Happy Halloween! It is fitting I am sharing this veggie chili on Halloween, because it is a tradition of sorts for me. Growing up, my mom would make a big steaming pot of vegetarian chili every Halloween. My three sisters and I would come in at various times from trick-or-treating (or in my older, cooler sister’s case, a Halloween party), and we would help ourselves to the pot bubbling away on the stove and the bowls of grated cheese, yogurt and scallions on the counter. It would warm us up from the chilly Chicago night. Does anyone else remember their Halloweens past to be much chillier than they are nowadays? We’d sit around the table eating chili and counting our candy — most of which would soon mysteriously disappear, thanks to my mom saving us from candy overload. My mom was ahead of her time in her preference for vegetable-centric meals and quality, minimally processed ingredients. Thanks, mom! Her chili was the perfect foil to the sweet candy, with a bit of spice and loads of veggies.
This year, I set out to make my own version of a Halloween veggie chili to carry on the family tradition. Nick grew up on chili that was mostly beef and very few vegetables — meaty, stick-to-your-bones chili — so this recipe is the perfect compromise between the very different chilis of our childhoods. We will be making this recipe for years to come, with a stamp of approval from Nick and Rose.
The black lentils and bulgur wheat give this chili a very hearty, meaty texture, which is exactly what I was going for. The butternut squash lends a nice sweetness and balances the spices in this chili. Speaking of spices, this chili has quite a few — rosemary, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, chili powder and cinnamon — all of which combine for incredible depth of flavor. Oh, and raw cacao powder! The cacao powder, along with the cinnamon, adds delicious warm, earthy notes to this chili. Once you start adding cacao powder to chili, I venture you will never turn back. Tomatoes, black beans and kale round out the flavors in this chili. I add the kale at the very end of cooking to retain some of its brightness.
There’s really nothing better than a bowl of this hearty, nourishing chili on a chilly day, especially on Halloween! The black lentils, black beans and orange squash definitely qualify this chili as festive Halloween food. I topped ours with a dollop of full-fat, grass-fed Greek yogurt and some chives. Cheese would also be delicious.
Have a great day, and Happy Halloween! xx Maggie