Home > Soups & Stews > Butternut Squash Chili Butternut Squash Chili September 9, 2016 | 115 Comments SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Jump to Recipe This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. Nutritious Butternut Squash Chili is packed with flavor and filled to the brim with good-for-you ingredients, including loads of veggies, tender shredded chicken, and a superfood — quinoa! Bonus: this chili is fairly hands-off to make, thanks to the slow cooker. Top your bowl with your favorite chili toppings and dig in! Pair a bowl of this hearty chili with some homemade cornbread or cornbread muffins. This garden salad also makes a nice side dish if you’re craving a meal of soup and salad. Butternut Squash Chili The minute the weather starts to cool down, chili is on the menu at my house for weeks at a time! 🙂 Chilis are an easy way to pack in good ingredients like veggies, beans, and in this case, quinoa! They’re perfect for throwing together leftover odds and ends in the fridge and there are usually plenty of leftovers that only get tastier and tastier throughout the week! Chilis are easy to customize, simple to make, totally delicious, and the perfect canvas for dunking with copious amounts of cornbread. What’s not to love?! Here are some of our favorite chili recipes we’ve created throughout the years: Turkey Chili, Chicken Chili, Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili, Quinoa Chili, Chicken Taco Chili, Crockpot Chili, Crockpot White Chicken Chili. Whew! Told you, we’re obsessed! Why Sauté First? This is a slow cooker chili so it’s aimed at being quick and easy, but we do sauté some of the ingredients first. This is because sautéing is integral for the flavor and texture of this chili. And I promise it doesn’t take too much extra time — especially if you have a slow cooker with a sauté function — you won’t even need to dirty another pot! By sautéing the aromatics, spices, tomato paste, and tomatoes we’re bringing out their natural sweetness and deepening overall flavors in this Butternut Squash Chili. We’re adding layers of flavor complexity that only comes from sautéing before slow cooking. It’s also important to sauté these ingredients to ensure the butternut squash, carrot, and onion will be fully tender when the chili is finished. Since this chili doesn’t cook for an especially long time, these three ingredients will be under-cooked (potentially crunchy) if not sautéed first. QUICK TIP Why sauté? The scientific term is called the Maillard reaction, and it describes what happens when foods are browned or seared. As foods are heated, the amino acids and carbohydrates change form and turn brown. The flavor, often described as umami, becomes more savory. The bottom line for most cooks is that it really increases the deliciousness and beauty of a recipe. Prepping Butternut Squash With its odd shape, cutting a butternut squash can be an intimidating task, but with a few good kitchen tools, you might find it’s easier than it seems! Here’s a quick overview: Rinse the squash under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the entire squash. If you don’t have a peeler, cut the squash in half where the narrow section meets the wider round base. Use a pairing knife to vertically slice off the peels. Place the squash on a firm and heavy-duty cutting board. Using a very sharp chef’s knife (the sharper the knife, the easier it will cut!), cut off the top stem and about 1/4th an inch from the bottom. Cut the squash in half (crosswise) where the “neck” meets the wider, base-end section. Now cut each section in half again, right down the middle to get 4 pieces. Use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds and stringy parts from the two insides of the base of the squash. You can save the seeds and roast them — more on this later! Lay each of the halves cut side down and then cut each half into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut these half-moon pieces into 1/2-inch cubes. Aim for even-sized pieces as much as possible, but it’s okay if not each of the cubes is in a perfect square, just be sure to chop the squash into small 1/2-inch pieces so they’ll be tender in time. QUICK TIP When picking a butternut squash: Look for a uniformly beige and matte color. Choose squash that feels heavy for its size and sounds hollow (if you give the squash a tap, it should sound hollow). If you aren’t using the squash right away, keep it at room temperature in a dark/cool place (left whole, raw, and unpeeled). If you have peeled and chopped it, keep the cubes in an airtight container in the fridge. SHORTCUTS For a quicker prep time, use a bag of already cut butternut squash from the produce section of the store. If the pieces are overly large, cut them down a bit so they’ll cook in time for this recipe. Homemade Chili Seasoning While store-bought seasoning mixes make things easy, they also have a lot of additives and sometimes questionable ingredients. They can also vary quite a bit in the spice level and even in overall flavor. For these reasons, we prefer to whip up our own seasoning blend for this chili, but either works — making your own or using a packet. You can’t beat the convenience of a seasoning packet, that’s for sure! Why not make up a big batch of this homemade seasoning blend and divide it into packets so homemade will be just as convenient as packaged. Here’s our favorite homemade chili seasoning blend: 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce or omit for less heat, increase for more heat!) 