Kabocha Squash Chili is a comforting, vegetarian chili perfect for a cozy meal! If you like pumpkin chili or chili with butternut squash, you’ll love this kabocha squash recipe! This recipe comes from my cookbook, Meat to the Side.
I’ve rediscovered sweatshirts. Ever since the temperatures dropped – and don’t laugh if you live where winter actually exists, because even in California, we get chilly weather, too (it’s all relative!) — I’ve been reaching for a cozy sweatshirt every day this week.
Let’s face it, a sweatshirt is simply an acceptable way of wearing a robe or blanket in public! And I am all for it.
You know what else I’ve rediscovered? Chili. Chili weather is back, my friends! And last night, I made a pot of Kabocha Squash Chili — this recipe is in my cookbook, Meat to the Side, and I just had to share it with you!
Kabocha Squash Chili Recipe
If you’ve ever had pumpkin chili or chili with butternut squash, then you’ll love this kabocha squash recipe! The kabocha squash adds another layer of cozy to this spicy chili, and I promise that the meat-lovers in your life will gladly embrace this vegetarian chili!
I carefully layer the flavors, seasoning the kabocha squash with a splash of soy sauce to bring out its umami, and I also drop in a touch of Worcestershire sauce. These little details take the traditional chili spices up a notch, and even my son, who prefers a classic chili, loves this version just as much!
Like most chilis, time is your friend when it comes to building flavors, but I love how versatile this recipe is — I let the chili simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes to an hour last night, but I also love letting it bubble away in a slow-cooker. Take your pick!
Tip: To give the chili a thicker texture, use an immersion blender! Towards the end of the cooking time, to blend some (not all) of the chili, transforming it from a kabocha squash soup to a chunky chili. Don’t have an immersion blender? Blend about a cup of the chili in a blender or food processor!
Is Kabocha Squash the Same as Pumpkin?
If you’ve never seen or tried kabocha, it is a squash in the gourd and pumpkin family. Similar in shape and size to a small sugar pumpkin, it has a green rind and bright orange flesh. You may find it in your market labeled as kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin; in Japan, the word “kabocha” may be used to refer kabocha squash, pumpkins, or even other squashes.
I would describe kabocha squash to be sweeter than butternut squash, and I love how versatile it is! I love it in soups and chilis, but it’s also delicious simply roasted.
Do You Have to Peel Kabocha Squash?
No! The beauty of kabocha squash is that the rind is edible, making prep so much easier! For this recipe, I trim the rind, but I leave that up to you.
More Chili Recipes
More Winter Squash Recipes
Turkey Pumpkin Pot Pie
Butternut Squash Scalloped Potatoes (Vegan)
Spiced Butternut Squash Lentil Soup (Vegan)
Stuffed Butternut Squash with Farro, Chickpeas and Kale
Roasted Butternut Squash Winter Salad with Kale, Farro and Cranberry Dressing
Pumpkin Sage Polenta
Roasted Acorn Squash and Kale Salad
Baked Oatmeal Stuffed Acorn Squash
More Plant-Forward Recipes
Even the meat lovers in my life admit that they don’t miss the meat at all in this chili. If you’re looking for more plant-forward recipes, check out my book. This chili recipe is just one of the many delicious recipes that will help you get more veggies in your life!
Kabocha Squash Chili
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 small Kabocha squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 14-oz cans beans ideally a mixture drained and rinsed
- 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 5 stalks celery finely diced
- 2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Sliced green onions
- Sour cream
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced jalapeños
- Diced avocado
- Finely diced red onions
- Crumbled cotija cheese
- Cornbread for serving optional
- In a slow cooker (or a Dutch oven or other large pot), heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and squash and season with soy sauce. Cook until the onions, have wilted, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the cumin, oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper and stir for 30 seconds to coat the squash and give the spices a chance to become fragrant.
- Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, celery, sugar, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. The longer the chili cooks, the better it tastes (and I do believe it tastes better the next day). If using a slow cooker, transfer the chili to a slow cooker and let it bubble for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Otherwise, cover and cook for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Regardless of cooking method, taste the chili often, adjusting the seasoning as necessary with salt and pepper.
- Use an immersion blender to blend some (not all) of the chili for a thicker texture.
- Serve with the toppings of your choice and a side of cornbread, if desired.
- Rinse and drain the beans well before using to de-gas the beans. This helps prevent any uncomfortable bloat.
- Since there is no meat in this chili, it cooks rather quickly, but like any good chili, time is its friend. You can certainly serve this 30 minutes into cooking, but giving it more time to simmer helps the flavors really come together.
- Kabocha squash rind is edible, so to save time, feel free to leave the rind on.
- Don’t have an immersion blender? Blend about a cup of the chili in a blender or food processor, or simply use a potato masher or forks to mash.