Winter Squash & Black Bean Turkey Chili

People beg me for my traditional Chili recipe, but when I hand it over there tends to be a deflated look on their faces. My unabridged recipe is quite complex- there are multiple steps, including toasting, reconstituting, and pureeing dried chilis with the toasted spices that I’ve ground in my spice grinder, passing all that through a strainer to make it ultra smooth, separately roasting pumpkin before adding it to the chili, oh, and to put the final nail in the coffin, making black beans from scratch. Too much for most home cooks, but wow, does it make the most wonderful, flavorful, unforgettable chili.

I’ve adapted my traditional recipe- streamlining steps to make it more approachable- yet I have been able to retain what makes it super satisfying and an undeniable crowd pleaser. Here, I cook the squash or pumpkin in the soup, but if you have the notion, roasting it brings out a little more caramelly sweetness. The masa is a really lovely addition that will help thicken the soup, and is readily available in the Mexican section of most grocery stores, but it’s fine to leave it out if you can’t find it.

Spice paste

Combine the spices together in a small bowl.

Cooking spices

Cook the onions and add the spices. This helps develop their flavor.


Healthy Mid-Week
Winter Squash & Black Bean Turkey Chili
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Winter Squash & Black Bean Turkey Chili

Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Servings: 8


For the spice paste:

  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 6 whole cloves or ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 inch piece mexican cinnamon or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the chili:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 1 small can crushed tomatoes or use 3-4 chopped plum tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Mexican style beer such as Negro Modelo, or another cup of chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup Masa flour optional
  • 2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium butternut squash or pie pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • Optional Toppings: Sour cream or Mexican crema chopped cilantro, pumpkin seeds, smoky shredded cheese, or crumbled Mexican cojita cheese


For the spice paste:

  • If using whole spices, gently toast the cumin, cloves, and mexican cinnamon in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind until they are a powder.
  • Finely grate garlic and place in a small bowl. Add the oregano, cumin, cloves, chili powder, cinnamon and salt. Mash into a paste.

For the chili:

  • In a large stockpot, warm the olive oil. Cook the onion over medium heat with a pinch of salt, stirring often, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the spice paste and cook 1 minute, stirring the whole time so it doesn’t burn. Add the turkey and salt and stir vigorously with a spoon, breaking up the meat. Add the tomatoes, cook another 4-5 minutes, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the broth and beer if using, and the squash or pumpkin, then partially cover and cook 45 minutes until thickened.
  • Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed. Stir in the maple syrup, and sometimes I find it needs an extra bit of cumin or pinch of cinnamon. Pour in the black beans, and finally stir in the masa flour. Cook another 3-5 minutes and serve warm with desired toppings.


  • Michelle says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic chili recipe! Loved the variation with turkey and squash. Hearty yet light at the same time. Prepped everything the night before so it was even easier to get going for a warm, delicious meal after skiing. Appreciate the amounts for both whole and ground spices. I didn’t change anything in the recipe and I will definitely make it again!

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