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder Butternut Squash Chili Notes Rinse the quinoa: Quinoa has a bitter saponin coating that needs to be rinsed off before use. Place it in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well before adding to the slow cooker. Use a big enough cooker to fit everything: I recommend a 6-quart slow cooker to fit everything — this chili yields a lot! Cook on high. Unfortunately, this recipe doesn’t cook well on low. The quinoa needs higher heat to “pop” and cook through. Cut the chicken into thin/small chunks. Otherwise, it won’t be done at the same time as everything else. You don’t need to spend much time cutting the chicken; just quickly cut 2-inch (1-inch thick) pieces. Use fire-roasted diced tomatoes. The tomatoes make a big difference flavor-wise, so I recommend good-quality fire-roasted tomatoes. This type of tomato is charred over a flame before being crushed and canned. Contact with that flame brings out the tomato’s sweetness and gives a distinct smoky flavor; essentially, you’re getting more flavor without any extra work. Muir Glen® is my personal favorite brand (not sponsored). Chili Spiciness We rate this chili as mild, especially if adding toppings like cheese, sour cream, and avocado, these additions will mute the spiciness quite a bit. If you don’t plan on adding some of these toppings and are sensitive to spice, leave out any cayenne pepper and slightly reduce the chili powder. You will be missing out on some flavor, but the soup will be overall milder. Or if using a chili packet seasoning, be sure to use a mild one. VARIATIONS Variations Want more heat? Add in some diced jalapeños, a can of fire-roasted diced green chilies, and/or increase the cayenne pepper or chili powder Thicker chili. While the quinoa does continue to absorb liquid and thicken this chili as it sits, it’s not super thick. For an ultra-thick chili, use 4 cups chicken stock. Butternut Squash Chili Toppings The toppings add so much to this Butternut Squash Chili, so you definitely don’t want to leave them out! Sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar cheese: We like to grate the cheese right on top of each bowl and let it melt for a minute before stirring it throughout the chili. Sour cream: Fat-free or lite works great; you could even use a scoop of plain Greek yogurt. Fresh lime juice: A few squeezes of fresh lime heighten all the flavors and add a burst of brightness. Ripe avocado: For an additional element of creaminess, we love a ripe avocado sliced on top. Fresh cilantro: If you’re a cilantro fan, you’ll love what this herb does to this chili. It adds a nice citrusy flavor and contrasting freshness. And if you’re in the anti-cilantro crowd, substitute a bit of chopped fresh parsley or chives. More butternut squash recipes Butternut Squash Wild Rice Pilaf made on a sheet pan! Butternut Squash Tacos with the best taco sauce Roasted Butternut Squash Couscous Bowls with a simple vinaigrette Butternut Squash Curry with baby spinach Skillet Chicken and Butternut Squash with green beans FOLLOW ALONG! Subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates, recipes and content. Butternut Squash Chili 4.89 from 34 votes - Review this recipe This nutritious Butternut Squash Chili is packed with flavor and filled to the brim with good-for-you ingredients, including loads of veggies, tender shredded chicken, and a superfood: quinoa! Bonus: this chili is fairly hands-off to make, thanks to the slow cooker. Top your bowl with your favorite chili toppings and dig in! SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe Butternut Squash Chili 4.89 from 34 votes - Review this recipe SAVE TO RECIPE BOX Print Recipe This nutritious Butternut Squash Chili is packed with flavor and filled to the brim with good-for-you ingredients, including loads of veggies, tender shredded chicken, and a superfood: quinoa! Bonus: this chili is fairly hands-off to make, thanks to the slow cooker. Top your bowl with your favorite chili toppings and dig in! Course Dinner, Vegetarian Cuisine American, Vegetarian Keyword Butternut Squash and Quinoa Soup, Butternut Squash Chili Prep Time 15 minutes Cook Time 3 hours Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes Servings 6 -8 Calories 711kcal