It’s uber cozy and full of spice-filled goodness! No, it’s not a cookie or cake. It’s my black bean and squash chili loaded with chunks of chicken.
The best and worst recipe to write is one for chili. Let me explain why: no matter what, nothing will ever live up to the memory of your favorite chili. For me, the best chili recipe is the ground beef variety my mom still makes. It’s nothing fancy, with hardly any spice, just pure Midwestern goodness.
It always seems to occur that the best recipe for chili is the next one I read. I could pick up one cookbook, find a brand new recipe, and think that I’ve stumbled upon the epitome of chili. Set that cookbook down, pick up another, and boom! Say hello to an even better chili!
I cook from my garden, which means I cook by the seasons. If it’s popping up in the garden, it’s also popping up on my plate. Fall on the farm brings an abundance of squash. I grow all types: butternut, kabocha, acorn, delicata, and Canadian crookneck. Each has subtle differences in flavor, but each can easily be used in place of the other.
Why is there squash in this chili?
Since squash is plentiful, it’s super satisfying to work it into as many dishes as possible, including this chili. The squash acts as a quasi-meat, adding a heartiness that marries well with the dish’s actual protein – chicken. And since squash has such a versatile flavor profile, their sweetness complements the more complex aspects of the soup.
There are unending chili varieties out there (including my own vegetarian variety), and since I’m always in the mood for this soup, the world is my (chili) oyster. It always comes down to what to put in the chili.
Ask ten different people how they make chili and you’ll get ten different answers. While there are innumerable recipes, thankfully a few components are always constant:
- chili powder
- tomato base
Constant one: chili powder
Any jarred variety of chili powder will do. You can get caught up in the nuances of private label varieties or make your own from dried chilis. Instead, I just like any jarred variety.
Constant two: tomato base
Is it even considered a chili without any tomato? I often use my home canned tomato purée. Whether purchased or home-canned, tomato purée adds that rich tomato base that’s crucial.
Constant three: beans
Growing up, my mom used canned chili beans. While they can work in a pinch, dried beans add so much more texture and flavor. Instead of soft and tasteless beans, cooking dried beans will produce a bean that stands out and is a star.
This may not be the everyday chili you’re used to, but I think you’ll enjoy adding this to your rotation!
Watch how to make this squash chili recipe:
Black Bean & Squash Chili
- 1 cup dried black beans
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ cups diced carrots
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano, crushed
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 cup chopped poblano pepper (or pepper of choice)
- 2 cups diced winter squash
- 3 cups tomato purée
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- To the beans, add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beans are tender and creamy, about 30-45 minutes.
- While the beans are cooking, in an 8-quart stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and salt. Saute until softened and translucent, 3-5 minutes.
- Add cumin, Mexican oregano, and chili powder. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add chopped pepper, tomato purée, and squash. If the mixture seems thick, add ½ cup water. Bring it to a simmer.
- Add the chicken breasts by nestling them into the soup. Cover and cook.
- While the chicken is cooking, check the beans. When they're tender, add the beans and their cooking liquid to the chili with the chicken. Stir and continue to cook until the squash is easily pierced with a knife, and the chicken registers 160°F.
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the chili, and shred it with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back to the chili.
- Serve the chili hot with sliced avocado, cilantro, sour cream, or anything else desired.