Mar 6, 2011

Black bean chili with butternut squash

It’s remarkable how much variety there can be just within the world of vegetarian chili. The last one I posted was dark and smoky, with chipotles, beer, and chocolate. This black bean chili is brighter and slightly sweet, but still has the requisite ass-kicking spiciness. And I love the way the butternut squash and the black beans play off each other – both color and flavor-wise.

I made this with seitan and loved it, but if you want a firmer texture, you can use a vegetarian beef product. I don’t often go for the soy-based fake meat stuff, but Lightlife’s Mexican-flavor “Smart Ground” works really well here. Or you can leave it out altogether – the beans and squash are the real stars of this chili.

The better the ingredients you use for this chili, the better it will be. Grind your own cumin seeds, use pure chile powders and track down Mexican oregano and you’ll achieve black bean chili supremacy. I used Rancho Gordo’s Midnight Black beans, and I’m sure that didn’t hurt, either. Of course, that’s not to say it won’t still be delicious with regular ol’ ground cumin, chili powder and oregano. It’s just a matter of how crazy you want to get (me, I’m on the crazy end of the chili scale.)

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

1 pound black beans, soaked overnight (or use the quick soak method)
2 tablespoons organic canola oil or high-oleic safflower oil
2 medium-large yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 jalapeno peppers, minced
8 ounces minced seitan, or a 12-ounce package of vegetarian ground beef (see note above)
3 tablespoons chili powder (I used 2 tablespoons of ancho and 1 New Mexican)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups chopped butternut squash (1/2-inch cubes)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put the black beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.

Heat the oil in another heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions, garlic, poblanos, bell peppers and jalapenos and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetarian beef or seitan along with all the spices, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the tomatoes, butternut squash and 4 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid. Cook for 8 minutes, then add the black beans and cook until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust as you’d like. (At this point, chili can be cooled then refrigerated until the next day – it will be even better then.) Stir in cilantro and serve.

Serves 6, with leftovers

Other recipes you might like: Smoky and Spicy Vegetarian Chili

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See more recipes: Entrees, Gluten-free, Soups and stews, Vegan


  • Ericka

    Yum. I really like the spice level of this. The spiciness is more complex than a similar version I usually make. The only change I made was to use Jersey white sweet potatoes I found at the farmer’s market instead of the butternut. I just made it yesterday, so I’ll tell you if it “fares even better” next day after I thoroughly enjoy seconds for lunch.

  • Kathy

    This recipe ROCKS! I am always looking for new ideas and concepts. This had the right amount of spice (hot) with combination to everything that was in it. My boyfriend was shocked it did not have any meat in it! Like the recipe states, it definitely gets better as it ages…it was good after first making it but 2 days later and it is absolutely the best taste…I want to make more this coming weekend!!

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Awesome. I think you’ve inspired me to make it again this week myself!

  • Christine

    All these recipes look so great, but where is the nutitional info on them? I need to know the calories.

  • I love your blog and all your recipes. regards from istanbul Turkey.
    canan topaloglu

  • judy


    FANTASTIC! the receipes, the photography, color, style. It’s just beautiful. I cannot wait to try these dishes, my only issue is which do i try first. .. talk to you soon.

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Great to get a comment from Istanbul. Thanks, Canan!

  • […] and Chocolate Chili Smoky Black Bean Soup Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup Spicy Butternut Squash […]

  • Lyn

    Just came across your website and the recipes look great – I particularly fancy the chilli (s).
    But, I’m really shocked to see canola oil/safflower oil in there. Canola is so highly processed and ‘fake’ and has been found to have the highest trans fats of all the oils. I appreciate you’ve said organic but even so…. Please, for the sake of your heart health, ditch these fake oils and have a look at an alternative like coconut oil.

    Lyn (UK)

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