Hearty Vegan Pumpkin Chili

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Just in time for cool autumn nights, the coziest Vegan Pumpkin Chili! This plant-based chili delivers bold flavor, hearty texture, warm spice, & the perfect kick of heat. Plus, it's packed with autumnal flare, thanks to 3 layers of pumpkin. The ultimate pumpkin chili recipe! Perfect for weeknights or game day. Stovetop, slow cooker, & Instant Pot directions provided. Naturally vegetarian, vegan, & dairy-free.
A white, pumpkin-shaped bowl of vegan pumpkin chili, sits atop a white crocheted pot holder. A gold spoon sits in the chili, which is also topped with guacamole & sliced jalapeno. A second bowl of chili peeks into the top of the frame, along with a few cilantro leaves.

A Plant-Based Pumpkin Chili, made with 3 Layers of Pumpkin Goodness!

I don’t go crazy for all-things-pumpkin the way everyone on the internet seems to, but in the past few years, I’ve really grown to appreciate exploring pumpkin in savory dishes.

Pumpkin chili is one of my favorites. The bold & spicy flavor of a good chili makes for the perfect pairing to slightly sweet & mild pumpkin. Plus, you can bring in some warm pumpkin spices without things tasting too “pumpkin-spiced,” if you know what I mean.

& this pumpkin chili recipe is truly the ULTIMATE Pumpkin Chili. Yes, it’s that good, & it’s also made with 3 forms of pumpkin:

  • cubed sugar pumpkin for hearty texture
  • pumpkin puree for silky body
  • pumpkin beer for rich flavor

In other words, it’s a pumpkin chili that tastes like actual pumpkin.

A few other noteworthy things. This chili is:

  • hearty. We don’t do wimpy chili here at PWWB! Chili should be thick & hearty, not brothy & soup-like! Despite being 100% plant-based, this pumpkin chili delivers major heartiness & “meaty” texture from tons of veggies & walnuts.
  • pretty quick! Just like any chili recipe, there’s a bit of chopping involved, but the whole thing comes together in about 50 minutes or less. Perfect for weeknight cooking, & made even easier with a little prep!
  • & flexible as can be. You very easily can tailor this chili recipe to your liking based on what veggies you have on hand or how spicy you like things. Plus, you can make it on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or in your Instant Pot – directions for all 3 are in the Recipe Card, below.
Close up shot of spoonful of hearty pumpkin chili.

Totally cozy & comforting. Damn good & good for ya! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Vegan Pumpkin Chili recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

This Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili Recipe is filled with plant-based ingredients.

Fair warning – as is the case with most chili recipes, the ingredients list here is a lengthier one. It’s simply one of those dishes that requires lots of ingredients to build all of the different textures & depth of rich flavor that makes a chili recipe damn good. That said, aside from a little fresh produce, most of the ingredients you’ll need for this pumpkin chili recipe are most likely already in your pantry or on your spice rack!

Pumpkin chili ingredients arranged on a white surface: a bowl of walnuts, small sugar pumpkin, Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, jar of chipotle peppers, plate of chili spices, bowl of diced onions & garlic cloves, 2 jalapeno peppers, bowl of diced peppers, black beans & kidney beans in small white colander, 2 cans of crushed tomatoes.

Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

The key ingredients…

  • Pumpkin, of course! – This recipe calls for both canned pumpkin puree & cubed sugar pumpkin. The pumpkin puree adds silky body to the chili & the sugar pumpkin provides hearty bites of actual pumpkin that take this vegetarian pumpkin chili over the top.
  • Walnuts – The secret ingredient in this plant-based chili! Finely chopped walnuts add a wonderful “meatiness” & bite to the chili, while still keeping it 100% meat-free.
  • Beer – Beer is one of my favorite things to use in chili, as it adds a rich depth of flavor (especially important in building a meatless chili). Since this is pumpkin chili, I like to use pumpkin beer! A drier, earthier pumpkin beer will work best – stay away from the sweet stuff. We love New Holland’s Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, which is brewed with real pumpkin & warm spices like nutmeg & cinnamon.

Plus, a few chili staples:

  • Onion & garlic – Two go-to aromatics for building flavor in soups & stews.
  • PeppersBell pepper for its natural sweetness, jalapeno pepper for a kick of fruity heat, & chipotle pepper for its smokiness.
  • Chili spices – Namely, chili powder, cumin, & smoked paprika. I also love adding the littlest bit of cinnamon & nutmeg for a kiss of warmth. Plus, they complement the pumpkin beautifully!
  • Beans – I like a combination of black beans & kidney beans in this chili recipe. You could use one or the other, or any other beans you love.
  • Tomatoes Tomato paste, for its concentrated flavor, fire-roasted tomatoes for smokiness, & crushed tomatoes for body.
  • Pure maple syrup – Just the littlest bit to offset the heat of the peppers.
  • Vegetable stock or broth – Use the highest quality you can, whether homemade or store-bought. I love the Simply Nature Organic Vegetable Broth from ALDI.
Vegan pumpkin chili shown in 2 small white pumpkin-shaped bowls. The chili is topped with guacamole & sliced jalapeno. The bowls sit atop a white backdrop with a striped linen napkin, 2 gold spoons, a small bowl of pepita pumpkin seeds, & a few cilantro leaves.

Sugar pumpkin prep:

Not to be mistaken with carving pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are the cutie little pumpkins you’ll see at the grocery store this time of year (they’re also called “pie pumpkins” or “sweet pumpkins”). Sugar pumpkins are small in size, meaning their flesh is tender & less fibrous, & their flavor is nice & sweet. They’re great to cook with!

If you’ve never handled a sugar pumpkin before, know that prepping one is pretty similar to how you’d prep any other winter squash:

  1. Peel – First, use a Y-peeler to peel the pumpkin. Unlike a standard swivel peeler, the blade of a Y-peeler is attached to the handle from both sides, making it a lot easier to handle. These are the Y-peelers I use – $12 for a pack of 3!
  2. Halve & deseed – Carefully use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the pumpkin in half, then spoon the seeds out of the center of the pumpkin.
  3. Dice – Slice each half into wedges & dice into cubes. Easy!

Pumpkin might not be the first winter squash you’d grab to cook with, but once you give it a try, I know you’ll be hooked! If, for whatever reason, you cannot find sugar pumpkin, feel free to swap it out in this recipe for another winter squash you like; butternut would be my next pick.

How to make this Pumpkin Chili recipe:

With all of the ingredients prepped & ready to go, all that’s left to do is get cooking, & that’s where the ease comes in. This vegan pumpkin chili recipe is made in a single pot, start-to-finish, & it’s a pretty hands-off operation.

How to make Vegan Pumpkin Chili, Step 4: Pumpkin chili ingredients (veggies, beans, walnuts, pumpkin puree) shown in an orange, pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven. The pot sits atop a white surface.

Note: full Recipe Directions provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Soften the veggies: Add all the veggies to a pot, & cook until softened.
  2. Bloom the spices: Once the veggies are softened, add all of the aromatics & spices to the pot. Stir to coat the veggies with the spices, then let it cook for a few minutes. Do not rush this step – it’s important! The heat will draw out the flavor of the spices, making for a richer & more flavorful chili.
  3. Deglaze: Pour the beer into the pot. It’ll violently bubble & begin to reduce pretty quickly – that’s exactly what we want!
  4. Build & simmer: With the veggies, spices & aromatics well on their way, it’s time to build chili by adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot – tomatoes, beans, walnuts, broth, etc. Add everything in, give it a good stir, & simmer for about 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is fork-tender & the chili has thickened slightly.

That’s it! I told you – it’s pretty easy!

Chili FAQ: Can I make this pumpkin chili recipe in a slow cooker, Crockpot or Instant Pot?

Yes! This chili recipe is totally flexible! Based on how much time you have, you can definitely make it in a slow cooker or in the Instant Pot. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!

