Fall is in the air, as they say. The green leaves are just beginning to acknowledge the change in seasons along their peripheries; my nose is following suit with incessant sneezes. It’s that wonderfully awkward transitional time when I’m never sure what to wear: shorts now, or a sweater for later? And what do I cook: the last of the tomatoes, or sweet potatoes? We’ll be bundled up in scarves, carving pumpkins and crafting Halloween costumes before we know it. I can’t wait.
Football season seems to be in full swing, too. My old friends are taunting me with photos of game day meals made in the college town I used to call home—let’s be honest, football is really all about the food and beer anyway. Forget standing in crowds at stadiums! Give me a comfortable seat, friends, good food and drinks. The fact that a game is on while I chit-chat is purely secondary.
This butternut squash and black bean chili is just right for fall weather and football games. It strikes that balance between spicy and sweet that I love in Mexican food, like a good mole sauce. Chipotle and chili powder provide ample spice to round off the sweet, seasonal flavor of butternut squash. Top with crispy tortilla strips and plenty of creamy, diced Avocados from Mexico for a hearty meal that will satisfy vegans, carnivores and gluten-free eaters alike. Meals like that aren’t easy to come by, you know?
The chili happens to be super simple to make, too. Once you have your vegetables chopped, your work is almost done. Speaking of which, I’ve done my fair share of cursing at butternut for being difficult to peel and slice, but I didn’t have any trouble when I followed Simply Recipes’ method. I don’t know if it was her method or this butternut squash in particular, but it was a breeze. Try it!
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 small butternut squash (1½ pounds or less), peeled and chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ground sea salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½+ tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo* (start with ½ tablespoon and add more to taste, I thought mine was just right with 1 tablespoon)
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including the liquid**
- 4 cups cooked black beans or 2 cans, rinsed and drained
- 14-ounce can (about 2 cups) vegetable broth
- 2 Avocados from Mexico, diced
- 3 corn tortillas for crispy tortilla strips*** (or substitute crumbled tortilla chips)
- cilantro (optional, for garnish)
- In a 4 to 6 quart Dutch oven or stockpot, sautée the chopped vegetables (onion, bell pepper, butternut squash, garlic) in one to two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. You’ll need to stir the ingredients every few minutes so they can cook evenly.
- Once the onions start turning translucent, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add all of the spices and canned ingredients, and stir. Cover for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Taste test for spice level and add more chipotle if desired.
- By the time your chili is done, the butternut squash should be nice and tender and the liquid should have reduced a bit, producing the hearty chili consistency that we all know and love.
- Make the crispy tortilla strips: stack the corn tortillas and slice them into thin little strips, about 2 inches long. Heat a small pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and toss in the tortilla slices. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook until the strips are crispy and turning golden, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 7 minutes. Remove tortilla strips from skillet and drain on a plate covered with a piece of paper towel.
- Serve the chili in individual bowls, topped with crispy tortilla strips and plenty of diced avocado. I added a little sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional). Cilantro would be nice as well. You might want to serve this along with some chipotle hot sauce (Tobasco makes one) for the spice addicts like myself.
- Serves 3 to 4. This chili is very hearty, but feel free to add another can of tomatoes or more vegetable broth if you want to thin it out a bit. Double the recipe for a crowd.
- *Chipotle in adobo sauce is usually found in the Mexican section of the grocery store. I never need a whole can at once, so I use what I need and then transfer the rest to a small freezer bag, pressing it flat so that I can pull off as much as I need later.
- **Find BPA-free cans of diced tomatoes if possible. Muir Glen's canned tomatoes are BPA-free.
- ***Look for corn tortillas that contain minimally processed ingredients. There should only be about 5 ingredients listed, and wheat shouldn't be one of them.
- On leftovers: This chili reheats great. Avocado and crispy tortilla chips should be added after reheating, just before serving. These tortilla strips tend to lose their crisp over time, so you can a) skip them altogether, b) make more just before serving or c) substitute a small handful of crumbled tortilla chips instead!
Disclaimer: This is a working partnership with Avocados from Mexico and Muy Bueno Cookbook and I was compensated for recipe development. Opinions expressed are my own, always. The truth is I love avocados!
Note: If you’re looking for the butternut chili presented by a contestant on ABC’s The Chew, this is it!