Chocolate Pumpkin Chili (Low Carb and Gluten Free)

Chili has always been a staple in my diet, ever since I was a kid. We lived on a farm when I was little, and I can remember my mother making huge batches of Texas-style chili to feed all of us, including some of the farmhands. I love the typical beef and bean chili, but it was something of a revelation to discover that there were other ways of making it. As an archaeological intern in Colorado, I visited some of the pueblo feast dances and was fed “real chili”, a thin green or red broth with small chunks of cubed pork, so spicy it would burn my mouth. The chili I had known growing up was considered “gringo chili”. And I was slightly horrified the first time I heard of chocolate chili, but one bite convinced me how wonderful chocolate could be in savoury dishes. It must be a measure of how far I’ve come with regards to chili, since the idea of putting pumpkin in chili didn’t phase me one little bit.

The idea of putting BOTH chocolate and pumpkin together in a chili came to me a few months ago. I was at a Boston Food Bloggers event back in September, hosted at Healthy Habits Kitchen. Healthy Habits is a new sort of food service in Wellesley, MA, that offers semi-prepared healthy meal kits for busy families. They also host food assembly parties, where private groups can take over their kitchen to put together freezer-friendly meals and enjoy a complimentary dinner in their lounge. It’s such an interesting idea, and I was certainly impressed by the execution of the meal kits during our tour. We were invited to bring our own wine and to taste several of the meals while we were there.

Their menu changes seasonally, and the fall menu contained both a Chocolate Chili and a Pumpkin Turkey Chili. Somehow, these two ideas fused in my head and I kept thinking about how to bring them together. Since I’d never made either, I had to do my research to figure out exactly what I wanted. I knew early on that I didn’t want pumpkin puree, as I thought that would get rather lost in the mix with the strength of the chocolate flavour. So I had to buy a pie pumpkin and roast it, so I could have nice cubes of pumpkin in the chili. I also found that most chocolate chili recipes contained both cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. A lot of them also contained sugar, but there wasn’t going to be any of that in my version, of course, and I really didn’t think it was necessary. I wanted some heat in mine, so I added some jalapeno and chili powder. But as I tasted, I knew it needed some spice that would complement the chocolate, so I added a touch of chipotle powder and cinnamon.

The Results: This is such a great variation on your typical chili, and it has a smoky, chocolatey flavour with a touch of sweetness from the pumpkin. It’s certainly hearty and rich, though, and I found it quite filling. I skipped adding any beans, because they add carbs, but you could certainly add some in the final stages of simmering to stretch it out more.

I had worried that the pumpkin chunks would become mushy when simmered for a while like that, but they didn’t. They were soft but retained their shape nicely and made for a chunkier dish, which I really enjoyed, especially in the absence of any beans.

Chocolate Pumpkin Chili

1 small pie pumpkin
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1 lb lean ground beef
2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 400F and brush a baking sheet or ceramic baking dish with oil.

Cut pumpkin into 8 wedges and scrape out pulp and seeds. Brush wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until soft, then remove the skin and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and chipotle powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink, 7 to 9 minutes, breaking up clumps with the back of a wooden spoon.

Stir in the pumpkin, canned tomatoes, water, cocoa powder, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Add chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

Serves 6. Each serving has a total of 15.6 g of carbs and 5.6 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 10 g.

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  1. Pumpkin chili! What a brilliant recipe, looks delicious and I love your presentation! :)

  2. Wow, how interesting! I've never had pumpkin or chocolate in my chili, but since I enjoy chocolate in a spicy setting, I bet this would be right up my alley. Great recipe, thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Well, you've got me interested — I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin (except as a Jack o Lantern), but chocolate, chili and I go way back…and you make it look insanely delicious! Theresa

  4. Wow, looks great! I will really need to try this. I have never really thought of combining pumpkin and chilli together, but it actually looks great!


  5. @Cain I made a pumpkin and chilli cake at halloween, it's great!

  6. I wondered how you'd get past the beans thing and the pumpkin is a great idea. Strange as it sounds, I do like chocolate in savory goods. It changes flavor and is so, so rich and delicious. This looks perfect for a cold fall day after raking leaves. :)

  7. Who can resist a hot bowl of this!! Hearty and satisfying!

  8. This looks fantastic Carolyn!!! I'd love a bowl of this chili today (brrr it's cold). Thank you for sharing!

  9. This chili is gorgeous and calling my name.

  10. I am craving a bowl of this gorgeous chili. Love the addition of cocoa and pumpkin. I know cocoa adds such a rich element to chilis. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe for the cooler days.:)

  11. This is completely new to me..never had this kind of combo and now you got me wondering!:)) Looks fantastic! Buzz ya of course!:)

  12. I was just thinking I'd make some chili tonight. This looks great, and I've been wondering what to do with the little pumpkin on my counter. I'll be making this with venison. Thanks for the recipe.

  13. I could definitely do with a bowl of this. Looks yummy!
    I make a chorizo dish which requires cocoa powder in it,which you cannot really taste but gives it this rich color.

  14. I love spicy food too..but chocolate pumpkin chilli? That's something new to me. It looks really tempting and I want to try too!

  15. This sounds perfect. I've never had chili with either ingredient, but I can imagine it must be good. The chocolate especially…
    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Carolyn!

