Add that extra “WOW” to your chili with the addition of pumpkin plus the reveal of two super-secret ingredients that will make your chili fantabulous!
So let me start off by saying the following:
- No you do not taste the pumpkin in the chili.
- The addition of pumpkin does NOT make the chili sweet.
- No your chili does not taste like pumpkin pie – seriously?
- Be adventurous.
- Is it necessary to add the pumpkin? Do I really have to add it?
Let me address the last one. Yes it’s necessary but no you really don’t have to (wuss). I mean obviously leave it out if you’re allergic to it though that’s new to me. So why add it? The addition of pumpkin puree adds that umami flavor to the chili.
“Umami? That sounds like some funky fish in the ocean!” So the easiest way to describe it is do you remember growing up you were taught about the 4 tastes – sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. You can easily close your eyes and think of a food for each taste. Well Umami is a Japanese-coined name for a fifth taste.
Umami is hard to honestly explain but once you taste it, you’ll know. Did you ever have a dish that was just so rich, well-rounded that literally not one more thing needed to be added to it; it was already perfect? That Umami. Umami isn’t something you buy in the spice aisle or a single ingredient. It’s the addition of an ingredient that makes a dish savory. It could be anchovies, beef, tomatoes, soy sauce, and the list goes on.
Now I’ve been making my standard chili recipes for decades. I make it spicy for me and “normal” for Mr. Fantabulous. This recipe kind of just ‘happened’ because I figured ‘why not?’ while I was making pumpkin cookies. You see my cookie recipe only called for part of the pumpkin puree can. As they were cooking I decided to whip up a batch of chili. You see it was our first ‘cold’ day in Pittsburgh and I had that initial chill-to-the-bone. Since I had all of the ingredients on hand I decided to go with that.
As the onions were cooking I saw that I had half of a can of the pumpkin puree leftover. And since I really didn’t want to put another bowl of something in the fridge only to have it end up in the back only to die a slow death because I forgot about it. We’ve all done it; admit it. So that being said, I dumped the puree into the pot with the rest of the ingredients. As it started to saute, the smell was incredible. I just knew it was going to be amazing!
So let’s talk about the reveal…
If you want a well-balanced chili where, when folks eat it, it’ll drive them nuts trying to figure out that je ne sais quoi flavor. It’s like they know there’s something different in there and they want to know what it is but they are so in love with the flavor that all they really care about is eating more and more! My secrets – cinnamon and cocoa powder. Yes, cinnamon and cocoa in chili. Cinnamon adds a warm spice profile that hits the back of your throat. The cocoa adds a rich and roundness to the batch. Cocoa adds a dark bitters note. Trust me on this folks. My red chili will always have these 2 ingredients in it.
Okay, let’s dish about the taste…
FANFRIGGENTASTIC! Seriously it took my killer chili that I’ve been making decades to a whole new level that honestly I didn’t think was possible. But the true test – Mr. Fantabulous. The man is a ridiculous food critic and I love that! He’s brutally honest. Now when I make chili I rarely serve it that day. I find, like lasagna, it’s always better the next day. Well it so happened the next day my girlfriend, Jen, stopped by in the afternoon. I pulled out some chili to make us lunch. Now I did tell her what was in it and she was excited to try it. Mr. Fantabulous I said nothing as honestly, if I told him there was pumpkin in it he would have said “Nope, not trying it. Why did you ruin something already perfect.” LOL He’s so precious at times. LOL
Anyway, 3 huge bowls were served and Jen and I were raving about it. She kept saying “OMG this is so good! I can’t believe this has pumpkin in it! I can’t wait for the recipe!” As Mr. Fantabulous ate his he stopped a few times and as he chewed, he actually closed his eyes to savor the flavor. When he was almost done I asked, “So, what did you think?” He said, “It’s different than your normal stuff. What did you change?” I said, “You first, did you like it or not?” He just said, “Honey this was the best chili you’ve ever made; the best I’ve ever had. It just tasted complete if that makes sense.”
I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. I said “that flavor is Umami which came from pumpkin.” “PUMPKIN??? You put pumpkin in chili???” I just giggled. All he said when he walked away was “Who in the world would think to put pumpkin in chili? Oh, I know who, my wife the mad scientist! KEEP THAT RECIPE!!!”
So seriously guys, try this. It’s such an incredible, well-rounded, chili that stepped up my chili game in a big way! But now when it comes to chili – what do you serve with yours? For me I’ll about my Sweet Honey Butter Corn Bread!
- 1 pound ground beef (80-20)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 1 red pepper, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (can use less if desired)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (with juice)
- 40.5 ounce can of kidney beans (undrained)
- 12 ounces pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 1/2 Tbl chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 Tbl dutch cocoa
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4–1/2 tsp cayenne (per your liking)
- Oyster crackers
- Green onion
- Shredded cheddar
- Sour cream
- In a heavy bottomed pan over low heat, add the ground meat, 1 tsp of salt and water. Cook it low and slow. As you cook, use a potato masher or wooden spoon to stir and break up the pieces. When done, drain the liquid and set the meat aside.
- Place the pot back on the stove, put the heat to medium, and add the olive oil to the pan. When the olive oil shimmers add the onion and peppers, sautéing for 5 minutes or until the onions soften and start to turn translucent.
- To the pot add the tomatoes, juice, beans (with liquid), pumpkin puree, rest of the seasonings and spices plus the beef. Stir to combine and bring to a slow boil.
- Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and partially place a lid on top. Cook for an hour stirring every 15/20 minutes.
- Remove the lid, stir and taste for seasoning.
- Serve with chopped green onions, shredded cheddar, sour cream and oyster crackers if desired.
- Refrigerate the rest or allow to cool completely prior to packaging up for freezer meals.
Chili always, always tastes better the second day! You do not taste the pumpkin in the recipe. Instead it adds another level of flavor complexity to the dish giving it a must richer, deeper flavor.
Items Used in this Recipe: