I know pumpkin in your chili might be a leap, especially when other odd ingredients are involved, including bulgur wheat and cocoa. Who really thinks to put these things together? You’ll have to trust me on this one! Chocolate, squash, bean, and grains were all treasured in the  Aztec culture! If it was good enough for the 12th Century, it’s good enough for me!

And that’s how recipes go in my home…typically rooted in Mexican culture, because I love this flavorful influence, and then I start putting together foods that I know pair well. Again, you’ll have to take my word for it, pumpkin and chocolate really DO go well together!

What better season to experiment with pairing the hearty, grounding comfort of pumpkin with the sweet undertones of cacao, and the creamy goodness of beans? Each of the spices in this chili blend uniquely with the cacao to give depth and richness.

Whether you appreciate the Aztec influence or my gourmand-want-to-be editorials, you’ll at least appreciate that your bowl of chili serves up a spoonful (or more!) of health and nutrition. I’ve omitted beef from the equation and subbed in my favorite alternate: bulgur wheat, although this one hails from the Roman empire! Packed with protein/amino acids, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, bulgur wheat is a perfect addition to any meal. Its low glycemic index and high fiber content slow down the sugar absorption to fight diabetes/high blood sugar and promote good heart health as well as digestion, and its texture closely resembles ground beef, minus the inflammatory properties.

And, then there’s the pumpkin itself, which in light of the cacao and bulgur wheat is suddenly the afterthought. But don’t underestimate this beauty! Rich in vitamins, antioxidants (carotenoids), fiber, zinc, potassium, iron, pumpkin supports your heart health, cholesterol levels, glowing skin, effective eye health, improved sleep, even increased immunity and fertility!

Why not put all this goodness together into one warming soup, ideal for a fast fix with visiting Holiday guests or just an easy Friday evening this fall. Once more, if the Aztecs could do it, so can you!

PUMPKIN CHILI, serves 6-8

AUTHOR: Kristen Tinker


  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz can Chickpeas or Northern White Beans
  • 14 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup pumpkin, pureed
  • 2 ounces chopped green chiles
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin (more to taste)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp raw cacao (do not use Hershey’s…this is unsweetened raw, the real deal- unprocessed)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • GARNISHES: lime juice and lime wedges; toasted and salted pumpkin seeds


Warm avocado oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute diced onions until golden brown, adding garlic in the last 30 seconds until fragrant. Do not overcook! Add remaining ingredients and allow to simmer until flavors are blended. Add water or broth to thin soup.

Serve warm and garnish with limes wedges for squeezing along with pumpkin seeds for an added, salty crunch.

** Best served if chili has simmered for a bit or allowed to cool overnight in fridge and reheated. This allows the flavors to intensify. Note the chili wil thicken and you’ll want to add liquid to thin.

** The Chipotle Chili powder provides a slightly spicy kick. For more subtle flavors, use only chili powder.