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Pumpkin Black Bean Chicken Chili

The Autumn season is upon us, bringing an unofficial New Year for those who involved with back-to-school activities while bringing a change of wardrobe and sport activities for others. It’s time to pack up the shorts and pull out the sweaters, boots and jackets; time to bid farewell to baseball and dig out your football jersey. It’s also time to embrace another favorite fall icon; the pumpkin!

As the pumpkins in all their glorious shapes, colors and sizes are beginning to decorate porches in the area, the pumpkin spice trend is in full gear and available everywhere from your neighborhood grocery stores to your donut and coffee shops. As much as I love a pumpkin spice latte on a chilly fall day, there’s often not much actual pumpkin to be found in such treats.

Here is a new way to spice things up with the added nutritional benefits of fiber and vitamin A that pumpkin packs! Invite some football fans (dressed in their comfy sweaters or team gear of course) over for game day and wow them with a crock pot of chili with a pumpkin twist!

Pumpkin Black Bean Chicken Chili
Yield: 8 servings

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Cup chopped onion
1 Cup chopped yellow bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ Teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ Teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ Teaspoons chili powder
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16 oz) can of plain pumpkin
1 (14 ½ oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 ½ Cups chopped cooked chicken (use a rotisserie chicken, or poach 3 large chicken breasts)
3 Cups chicken broth
½ Cup cream sherry
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toppings: chopped avocado, sliced green onions, diced jalapenos, grated cheddar, sour cream

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, yellow bell pepper and garlic, saute 8-10 minutes or until softened. Stir in oregano, cumin and chili powder. Cook a couple minutes longer. Stir in black beans, pumpkin, tomatoes with liquid, chicken broth and sherry. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and add chicken, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Serve or transfer to a slow cooker on low until game time. Enjoy with toppings of your choice.

Recipe adapted from The Patriot-News, November 4, 2001.