Author Chelsea Lords Cost $7.24 Equipment6-quart slow cooker & nonstick cooking spray Ingredients▢ 2 tablespoons olive oil▢ 1 cup (125g) diced yellow onion ~1 onion ▢ 1 cup diced carrot 3 large carrots▢ 1 tablespoon minced garlic (~4 cloves)▢ 2 cups (280g) butternut squash peeled & chopped Note 1▢ 2 tablespoons tomato paste▢ 1 packet mild chili seasoning mix Note 2▢ 1 can (14.5 oz.; 411g) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained▢ 1 can (16 oz.; 454g) Kidney or chili beans in mild chili sauce▢ 1 can (15.25 oz.; 432g) corn, undrained (or 1-1/2 cups frozen)▢ 1 can (15.25 oz.; 432g) black beans, drained and rinsed▢ 1-1/4th lb. (566g) chicken thighs (or breasts) Note 3▢ 3/4 cup (135g) quinoa tri-color or white▢ 5 cups (1200g) chicken stock Note 4▢ Optional finishing touches: 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro▢ Optional toppings: sour cream, sharp Cheddar cheese, diced avocado, cilantro or chives, lime Note 5 InstructionsPREP: Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Trim the chicken of fat and cut each piece into 2-inch chunks. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.SOUP FLAVOR BASE: If you have the option to sauté in your slow cooker base, use that; otherwise, grab out a pot. Add olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add in onion and sauté until turning golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the tomato paste and the seasoning packet (or homemade seasoning blend). Season with salt & pepper (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, but add to personal preference). Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant. Pour the entire can (don't drain) of diced tomatoes and mix, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Use a spatula to scrape every bit of this mixture into the base of the slow cooker.COOK: Add the remaining ingredients (except for the finishing touches and toppings) to the slow cooker. Stir well, submerge chicken below the liquid and cook on high for 3 up to 4 hours or until chicken easily shreds. (See Note 6.) Remove the chicken and transfer to a bowl. Shred the chicken with two forks and return to the slow cooker. Optional: Mash some of the squash for a heartier texture.FINISHING: Add in the cilantro and lime juice if using. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt/pepper if desired. (I typically add another 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt here; the flavors should sing!) Ladle into bowls. Add desired toppings and enjoy immediately!STORAGE: This chili continues to thicken as the quinoa expands. We still think it tastes great, but it does get thicker and thicker as it stands. This chili is best eaten within 3-4 days. Reheat over low heat on the stovetop and add a splash of chicken stock as needed. It does not freeze well; the soup continues to absorb liquid and quinoa becomes bloated. Recipe NotesNote 1: Squash: This recipe needs about 1/2 of a medium-sized squash. Be sure to chop the squash into small 1/2-inch pieces so they'll be tender in time. Check out the pictures or video on this roasted butternut squash post for how to cut a squash. Note 2: Homemade seasoning blend: we love using our own spices, but I totally understand that using a packaged packet is easy. Go with what works for your preferences and schedule. Homemade: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Note 3: Chicken: While chicken breasts will work, we highly recommend chicken thighs. The thigh meat becomes exceptionally tender in the slow cooker and shreds quickly and easily. It’s also more forgiving if it is cooked for longer, since chicken breasts tend to dry out if they’re cooked too long. Note 4: Chicken stock: A high-quality, flavorful stock adds loads of flavor and allows us to cut down on spices or other additions. We highly recommend Swanson ® chicken stock. Use only 4 cups for a thicker chili! Note 5: Toppings: While this chili is tasty straight out of the slow cooker, the toppings truly seal the deal, delivering an unforgettable meal so don't skimp on these! Note 6: Cooking time: Unfortunately, this recipe doesn’t cook well on low. The quinoa needs higher heat to “pop” and cook through. Each slow cooker is a little different so the cooking time can vary. Look for chicken that shreds easily, fully cooked quinoa, and tender veggies. The longer this soup cooks, the more liquid the quinoa absorbs. For a heartier soup, that’s great, but if you want it to remain more broth-y, stop cooking as soon as the quinoa has “popped.” Nutrition FactsServing: 1serving | Calories: 711kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 1079mg | Potassium: 1855mg | Fiber: 19g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 17071IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 171mg | Iron: 9mg We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed. DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.