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: 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.
Note 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.”