Paleo Pumpkin Chili 


So this week I want to start by highlighting one of my favorite cookbooks, WellFed by Melissa Joulwan. When I was eating 100% Paleo this lady’s Hot Plates saved my life! Her cookbooks are beautifully put together and not only offer delicious paleo food but tell you how to prepare and cook Paleo easily every day. She explains exactly how to eat Paleo, gives you additional resources and creates recipes that everyone can make! All of her recipes have a back story that make you really understand why she created it. She also has a note section, many variations and different ideas within one recipe that you feel like each recipe is really 3-5! I really encourage anyone who wants to eat Paleo to check out her blog here.

So it is in her honor that I give you my Paleo Pumpkin chili. This chili came about when I read Mellissa Joulwan’s Chocolate Chili recipe. I have never been a huge fan of chili with beans. I mean I would crave it every once in a while when the weather would turn cold but its never been my favorite. So when I read a recipe that was basically an all meat chili plus chocolate I thought I was in heaven! After making this recipe a few times and adding my own spins I decided I didn’t really like chili that was all meat either.

So you ask why am I even making this let alone writing this recipe for you? Because I decided to find a chili I did like and crave! So while chili with beans was too much ‘stuff’ for me only meat chili was just lacking something. So I thought and I tested and I loved sweet potatoes! Sweet potato chocolate chili was my favorite! It didn’t have the beans that I’m not so crazy about and yet the sweet potatoes give it something that the purely meat chili was missing. So my go to recipe has now been a chocolate sweet potato chili.

Now enter the pumpkin! I was all geared up to make my family (and you guys) sweat potato chili and then I picked up my CSA. Inside my box was this beautiful baking pumpkin (and one for carving!) and my heart soared! I would not make sweet potato chili this week I shall make you all pumpkin chili! And so this recipe was born! I hope you love it as much as my family did! And remember you can substitute sweet potatoes any other time of the year!


So let me first say if you do not have a beautiful baking pumpkin I really would substitute sweet potatoes. What about canned pumpkin you ask…(I mean I am reading these months after you’ve published this post and its July!)? You can 100% used canned pumpkin and get a similar pumpkin flavor…however…the consistency will not be the same. My whole beef with the nothing but beef was the chili just lacked the chunky goodness of traditional bean chili. So by all means use canned but just know you are going to have a creamy pumpkin/meat mush. It will be delicious but you may not lie the texture.

Anyways…pumpkin…sweet potato…you decide. Next let’s talk protein. You will see in my pictures I have opted to use ground Elk. My grocery store frequently carries it at a reasonable price and I also have a ton of friends that hunt and gift me some meat! Elk meat really makes this chili rich and over the top on the yummy scale. However, you can use beef! It will still be delicious and you will still love it but for all my hunters out there try this with your ground elk and you will not be sorry!

To start, you want to chop up your onions/garlic and add them to your pot to saute with coconut oil (or oil of your choice if you are not paleo). I leave a handful raw off to the side to top my chili with. So saute off your onions.  

While your onion mix is working, you want to chop up your pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and if you toast them while your chili is cooking you can also use them as a topping! Cut up the pumpkin (or sweet potato) into bite sized pieces. I left the skin on but that’s a preference thing. Sweet potato same deal most people peel them but they have delicious skin and this would be the perfect recipe to try out leaving them on!   

Once your onions are done and your pumpkin is prepped throw in the pumpkin pieces and give them a good coat with the oil. Let them cook about 5 minutes just to get a little color and then add half of your spices (1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, s&p). I just mix all my spices up in one bowl before beginning (pictures!) and throw half of it in. Let the mixture cook another minute and then set it all aside.

Net you want to put some more oil in the pan and add your meat and the remaining spices (1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, s&p). Once the meat is done cooking add your onion/pumpkin mixture back in.

Add in the tomatoes and most importantly the chocolate! So the chocolate I use is Dagoba Xocolatl drinking chocolate. I use this because it has cinnamon and cayenne pepper in it (yes I still add those spices to the chili as well). If you have not tried this chocolate I really encourage you to try it! This is one of the few brands I have tried and its delicious. There are a lot of chocolate bars and Mexican drinking chocolates on the market now that have chilies in them so you can experiment a lot with what ingredient you like the best. If you do choose to use a drinking chocolate or chocolate bar I would still try to find a dark chocolate so your chili doesn’t taste too much like dessert. The Dagoba Xocolatl has cane sugar in it but is not overpowering for the chili dish. You of course can always just use cocoa powder too! This is a fairly heavily spiced chili (side note…when I made this I accidentally put two [possibly even 3] servings of cayenne pepper in…my family was not amused! We all make mistakes…especially when distracted by children…apologize, say a little prayer and move on!).

So you now have everything in your pot! Put a lid on it and simmer over medium heat until the pumpkin (sweet potato are cooked through) about an hour. Now you have delicious wonderful pumpkin chili! I served mine topped with the onions from earlier and roasted seeds from the pumpkin! But you top it with your favorite!


Paleo, GF

2 medium onions chopped

4 cloves of garlic chopped

1 small baking pumpkin

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 lbs Elk or ground beef or a combination

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Chili Spice Mix (Recipe below)

coconut oil for sauteing

S&P to taste


Mix up spices. Chop up onions and garlic and saute in coconut oil. Scoop out pumpkin seeds. Chop up pumpkin with or without skin and add to onions with S&P to taste. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add half of your spice mixture and cook another 3-4 a bit. Set aside. In the same pan, add a little more coconut oil and cook your protein (beef or elk) with the remaining spice mix and S&P to taste. Cook through. Add the tomatoes, cocoa and onion/pumpkin mixture back into the pot. Let simmer on low for about an hour or until pumpkin is soft. Stir occasionally.

Chili Spice Mix (Makes one pot for chili)

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon,

1/2 tsp nutmeg

mix together set aside




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