Easy pumpkin chili made with ground beef in the slow cooker. Paleo approved and can be modified to be vegetarian. You can even add black beans for extra protein! Get the delicious pumpkin flavor from canned pumpkin or make your own homemade pumpkin puree!
Two weeks ago I woke up with a hankering for pumpkin – BAD!
The #pumpkineverything season is upon us, and I’m fully embracing it.
While desserts are usually what I think of when I think of pumpkin (like pumpkin cookies!), you can totally go savory – and that’s exactly what this pumpkin chili does.
It’s the goodness of pumpkin with a smidgen of spices, combined with all things delicious you normally find in chili. It’s a dinner your whole family – and pocketbook! – will love.
But first, a little known fact: My husband doesn’t like ground beef.
I grew up eating ground beef in burgers, casseroles, meatloaf… you know, all the good stuff that you put ground beef in.
But all that ground beef goodness stopped when I met my husband because he’s a texture guy. As much as he WANTS to love hamburgers on the grill or anything else made with ground meat, he just can’t do it.
Naturally, I didn’t buy ground beef for several years. As a consequence, my kids didn’t eat ground beef for several years.
In fact, their first experience was eating hamburgers at my parents’ house.
As it turns out though, they love it!
Now that my husband is outnumbered in the ground beef battle, I’m looking for great deals and upping my ground beef game. (These Italian meatballs are a hit for sure.)
I know I have some catching up to do, and I spent much of this past summer testing my go-to hamburger recipe so that I’m armed and ready when next summer comes.
Update: You can find the BEST burger recipe HERE!
Now, with temperatures turning a bit cooler, it’s time to put away the burgers and bring out the slow cooker. Hello soups, stews, and chili!
And since I’m on the pumpkin train too, I figured, why not combine both for an amazing pumpkin chili?
What goes in Pumpkin chili?
While there are many important players in this great recipe, I think there is one, in particular, that will either make or break this awesome pumpkin chili: ground beef.
In my recipe testing, I found that ground beef offered the most savory of flavors. I surely didn’t want to make pumpkin chili that tasted like pumpkin pie spice… and in order to do that, you need savory.
I get my ground beef from Butcher Box. They have great tasting grass-fed ground beef and an exclusive offer for Crumbs readers: Right now get 2 lbs of ground beef + bacon + $10 off your first order with Butcher Box!
- Ground Beef. Like I just said, ground beef is important. You COULD substitute ground turkey or chicken, but the poultry flavors are so light that it doesn’t give you the right savory punch.
- Spices. You use a good variety of spices including cinnamon in this pumpkin chili. The key to making your dish super delicious is cooking the spices in with the beef as it browns. Don’t skip this step.
- Onions, Bell Peppers, and Tomatoes. Basic chili staples in my book.
- Pumpkin Puree. We use a whole can of pumpkin puree in this chili. You can make your own if you plan on making lots of pumpkin dishes this fall!
How to Make Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
Let’s talk about this pumpkin chili, shall we?
- First, you are going to brown your ground beef, and spices together on medium-high heat. I like to use my cast-iron skillet. Once browned, put your meat and spices in the slow cooker.
- Then saute the peppers and onions in the same pan until the onions are soft. Add to the slow cooker. (I have this one.)
- Add the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
- Serve with macaroni and cheddar cheese if desired.
To make this recipe on the stovetop, follow steps 1-2 in a large a pot. Then add the rest of your ingredients and let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Want to make this recipe in an Instant Pot? Use these tips!
How to Serve Pumpkin Chili
My original concept for this dish included pasta (pictured above), but to be honest, this chili is REALLY good without the macaroni. So good, I decided to share this recipe (mostly) without it.
But since you usually serve chili with SOMETHING, feel free to serve with macaroni. It’s an easy way to make it a one-pot type of meal.
Related post: Cheesy-Mexi Chili Mac – a super frugal pantry meal!
Or you can skip the mac and have a typical topping bar ready – sour cream, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sliced green onions. Put your slow cooker on the table (I have this 6-quart slow cooker with a “warm” function) and serve with a bag of tortilla chips to call dinner done.
If you’re feeling fancy, make some skillet cornbread. But truly, this pumpkin chili can stand on its own two feet. Feel free to double the recipe if you feel the need when hosting company. This meal is excellent for feeding a crowd!
What does pumpkin chili taste like?
This crock-pot pumpkin chili tastes like pumpkin. My reasoning is, if I’m MAKING pumpkin chili, then I want to TASTE pumpkin in the chili.
In my chili research though, I found lots of pumpkin chili recipes that specifically claimed the pumpkin adds a creamy texture and that you can’t really taste it.
Say what? What’s the point then? That’s not how pumpkin chili goes in my book!
Heads-up pumpkin haters, you can taste the pumpkin in this chili. My family, however, loved this chili.
This is not your typical chili.
As I mentioned, I made a few types of pumpkin chili while working on this recipe, and most of them say to add a can of pumpkin to a black bean/kidney bean/corn type of chili. In fact, that’s exactly what one pumpkin turkey chili recipe suggested.
Please don’t do this. This DOES NOT make for good pumpkin chili.
You will waste the can of pumpkin and end up with some version of a “typical” chili that doesn’t quite taste the same as it should.
If you want a good pumpkin chili, you need a pumpkin chili recipe. Hence, today’s post.
This pumpkin chili is a super cheap dinner!
One of the strategies I teach in my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp is to focus more on meals that cost less, and less on meals that cost more. If you buy ground beef on clearance and pumpkin when it’s in season, this makes for a SUPER cheap meal year-round!
More Slow Cooker Recipes
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced (any color, I used green)
- 1-15.25 oz can diced tomatoes with juices
- 1-15 oz can pumpkin puree
- 3 oz tomato paste (1/2 6 oz can) OR 15-16 oz tomato sauce
- ½ - 1 cup beef stock or water
- 4 oz macaroni noodles, cooked (optional)
- 4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
- Optional Topping Bar*
sour cream, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sliced green onions
- In a cast-iron skillet or similar heavy bottom pan, brown the ground beef with the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat until the beef is no longer pink, breaking up large pieces as necessary.
- When the beef is cooked, scrape it into a large slow cooker (I use this 6 qt slow cooker). Add the onions and peppers to the skillet and cook until the vegetables start to soften. Next, add the cooked vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Add the tomatoes with juices, pumpkin puree, and tomato paste/sauce to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. A longer cook time will need additional liquid to prevent burning or drying out, so add liquid as necessary.
- Serve with cooked macaroni noodles and cheddar cheese if desired.