The Secret Fruit You Should Be Adding To Chili

Chili comes in endless varieties, which is probably why it is such a good candidate for cooking contests. You can start with the basics, as outlined by WonderHowTo: meat, peppers, onions, garlic, tomato sauce, beans, chili powder, and cumin. Even most of these are optional. Vegetarians would take a pass on the meat. According to World Champion Chili Cook-Offs, beans are banned from traditional chili cook-offs. Even tomatoes may be excluded. 

What else goes into your recipe is limited only by your imagination, and many chili cooks will say they owe their success to a particular secret ingredient. Some outside-the-box ingredients are actually not so secret. Lots of people have reported adding chocolate or coffee, or even peanut butter, to their chili. Almost unmentioned, at least in our review of online recipes, is one particular fruit we believe you should add to your chili: pumpkin. (Yes, technically, pumpkin is a fruit, according to Have a Plant. It grows from the flowers of a vine.)

Which is better in chili, pumpkin chunks or puree?

Why pumpkin? Well, why not? For one thing, nothing is off limits after someone experimented with Flamin' Hot Cheetos in their chili (via WonderHowTo). Secondly, pumpkin is a member of the squash family, and recipes for butternut squash chili abound online. This squash is a go-to for adding heft to a chili or serving as a meat substitute in vegetarian recipes. Pumpkin would fit the bill just as well, while adding a mild, earthy flavor and a sweet counterpoint to a chili's spicier elements, according to the Statesman. Another point in pumpkin's favor is that it is so good for you it is considered a superfood. It gets its orange color from beta-carotene, the same eye-healthy antioxidant found in carrots. Pumpkins also have a lot of vitamin C, and one cup of canned pumpkin has more potassium than a large banana (via Well+Good).

Speaking of canned pumpkin, should your chili get that pureed stuff, or straight pumpkin? A lot of butternut squash chili recipes call for cubed squash, which gives the squash equal play alongside the chunks of veggies or pieces of meat. One award-winning chili cook told IndyStar that if he added pumpkin to his chili, he would go with canned and roasted chunks both. Puree would serve the same purpose as tomato paste. But did this cook actually recommend putting pumpkin in chili? "I don't think it's crazy," he told IndyStar. That's recommendation enough for us to give it a try.