What to serve with your Vegan Pumpkin Chili – favorite chili toppings:

With your vegetarian pumpkin chili prepped & ready to go, next comes the fun part: serving! If you ask me, the best part of chili is ladling it into a bowl & piling it high with toppings.

A few of my favorite plant-based chili toppings:

  • Thinly sliced jalapeno
  • Finely diced red onion
  • Plenty of cilantro
  • Diced avocado (or a big ol’ dollop of guacamole!)
  • Vegan sour cream – we have an original, a chipotle version & a cilantro lime version. View all three recipes here on PWWB!
  • & mayyybe a handful of crushed tortilla chips. (You honestly can’t go wrong with crunchy tortilla chips!)
Vegan pumpkin chili shown in a white, pumpkin-shaped bowl. A woman's hands hold the bowl & a gold spoon, taking a spoonful of chili out of the bowl. The bowl sits atop a white surface, nestled next to a striped linen napkin. A second bowl of chili peeks into the top of the frame.

Totally hearty, totally cozy, totally plant-based! I can’t wait for you to try this vegan pumpkin chili recipe. It’s legit the ultimate pumpkin chili, & I know you’ll love it!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

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Pumpkin chili shown in orange, pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven. There is a large wooden ladle in the pot of chili. Chili is topped with chopped cilantro. The dutch oven sits atop a white surface with a striped blue linen napkin nestled aside it. Surrounding the pot are small white dishes with chili toppings - pepita pumpkin seeds, chopped cilantro, & sliced jalapeno.

Vegan Pumpkin Chili

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: serves 810 1x
  • Category: Soup, Stew, & Chili Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The ultimate pumpkin chili recipe! This vegan pumpkin chili is filled with bold flavor, hearty texture, warm spice, & the perfect kick of heat. Plus, it’s packed with autumnal flare, thanks to 3 – yes, three! – layers of pumpkin. 

Naturally vegetarian, vegan, & dairy-free. Slow cooker, & Instant Pot directions provided in the Recipe Notes, below. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 red (or orange, yellow) bell peppers, deseeded & diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, deseeded (as desired) & diced
  • 1 1.5-pound sugar pumpkin, peeled, deseeded & diced into 1/2-inch cubes (~23 cups diced, see Recipe Notes)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 12-ounce bottle beer of choice (see Recipe Notes)
  • 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or agave nectar)
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock/broth
  • coarse kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
 

Instructions

Pumpkin chili ingredients arranged on a white surface: a bowl of walnuts, small sugar pumpkin, Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, jar of chipotle peppers, plate of chili spices, bowl of diced onions & garlic cloves, 2 jalapeno peppers, bowl of diced peppers, black beans & kidney beans in small white colander, 2 cans of crushed tomatoes.

  1. Cook the veggies: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot & shimmering, add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, & diced sugar pumpkin. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes. How to make Vegan Pumpkin Chili, Step 1: Vegetables (onion, pepper, diced pumpkin) sauteeing in an orange, pumpkin shaped Dutch oven. The pot sits atop a white surface.
  2. Add the spices: Add the garlic, chipotle peppers, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cinnamon & tomato paste to the pot, stirring to coat the veggies. Cook for 2-3 minutes, to allow the spices to bloom.How to make Vegan Pumpkin Chili, Step 2: Toasting aromatics. Chili spices added to veggies in a pumpkin shaped Dutch oven. The pot sits atop a white surface.
  3. Deglaze: Slowly pour the beer into the pot, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil & allow the beer to reduce slightly. How to make Vegan Pumpkin Chili, Step 3: Deglazing the pumpkin chili veggies & spices with pumpkin beer - a woman's hand pours can of pumpkin beer into the pot. The pot sits atop a white surface.
  4. Build & simmer the chili: Add the chopped walnuts, maple syrup, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin puree, fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, & water or veggie stock/broth to the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the chili to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, allowing it to thicken slightly. Taste and season with additional salt or ground black pepper as needed. How to make Vegan Pumpkin Chili, Step 4: Pumpkin chili ingredients (veggies, beans, walnuts, pumpkin puree) shown in an orange, pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven. The pot sits atop a white surface.
  5. Serve: Ladle the chili in individual bowls & finish with toppings of choice – smashed avocado, chopped cilantro, cashew crema or shredded dairy-free cheese, crackers, etc. Enjoy! Pumpkin chili shown in orange, pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven. There is a large wooden ladle in the pot of chili. Chili is topped with chopped cilantro. The dutch oven sits atop a white surface with a striped blue linen napkin nestled aside it. Surrounding the pot are small white dishes with chili toppings - pepita pumpkin seeds, chopped cilantro, & sliced jalapeno.


