Whether you’re making dinner for the family or feeding a crowd, a hearty bowl of my Pumpkin Walnut Chili is sure to be a hit!
Once the weather cools down, I start to crave classic comfort foods like soups, stews and chili. My Pumpkin Walnut Chili is the perfect dish to curl up with on a cold day. This easy vegetarian chili is rich, hearty and packed with nutritious ingredients like pumpkin, black beans, bulgur and walnuts to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Yes, you read that last ingredient correct- walnuts! Although walnuts may seem like a surprising addition to a bowl of chili, they add great texture as well as a rich, nutty flavor that works perfectly with the Southwestern spices in this dish.
This recipe is my first collaboration with the California Walnut Commission as part of their #TeamGoodFat campaign. Team Good Fat is a group of key foods that contain good fats including walnuts, avocados, salmon and extra virgin olive oil. For many years, fat was considered the enemy and people tried to minimize all types of fat in their diets. But we now know that not all fats are created equal from a health perspective. The truth is that we need fat in our diets. It plays many important roles such as providing us with energy, insulating our bodies and protecting our organs, aiding in the absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins, forming cell membranes, and regulating the production of vital hormones to name just a few! The key is in knowing the difference between the good fats that have health benefits and the bad fats that can have negative health effects.
You want to limit the amount of saturated fats, which are found in animal-based foods like meat, butter and cream, and replace them with nutrient-dense foods containing unsaturated fats. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of calories per day and making healthy shifts to foods that contain unsaturated fats. By doing this, it can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and may lower your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are found in many delicious foods like walnuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.
Walnuts are unique in that the majority of their total fat comes from polyunsaturated fats. Walnuts are also the only tree nuts that provide a rich source of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Omega-3’s are a type of polyunsaturated fat that have a wide variety of health benefits and are especially important for heart health and brain health. An ounce of walnuts also offers 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and is a good source of magnesium.
In the landmark Predimed study published in 2013, which included more than 7000 participants, investigators found that a Mediterranean diet including tree nuts (primarily walnuts) reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction, stroke or cardiovascular death) by 30% and specifically reduced the risk of stroke by 46% when compared to a low-fat diet group. Since then, more than 200 additional studies have resulted from the Predimed research.
Limiting saturated fats doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Here are some easy ways that you can make some smart swaps for saturated fat:
- The next time you’re making dinner, try cooking a recipe in olive oil instead of butter
- When you’re making baked goods like cakes or cookies, try swapping high-quality vegetable oils, Greek yogurt, applesauce or canned pumpkin for some of the butter in the recipe
- Try topping your pasta or salad with chopped walnuts instead of cheese.
- Instead of a steak or hamburger, choose a piece of grilled salmon, a salmon burger or a veggie burger
- Spread mashed avocado on your morning toast instead of butter
In my Pumpkin Walnut Chili, I’ve taken out all of the meat and replaced it with a combination of nutrient-dense chopped walnuts, whole grain bulgur, beans and pumpkin. Walnuts add texture and rich depth of flavor as they simmer away in the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bulgur adds heft to this vegetarian dish and a nice chewy texture that almost makes it feel like you’re eating ground beef. A combination of black beans and kidney beans add plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. And because it’s fall and pumpkins are everywhere this time of year, I like to stir some pumpkin into my chili- both canned, pureed pumpkin as well as chunks of diced pumpkin. Pumpkin is packed with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. It’s also a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium.
I like to serve the chili in a big pot with an assortment of toppings on the side so that everyone can top their bowls with their favorite ingredients. Some of my favorite toppings are chopped walnuts, sliced avocado (another good fat-containing food), a drizzle of Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro.
Pumpkin Walnut Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 3 cups (12 oz.) peeled and diced pumpkin or butternut squash
- 1 cup California walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup bulgur
- 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 cans (15 oz.) 100% pure pumpkin
- 2-3 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
- 2 cans (15.5 oz each) black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Optional toppings: chopped walnuts cilantro, avocado, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese
- Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, walnuts, and bulgur and stir to combine. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, tomatoes, canned pumpkin and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook 15 minutes.
- Uncover and stir in the beans. Simmer, uncovered, another 15-20 minutes until chili thickens and pumpkin and bulgur are cooked. Serve with desired toppings.