Roasted Turkey & Pumpkin Chili

This week, the Bay Area witnessed a heavy downpour for the first time this Fall (see: Marco Scutaro and Sergio Romo, NLCS Game 7). Some NorCal counties even received tornado warnings. (?!?!) After 80-90 degree forecasts for most of October, gray and cloudy skies have finally arrived, bringing with it a slight chill in the air and the need for coats/hoodies/etc.! And you know what else is great for this kind of weather? Soup. Nice, big bowls of comfort.

More specifically, it's chili season! (There's a play-on-words joke in there somewhere...) Every Autumn/Winter, chili is one of those hearty dishes that makes regular appearances in my household. It's perfect to make for Lazy Sundays, when you want to camp out on the couch and watch some football. Then, leftovers are great during the week. You can come home from work or school and quickly heat up a bowl. This year, instead of the usual pot of beef & beans, I kicked off chili season with something different: Roasted Turkey & Pumpkin Chili!

During the weeks leading up to Halloween and even all the way up to Thanksgiving, pumpkins are all over the place. Standard grocery stores, farmers markets, seasonal patches...they're everywhere. While I was shopping at Trader Joe's earlier this week, I passed the bins of adorable, petite Pie Pumpkins (also known as Sugar Pumpkins) and couldn't help myself. I grabbed one, without any real plan on what to make with it, but thinking that I'd figure out something sooner or later. It actually sat in a basket on my kitchen island for a couple of days, then when the rain came...and I was reluctant to leave the comfort of my home and sweatpants...I thought it'd be a perfect time to just spend the day cooking and baking.

For me, a day in the kitchen has always been therapeutic. In more stressful times, cooking is a way to slow things down, take control, and clear my mind. And on a lighter note, experimenting with new recipes is a fun, creative outlet. This past Wednesday was a combination of both, calming my Game 1 of the World Series nerves :P and finally figuring out what to do with my pumpkin! I started off by cutting it up and cleaning out the seeds.

After reading the sticker suggesting how to roast the Pie Pumpkin, I decided to make my own pumpkin puree and was inspired to season it in an unusual way. Some rummaging in my spice cabinet led me to two things: pumpkin pie spice and chili powder. I also added a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, and I drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil. Then, it was off to a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Once the pumpkin was tender (and my house was filled with some pretty amazing smells!), I scooped out the flesh and pureed until it was smooth. Now, I had this tasty roasted pumpkin puree...what do I do with it? This is when the chili-gears began to turn...

I loved the pumpkin pie spice and chili powder mixture so much that I decided to use it in a rub and roast some turkey breast I had, as well. You could easily substitute chicken, but...just like the sale of pumpkins...the turkey sections in stores tend to expand immensely during this time of year. And, just like the pumpkins, I couldn't help myself. Free-range turkey breast tenderloins on sale? Okay, why not...I finished with a drizzling of olive oil and put it in the oven at 400 degrees.

The turkey comes out incredibly moist and flavorful. After letting the meat rest for a few minutes, I diced the turkey into bite-size pieces...munching on a few along the way! It's the best part about experimenting, am I right or am I right? ;)

I did some more rummaging, this time in my refrigerator's vegetable drawer. I had some leeks and butternut squash on hand and realized these would go perfectly with my pumpkin and turkey. I diced the squash into more bite-size and soup spoon-friendly pieces, then I made sure to thoroughly clean any sand out of my leeks.

My chili started out by sauteing minced garlic, the leeks, and butternut squash. Essentially, the leeks were taking the place of the usual diced onions, and the diced squash was taking the place of beans. They add flavor and texture!

Tomato sauce usually gives a chili its thick texture and its color. For this version, though, I used a combination of turkey broth and my homemade pumpkin puree. (Okay, if you haven't noticed, I love Trader Joe's and this dish was basically inspired by items I bought there.) I seasoned everything with a bit more chili powder and pumpkin pie spice at this point, as well.

Finally, the diced turkey is added to the pot. Sooo, if you guessed earlier that the roasted turkey would take the place of ground beef...ding ding ding, flashing lights, Winner! were correct.

Pumpkin pie spice might seem like an odd seasoning for a savory dish, but when you really think about it...the pumpkin, the squash, the makes perfect sense for this chili! The pumpkin pie spice that I used included cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, black pepper, and lemon peel, which paired beautifully with the buttery, slightly sweet pumpkin and butternut squash. The dried peppers and paprika in the chili powder also blend well with the other warm spices.

Served with crusty bread or cornbread, this Roasted Turkey & Pie Pumpkin Chili is perfect for cold, rainy days, whether those are football Sundays or during the work week. Warm, comforting, and satisfying! :)

Roasted Turkey & Pumpkin Chili


Roasted Pumpkin Puree:
1 whole Pie Pumpkin (*also known as Sugar Pumpkin)
1/4 tsp each:
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Chili Powder
- Pumpkin Pie Spice

Roasted Turkey Breast:
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 10-oz Turkey Breast Tenderloins
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
3 Garlic Cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
2 leeks, washed thoroughly, 1/4" slices (about 2 cups)
2 1/2 - 3 cups Diced Butternut Squash (*Or Pumpkin)
1 qt Turkey Broth
1 cup Roasted Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 - 4 1/2 cups Diced Roasted Turkey Breast

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. For the Roasted Pumpkin Puree: Cut the stem off of the Sugar Pumpkin, slice the pumpkin in half, and scoop out all of the seeds. Place the pumpkin halves, flesh-side facing up, on a baking sheet. Season with the salt, pepper, chili powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Finally, drizzle with the olive oil. Then, bake the pumpkin at 400 degrees for 30 minutes*. Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly after removing from the oven. Use a spoon to scoop out the tender flesh and place in a food processor. Puree the pumpkin until smooth, then set aside until ready to use.
  3. For the Roasted Turkey Breast: In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, chili powder, and pumpkin pie spice to make a rub for the turkey. Season each turkey breast tenderloin with half of the rub. Place the turkey on a foil-lined baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast the turkey at 400 degrees for 30 minutes*. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 15 minutes after removing from the oven, then dice the turkey. Set aside until ready to use. (*The pumpkin and turkey can roast in the oven at the same time. Rotate the baking sheets, from top rack to bottom rack & vice versa, halfway through the cooking process.
  4. For the Chili: In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced garlic and leeks, and saute for 2-3 minutes until the leeks are wilted and becoming translucent. Next, add the diced butternut squash (or pumpkin), and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the turkey broth, stir in the roasted pumpkin puree, then season everything with the chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and pepper. Bring the chili to a simmer, uncovered. Once the chili is bubbling, add the diced roasted turkey breast. Lower the heat to medium-low, bring the chili back to a simmer, and cook covered for 10 more minutes. At this point, taste the chili and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
  5. Serve bowls of the chili with slices of bread. Enjoy!