butternut squash and black bean chili

Recipe for Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili first. Additional suggestions and personal notes follow.


serves 4-6, depending on people’s appetites


2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cups butternut squash, diced (same size “dice” as carrots and onions)
1 can whole, diced, crushed or puréed tomatoes
1 large zucchini, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cans black beans, drained
1-2 cups vegetable stock or water
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste

To Serve with Chili:

shredded Jack cheese and/or crumbled cotija cheese
crema or other thick cream
chopped avocado
diced red onions
chopped scallions
sliced jalapeño
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh lime wedges
bottled hot sauce


Heat grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until the onions are soft and traslucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, cumin powder, chili powder, dried oregano and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the diced carrots, butternut squash, and canned tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes with a ladle or spoon if you’re using whole tomatoes. Add barely enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender. Exact cooking times will depend on the size of your vegetables.

Add zucchini, black beans, salt, and pepper. Add more stock or water if necessary. Simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes.

Taste the chili and adjust with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Serve chili in bowls, with shredded Jack cheese and/or crumbled cotija cheese, crema or other thick cream, chopped avocado, diced red onions, chopped scallions, sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro leaves, fresh lime wedges, Fritos, bottled hot sauce on the side. Everyone can dress their chili bowls as they like.

Keep leftover chili in tightly sealed container in refrigerator for up to two days. Leftovers taste great on their own, but also work well as a “sauce” for pasta, on nachos, or as a vegetarian taco filling if you heat the chili in a pot and cook off some of the liquid.

butternut squash black bean chili, ingredients


  1. Cooking Oil: A lot of people use olive oil to cook, but I freak out about olive oil’s low smoke point, so I prefer grapeseed oil for everyday cooking, and save olive oil for “raw” uses: drizzling and vinaigrettes. Grapeseed oil also has a much more neutral fragrance (at least to me). This is the grapeseed oil I currently have in my kitchen:
  2. On the Cooking Time: If you like chili with components that are softer, or even falling apart into the chili, simmer the chili for 10-20 minutes longer after you add the zucchini and black beans. I prefer the individual ingredients to still have their own texture, so I cook my chili for the minimum time.
  3. Heat Level: As cooked, this chili has virtually no “heat.” I cook it this way because there are small children who blow through this kitchen from time to time so it’s better to cook foods with no heat, and add heat at the dish. If you would like to add some heat, add half a chopped jalapeno with seeds to the chili with the carrots and butternut squash.
  4. As cooked, the chili is 100% plant-based. Some of the additional toppings are not, though. Make necessary substitutions for the shredded cheese and sour cream to make everything plant-based. I have tried Daiya vegan cheese shreds in other dishes with some success, but because I am not vegan, I don’t mind using regular dairy cheese here because it’s such a small amount. For a crumbled cheese, try a few spoonfulls of Kite Hill almond milk ricotta or cream cheese. You can use coconut milk, cashew cream, or other thickened nut- or soy-based milk in place of the crema.
  5. Fritos are 100% plant-based/vegan!
  6. I like Tapatio for bottled hot sauce.
  7. All fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can’t find what I need at the farmers’ market.

butternut squash black bean chili
Butternut Squash is #15 on the 50 Things to Eat Drink Do Wear for Fall Bucket List. “Chili” is one the Epic Tailgate Party Foods #18 on the List.

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