My friends are on their way over for an impromptu Fall Game Night and I have to whip something up and straighten up the house in the next 30 minutes...
It’s amazing how often I find myself in that situation! Thankfully I make a lot of chili in the fall and so I have a few tricks up my sleeve…
For this pumpkin chili challenge, my ten ingredients are:
1. pie pumpkin
2. frozen onions
3. frozen peppers
4. frozen corn
5. vegetarian sausage
6. ground cumin
8. enchilada sauce
10. Greek yogurt
vegetable oil, salt + pepper (“free” ingredients)
I always have a freezer full of chili starters. I’m not sure if it’s because as soon as the weather cools, I like to cozy up, which makes a trip to the store seem impossible. Or do I make a lot of chili because my freezer and pantry are always full of the ingredients?
Either way, the frozen vegetables aren’t quite as delicious as fresh, but they work pretty well and make the process way faster!
I wish I’d had the frozen package that combines onions and peppers, but sadly I didn’t and so the onions and peppers count as two ingredients.
I used a veggie sausage because we keep a vegetarian home, but feel free to make the recipe with chicken or pork sausage.
Veggie-friendly or traditional, it all starts the same way—browning the sausage in vegetable oil (FYI, reduce the oil amount by three-quarters if you are using pork sausage).
When you add the vegetables, the water content will help soften up any bits of sausage that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Those little bits are DELICIOUS.
And so when making my chili, here is where the recipe went haywire: I saw this cute little pie pumpkin at the farmers market and was seduced into buying it to use for this challenge…
It’s cute and oh-so-fall-like, but it takes a bit of time to break down a pumpkin—or any squash for that matter.
To keep myself a bit less stressed, I could have chosen a different form of pumpkin.
After I split the pumpkin and cleaned out the seeds, I started peeling it. This was when I realized my plan to dice and then roast the pumpkin pieces was going to be a real hassle.
So I threw that baby in the microwave! Once it was soft, I was able to just use a melon baller to scoop the meat of the pumpkin out.
I love using tomatillos in chili, but in an attempt to add a ton of flavor extra fast, I went with enchilada sauce.
But tomatillo salsa would also definitely work. And both count as only one ingredient!
I used white kidney beans, but Great Northern beans would also be fine.
The second time I tested this recipe, I used frozen roasted delicata squash. It wasn’t as flavorful as the fresh pumpkin, but it did add a nice texture and some roasted notes.
For my third attempt at this recipe, I bought the cleaned and diced butternut squash that’s found in the produce section of most grocery stores. I microwaved it and it was quick and delicious. However, it was NOT pumpkin and so not a total solve for this pumpkin–specific challenge.
Any winter squash you end up using will really add that fall feeling to your chili. I opted for sage in place of the paprika you find in most traditional chilis, and was delighted to learn that sage and cumin work surprisingly well together—and reinforce that cozy, warm feeling.
Along with the sage, I served this chili up with Greek yogurt.
The total time was 30 minutes with the fresh pumpkin, and it was even quicker with the frozen squash.
I am happy to report that it’s a fast meal to make, and it had just enough twists to surprise and delight my hungry friends while we tried out some obscure vintage board games.
Also, full disclosure, I made this a BYO cocktails gathering, and told my friend Robert to pick up some brownies—because I ran out of ingredients this week!
Sausage + Pumpkin Chili
servings: 4 to 6; makes 8 cups
- 1 small pie pumpkin or 1½ cups diced squash
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- One 14-ounce package veggie sausage (or 1 pound of chicken or pork sausage)
- 1 cup frozen diced onions
- 1 cup frozen sliced peppers
- ¾ cup frozen charred corn
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus more for a garnish (or 1 teaspoon dried sage, plus more for a garnish)
- Two 15-ounce cans beans
- One 15-ounce can tomatillo enchilada sauce (the spicier the better!)
- Greek yogurt, for a garnish
- Clean the pumpkin and cut it in half. Microwave each half on high on a plate cut-side-down, adding a couple of tablespoons of water so the pumpkin steams; depending on the size of the pumpkin this will take 6 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a five-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage, breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook the sausage until it is browned—about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the onions, pepper, and corn, and cook for 2 minutes more. Any bits suck to the bottom of the pan will start to release as you stir in the vegetables.
- Add the cumin and the 1 tablespoon of sage, stirring to incorporate. Then add the beans, 2 cups of water, and the enchilada sauce. Stir all ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- When the pumpkin is tender, use a melon baller to scoop out the “meat.” Drop the pumpkin into the chili; you want to add about 1 to 2 cups of pumpkin “meat.”
- Cook until the liquid reduces just a bit and the flavors have a chance to mingle—5 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- To serve, divide into bowls and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of sage.