This Instant Pot Pumpkin Chili tastes slightly sweet, has a mild kick, and is so smooth and velvety from adding a whole can of pumpkin (plus my secret chili ingredient). It takes fall cooking to a whole other level!
No Instant Pot? Don’t worry- you can do it in your slow cooker or on your stovetop, too.
When I first heard about pumpkin chili, I’ll admit: I was skeptical. I thought it might be too sweet, or too “pumpkiny,” or just otherwise taking the fall pumpkin trend a bit too far.
I love chili, and I love how simple it is, so I didn’t want to muck it up too much.
Honestly, I didn’t even expect to put it on the blog, I was so skeptical.
But OH. MY. GOODNESS. I was wrong. It’s soooo good! I think you’re going to love it.
First of all, there’s a whole can of pumpkin added to it. It definitely adds a squash-like, pumpkin flavor to the chili, but not overwhelmingly so.
What it does do is add a big ol’ serving of vegetables to the chili (pumpkin, along with other winter squash, is super good for you– it’s packed with vitamins A, C, B6, and tons of fiber!).
And it also makes the texture beautifully smooth, thickening the base and holding everything together in a perfect balance that ensures all is as it should be in the universe. I mean, in this bowl of chili.
Beyond the canned pumpkin puree, there is so much fun fall flavor going on here.
I used apple cider as the liquid base for the chili. You don’t need much- just a cup. But it’s important to have enough liquid when you use a pressure cooker so it will work correctly.
You can also use apple juice, or even hard cider, if you want.
The apple cider adds just a hint of sweetness that’s perfect with the spiciness of the chili powder and cayenne, and enhances the natural flavor of the pumpkin. Again, I was skeptical, but I promise it’s not too sweet. It’s just right.
Most chili recipes use beef stock as a liquid base, and sometimes a dark beer. I think both would be good here as well, if you want to skip the cider. I won’t judge.
I added the apple cider after sautéing the onions and peppers with the ground beef and spices in the Instant Pot. This ensured that all the stuck-on bits at the bottom released before it cooked, helping prevent a hard to clean mess and also making sure all that flavor got into the chili, rather than hung out on the bottom of the pot.
So. We have pumpkin, and we have apple cider.
This chili SCREAMS fall and cozy weather and jumping in leaf piles and gobbling up a big bowl after trick or treating in the cold. Don’t you think?
But wait! I haven’t even gotten to my secret ingredient!
The spices I added to this really help set it over the top. There’s the typical chili powder (and lots of it), as well as cayenne pepper (for a bit of a kick).
I also added some pumpkin pie spice, which is nothing more than a combination of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and other spices, depending on which brand you buy.
Basically, it’s a bunch of warming, slightly spicy flavors that go so well in the chili. I promise, it’s not just for pumpkin pie (or for pumpkin spice snickerdoodles!).
And as for my secret ingredient for this delicious pumpkin chili recipe?
I add cocoa powder to almost all my chili recipes. Ohhhh boy, are you in for a treat if you’ve never tried it.
First, I want to be clear: adding cocoa powder doesn’t add sweetness at all. Pure cocoa powder doesn’t have any sugar in it at all.
Instead, it adds a velvety smooth flavor to the chili. It tastes so good with the chili powder and cayenne flavor (because chocolate and chiles are a match made in heaven). You have to try it!
Once the chili was done cooking, I added some chopped fresh cilantro as well as seasoned it with salt. The general rule when cooking with beans is not to salt until the end, since the salt can affect the texture. I added quite a bit of salt at the end, so make sure you taste it and season appropriately.
And if your chili seems too liquidy and you’d like it thicker, you can use the sauté function on the Instant Pot to let it simmer until it’s thickened a bit. I do recommend covering it with a splatter screen, since it gets extremely hot and bubbly.
The other great thing about this recipe? It makes a TON. I froze half of it for another time. But I’m too excited, and I might seriously break into it in a few days.
I served this spaghetti Cincinnati-style: over spaghetti. So good. Basically, chili is like a bolognese sauce, so it definitely works!
You can also serve it over cornbread or rice, if you’re trying to feed a crowd.
Sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, fresh cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and diced avocado are all great toppings with which to serve this chili.