  16. RavieNomNoms says:

    What an interesting recipe! This is just perfect for this time of year. The warmth of the chili and the pumpkin and chocolate flavor. I am intrigued! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  17. I must admit, I've never tried chocolate in a savoury dish before. It does sound intriguing, though… I'd love to give it a try.

  18. What an interesting combination of flavors. I love the use of pumpkin in anything savory. Great idea. :) I have never tried chocolate in chili (but I know it works well from what I hear). I must give it a go.

  19. What a stunning combination!! This chili sounds so hearty.

  20. sounds great, love chocolate in savory dishes :)

  21. Oh, this looks marvelous! I think I'd have to shred the pumpkin to get it past the suspicious family…but I love the additions of both the pumpkin and chocolate :)

  22. This is really incredible. Truly inspired Carolyn. You make such amazing food. Sure wish I lived closer. I'd be popping by conveniently at dinner all the time.

  23. I love the addition of the chocolate and the pumpkin in your chili. I wouldn't miss the beans, either. It looks so good. My husband puts Mexican chocolate in his chili, but that has sugar in it. It does add another layer of flavor.thanks for sharing!

  24. I love adding chocolate to chili – a riff on the classic mole dishes of Mexico!! The addition of pumpkin I am sure is fabulous and a great substitute for beans!! Fabulous dish all around and I can't wait to make it!

  25. My dad grew up in New Mexico, so I grew up hating chili because it always burned all the way down my throat! It wasn't until much later in life I learned there were so many other ways of eating it. I've never tried one with chocolate, but I like chocolate in everything else, so why not?!

  26. I love to make chili every Sunday, definitely adding this to the Fall line up!

  27. gerryspeirs says:

    I think it's genuis! Now it's got me thinking how else chilli can be adapted….After all theres so many quality chocolate bars around now spiced with chipotle or other spice.
    Take care..

  28. Very interessting combination of flavoures. I agree chocolate and chilli r a must try, I hadnt thought of adding pumpkin to the combi. I d love to try out your dish, your food photographie is giving me an appetite

  29. I'm totally intrigued! This sounds so yummy. I'm crazy about pumpkin in savory dishes anyway so this dish would fit right in on our table :)

  30. I love the combination of chocolate and chile. And, fyi, Trader Joe's sells bags of peeled and cubed sweet potato or butternut squash, ready for roasting, and I think either would work well in this recipe.

  31. What an unusual but delicious sounding chili recipe – I've never had chili with pumpkin or chocolate in it. Love the extra step you did in terms of roasting the pumpkin yourself instead of stirring in canned pureed pumpkin – I think the texture and flavor must have been well worth it.

  32. Chili is one of my favorite comfort foods and I absolutely love your spin on it!

  33. Tina@flourtrader says:

    Great idea adding pumpkin to this spicy chili! Like you, I would have thought the pumpkin would break down into mush-cool that those big chunks remain. Awesome ingredient list for this chili-yum!

  34. Just gorgeous. I love a touch of chocolate in my Mexican- it just makes it that little bit sexier. This looks stunning. Thank you!

  35. I really appreciate the idea of swapping lower-carb pumpkin for the beans. I'm going to try this, thanks Carolyn!

  36. familyspice says:

    I've heard of Chocolate Mole so why not Chocolate Chili? And what's wrong with gringo chili??? ha! ha! Haven't grown up in Texas, attended the University of Arizona, and now residing in San Diego, I've never heard of gringo chili?!

  37. food_dreamer says:

    I adore \”gringo chili\”, but it's nice to know there are other kinds of chili to enjoy too! ;)

    PS – I did grad school at ASU…guess we can't be friends, lol.


    Blog: All Day I Dream About Food

  38. Jeanne @ says:

    From one fellow chilli love to another…this is a combination I CANNOT pass up. Looks like my guests tomorrow night will be my guinea pigs–thanks for sharing your creativity.

  39. I've heard of chocolate in chili and pumpkin in chili, but never both! What a great, filling chili that doesn't need any carbs to go with it to still be satisfying. Great recipe!

  40. food_dreamer says:

    Let me know how they like it!


    Blog: All Day I Dream About Food

  41. I've seen many pumpkin recipes this fall, but none quite as unique as this :) Wonderful idea!

  42. Well, now I wish I went to that event just to meet YOU! Someday, my friend :) The chili sounds delicious!

  43. I think I am the first person to comment who actually made the chili. It sounded great, and easy to boot. I was really loving it until the end. I added the 2 oz of unsweetened chocolate and it seems all wrong. I'm afraid my husband will hate it. Either 2 oz is way too much or it should be sweetened. I've made chocolate chili before… This just doesn't taste good. The unsweetened choc killed all the other nice flavors.

  44. Update: he couldn't eat it. I really wanted to like it. Tasted like sludge.

  45. Chili and chocolate sounds really interesting. This is something I will have try!

  46. food_dreamer says:

    I am so sorry you did not enjoy this. I loved it, but then, tastes differ. And as a diabetic, my taste for sweets has evolved, I find many things with sugar too sweet now. Could you perhaps add some sugar to it to make it to your liking?


    Blog: All Day I Dream About Food

  47. food_dreamer says:

    To each his own. I really liked it. But thanks for your input.


    Blog: All Day I Dream About Food

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