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11.4.14 Pumpkin and Pork Chili with Roasted Pepitas

11.4.14 Pumpkin and Pork Chili with Roasted Pepitas

It’s hard to believe it’s already November. November! Not only does this mean it’s getting dark way too early (thanks daylight savings), and that Thanksgiving (a.k.a the best holiday ever) is just around the corner, it also means that I managed to make it pretty far into the fall season without any sort of pumpkin recipe making an appearance on this blog. And when you consider the amount of pumpkin spice everything going on this time of year, that’s really pretty impressive. Or maybe that’s just the point. An overload of pumpkin spice everything is making me crave everything except pumpkin. Who knows.

However, I figure it’s time to give pumpkin its due. After all, pumpkin season won’t last forever. And it would be a shame to let that cute little pie pumpkin on my counter go to waste. But if, like me, you’re beyond tired of pumpkin spice, you’ll be happy to note that although this chili recipe does contain pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves, it’s definitely NOT pumpkin spice. You have my word on that.


Now you may be thinking that cloves and cinnamon sound like strange things to add to chili. That’s understandable. You may be even more confused when you look at the recipe and notice there’s some chocolate in there too. I know, I know, but just trust me. I promise I’m not going crazy here. It may sound like an odd combination, but it works. Beautifully. The cinnamon and cloves add another layer of spice on top of your standard chiles, and the chocolate rounds it all out with its bitterness and deep flavor. Think of it as a sort of mole-esque chile, full of tender pork and pumpkin, topped with some cilantro and a smattering of roasted pepitas for some crunch. It’ll make you appreciate pumpkin in a whole new light.

Pumpkin and Pork Chili with Roasted Pepitas

serves 4

Pepitas are shelled pumpkin seeds. You can usually find them already roasted in the bulk section at most grocery stores, but if you can only find them raw, it’s super easy to roast them yourself. Just toss them with a little olive oil (about ½ Tbsp per cup of pepitas), spread in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake at 300 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Besides using them as a chili topping, they’re great for general snacking, delicious atop yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast, and make for an awesome ice cream topper. You might as well roast up some extra.

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ medium pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch pieces (about 1 lb)
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ oz unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • roasted pepitas, chopped fresh cilantro, and warm corn tortillas for serving

1. Sprinkle the pork pieces evenly with the ½ tsp salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a pot over medium high heat. Once hot, add the pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is just browning on all sides, about 5 minutes. You may need to cook pork in a couple of batches so the pieces don’t overcrowd the pot while cooking. Remove pork from pot and set aside.

2. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pot, followed by the onion, ancho chile, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cloves. Cook until onion begins to soften, about 3-4 minutes, then add the pumpkin pieces, stir to coat with the onion mixture, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the water, baking chocolate, and lime juice. Return the pork to the pot, and give everything a good stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until pork and pumpkin are tender, about 30 minutes.

4. Use a large spoon or potato masher to break apart the meat and pumpkin into smaller pieces. Continue to cook uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

5. Top with roasted pepitas, fresh cilantro, and serve with warm corn tortillas. 

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