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Butternut squash chili is a hearty vegetarian version of everyone’s favorite cold-weather meal. Add your favorite toppings to create the perfect custom bowl!
At my house, we make chili nearly every week, especially when it’s chilly outside.
I lived in Texas for 15 years, so I’ve definitely developed some opinions about chili. However, that doesn’t mean I stick with the classic bowl of red — I love experimenting!
One thing I’ve been working on is a good vegetarian chili option, for when I want something spicy, comforting, and meat-free.
When I make vegetarian meals, one of my go-to ingredients is winter squash, especially butternut squash.
Because butternut squash is naturally sweet, it pairs well with spicier flavors.
That means it’s perfect for a warm and cozy bowl of chili!
Ingredients for butternut squash chili
This recipe uses a lot of pantry items, so it’s easy to have ingredients on hand for any day of the week.
Feel free to swap in fresh ingredients where desired!
Butternut squash – You’ll need 4 cups of cubed butternut squash, which is about 1 medium squash.
You can also buy frozen cubed butternut squash, which will cook faster. Make sure to thaw it!
Tomatoes – I use both crushed and diced tomatoes in my chili. This gives it plenty of tomato flavor as the base while also making it thicker rather than a watery broth.
Onion – Use white or yellow onion. I don’t recommend sweet onion; butternut is sweet enough for the chili.
Garlic – Save time by using jarred minced garlic, or push your gloves through a garlic press.
Beans – This recipe uses canned pinto beans. Make sure to rinse and drain them well before using in the chili.
Broth – To keep this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable broth or stock.
Chipotle in adobo – For heat with smoky flavor, chopped chipotle in adobo is added. You can find it among the other canned chiles at the grocery store.
Spices – What’s chili without spices? This recipe uses a mixture of chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, smoked paprika, ground coriander, and cayenne pepper.
I use a chili powder that is made from ground chiles; it is not a blend of spices. You can use your favorite.
How to make butternut vegetarian chili
First, prep your butternut squash if needed. Halve, peel, and cut the squash into cubes 1/2 to 1 inch in size.
Note that smaller cubes will cook more quickly. Try to make all your squash even in size.
In a Dutch oven over medium-high, add olive oil. Once warm, add chopped onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the butternut squash and cook for another few minutes.
Mix together the spices and sprinkle over the vegetables, then stir well to coat. Cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add a small amount of the vegetable broth and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pour in the tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, and remaining broth. Stir well.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in the beans and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Adding the beans toward the end will help keep them from falling apart too much as it cooks.
Taste to see if squash is tender, and adjust seasoning as needed. If squash is not yet soft, continue cooking, covered, until it is ready.
How to make butternut squash chili in the slow cooker
If you prefer to use the slow cooker, this recipe is even easier!
Sauté your onions and garlic briefly, then transfer them to your slow cooker. (If you have a slow cooker with a sauté function, simply use that.)
Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and cover. Cook on low for 4 hours.
I feel like chili is more of a formula than a recipe, which means it’s very easy to make substitutions based on your own personal preferences or what you might have on hand.
For less smoky flavor, swap the chipotle in adobo for fresh chopped jalapeño and use hot or sweet paprika in place of the smoked paprika.
Use your favorite beans! This time I used pinto beans, but I also like to use black beans, kidney beans, white beans, or even garbanzo beans in butternut squash chili.
If you like your chili less thick, omit the crushed tomatoes and double the diced tomatoes.
For a thicker chili, stir in about ¼ cup of masa harina or cornmeal toward the end of cooking.
How to serve butternut squash chili
Whenever we have chili, we put out a big spread of toppings so that everyone can build their own bowl.
Try any of these options on your next bowl!
- Pickled jalapeños or pickled red onions
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Crumbled cotija cheese
- Diced white onion
- Corn chips
- Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Diced avocado
- Chopped cilantro
- Hot sauce
Serve it up with a batch of homemade buttermilk cornbread, and you have the ultimate cold-weather meal.
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Butternut Squash Chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minched
- 4 cups diced butternut squash
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 14.5 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 14.5 ounces diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chipotle in adobo, more or less to taste
- 15 ounces pinto beans
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and cook another 2 minutes.
- Mix together the spices, then sprinkle over the vegetables in the pot. Stir well to coat and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add a small amount of the broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the crushed and diced tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, and remaining broth and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the beans and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until butternut squash is cooked through and tender.
- For a thicker chili, stir in 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of masa harina or cornmeal toward the end of cooking.
- If you don’t have Mexican oregano, swap in Italian oregano.
Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate based on online calculators. Any nutritional information found on Stetted should be used as a general guideline only.
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