hard time finding it last year. This looks like the perfect savory recipe to help me use those cans up! This looks delicious, and the turkey version sounds amazing, too! 🙂

  40. Yum, I did something similar with butternut squash, so fun to take a traditional recipe and give it a seasonal twist! This looks amazing!

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