Notes

  • Spiciness: As written, this chili recipe yields what I consider medium spiciness. If you’re less tolerant to heat, be sure to deseed the jalapeno pepper & scale back the chipotle or omit entirely & substitute with a few teaspoons of adobo (the sauce that canned chipotles are packaged with). 
  • Sugar pumpkin, also called “pie pumpkins” or “sweet pumpkins,” are small in size, with tender flesh, & sweet flavor. They’re great to cook with! If you’ve never handled a sugar pumpkin before, see the blog post, above, for prep tips. If you cannot find sugar pumpkin, feel free to swap it out with any other winter squash you love – butternut squash would be my top pick!
  • Beer is one of my favorite things to add to chili, as it adds a rich depth of flavor. Since this is pumpkin chili, I like to use pumpkin beer! A drier, earthier pumpkin beer will work best – stay away from the sweet stuff. We love New Holland’s Ichabod Pumpkin Ale, which is brewed with real pumpkin & warm spices like nutmeg & cinnamon.
  • Slow Cooker Instructions: To cook this vegan pumpkin chili recipe in the slow cooker, follow Steps 1-3 of Recipe Directions as written. Yes, it’s an extra pot to wash, but it makes a huge difference in the overall flavor of the chili! If your slow cooker has a browning/searing feature, feel free to complete Steps 1-3 right in the slow cooker! Transfer the veggies, spices & beer to the slow cooker along with the rest of the chili ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours, until the pumpkin is tender & the chili has thickened slightly. 
  • Instant Pot Instructions: To cook this vegan pumpkin chili recipe in the Instant Pot, set the Instant Pot to its Sauté mode. Complete Steps 1-3 of Recipe Directions in the Instant Pot. From there, build the chili according to Step 4. Cover and cook with manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Carefully use the quick release to release the steam from the pot. If you’d like your chili to be a little thinner, turn the Pot back on its Sauté mode. Cook, stirring occasionally until desired consistency is reached. 
  • Make-ahead, Storage, & Freezing: Chili is the perfect make-ahead meal since its flavors develop & meld as it sits! This vegan pumpkin chili will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. You can also freeze this chili for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight & reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep: Almost all of the prep work involved in this recipe is chopping the veggies. Chop them all in advance, storing in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to prep your soup, all you have to do is get cooking – seriously so easy!:
    • Dice 1 large yellow onion
    • Deseed & dice 2 bell peppers
    • Deseed & dice 2 jalapeno peppers
    • Peel, deseed & dice a 1.5-pound sugar pumpkin into 1/2-inch cubes

Keywords: vegan pumpkin chili, soup, stew & chili recipes, easy, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, healthy, hearty

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Soup Season = the BEST Season! More Must-Try Vegan Soup & Stew Recipes:

Love Plant-Based Everything? You HAVE to try these PWWB Faves!:

Pumpkin chili shown in orange, pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven. There is a large wooden ladle in the pot of chili. Chili is topped with chopped cilantro. The dutch oven sits atop a white surface with a striped blue linen napkin nestled aside it. Surrounding the pot are small white dishes with chili toppings - pepita pumpkin seeds, chopped cilantro, & sliced jalapeno.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 10.27.20
    Lauren said:

    Made this last night and like all of Jess’s vegan recipes it doesn’t disappoint at all. It was so hearty and perfect chili flavor. My meat loving husband loved it and was so excited for leftovers. Great meal on a cold snowing Colorado night.