Pork-and-Pumpkin Chili

4 Comments 16 November 2011

And lo, they said unto the kitchen – prepare to make FIRE! The ancient kind. The kind in yo mouth. You’re tongue will never be the same.

I’m not exactly known for having a high spicy threshold. I enjoy some spicy foods, but let’s just say age has caught up with me and I ought not to be eating foods that make my stomach do the macarena. I also seem to be one of the only people I know that thinks one cute little chili drawing next to the dishes on a Thai menu means a walk-across-the-coals hotness. I often have a hard time tasting anything but the spiciness in a spicy dish. When I saw that this recipe includes chipotles and a poblano pepper, let’s just say I promised myself I’d tread lightly and, yet, hopefully. Because it sounded pretty darn good.

A word to the wise – chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are very deceiving. They smell like they’ve been bathed in the most delectable, sweet barbecue sauce you can imagine. YUM. However, DO NOT grab a spoon and dip it into that sauce and lay that sauce on your tongue, for your nose was just deceived! Just, you know, be prepared and all. Yes, I realized these were like ghosts of very bad, naughty jalapenos past, but I just had to taste.

Damn you, chipotle peppers! Why do you have to smell soooo fine? Grumble.

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The recipe calls for one 12-ounce Mexican lager. We went with what we had on hand, and that was ye old Boston beer, Mr. Sam Adams. It did in a pinch, and it did it well!

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Three pounds of cubed-up pork are tossed in a large soup pot with the beer, some water and the diced chipotle peppers. You’ll have to skim off the beer foam, and that was the only part of this recipe I found tiresome. But I just don’t like skimming stuff off the top of soups and such. It bursts my lazy bubble.

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Next you make a kind of sofrito out of onions, the poblano pepper and fresh tomatoes. It starts out very brightly colored, very pretty.

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But then you dump in 1/4 cup chili powder and it starts to look a little muddy. Not to worry, this will soon be added to that watery pork mixture up top. Just keep cooking, keeep stirring.

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And this is what happens once you add the pumpkin in! And stir some more. Stir, stir, stir. It got to be so thick, though, that I kind of had enough of the stirring a couple of minutes early. When you’re over it, you’re just over it!

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Folks, that looks like chili to me. Oh yeah. The pumpkin/veggie mixture was added to the pot, cooked down some more and the smell is driving my hubby crazy at this point. Imagine the delight that lit his face when I said he could have it for lunch. Kind of like a kid in a chili store. A weird kid, obviously. He’s never been the candy kind. That slowed down his lunch-time scavenging.

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The interesting-ness isn’t over yet – cuz I’d never heard of pumpkin in chili before. The recipe called for mustard greens as well, but as seems typical for my area, there were none to be found in the time I had to look. We substituted our new favorite green – Swiss chard. In my opinion, if we need a leafy green to hold its own in a dish, we just can’t go wrong with it, and we were right. Work it, Swiss chard! So we can eats you.

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And we have chili, folks! A very bold, spicy and wonderful chili. We’ve always been beef people when it came to chili before, but this is Chili After, and there’s a new meat in town. The pork was awesome in this, perfectly tender, but with just enough chew left. I liked its more subtle taste against the slow burn of the spices. The greens add another level of texture that was pleasing. Different, but good. Even though there’s more steps than I’m used to with my typical dump-and-simmer chili, this was still very easy and do-able for a weeknight.

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To accompany the chili, we whipped up the recipe’s “pumpkin cream”, simply a little of the canned pumpkin mixed with sour cream. YUMMY, folks, trust us. The green onions were our addition, and you can’t go wrong with them as a garnish if you like the things. The pumpkin cream does help cut the spiciness a little. The flavors are so much richer that any chili I’ve made before. This really was a great, new and wonderful food discovery. Great idea, sis blogging partner!

Pork-and-Pumpkin Chili

from Food Network Magazine

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cook time: About 1 hour, 40 minutes    Level: Easy    Serves: 6-8

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see notes)
  • 1 12-ounce bottle Mexican lager
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Lime wedges, for serving (we forgot these, but imagine they’re wonderful with this)
  • several green onions, sliced for garnish (optional)

Combine the pork, beer, 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, skimming the foam off the surface (every time you stir the slightest bit, it will foam up). Add the chipotles and 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, cover and cook about 30 minutes.

Mix 3 tablespoons pumpkin, the sour cream and salt to taste in a bowl; cover and chill.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, poblano, onions and 2 teaspoons salt; cook until soft, 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, the chili powder and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Add the remaining pumpkin and cook 5 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pork and simmer until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes. Add the greens and cook 10 more minutes. Season with salt. Ladle the chili into bowls; top with the pumpkin cream and more chili powder. Serve with lime wedges and sliced green onions if desired.


The original recipe called for a 1/4 cup of oil to cook the veggies in, which sounded like way too much. We cut it back to half that and I’m glad we did. Half the amount worked perfectly, they’d have been swimming in oil otherwise.

If you’re like me, and you like spicy foods sometimes but often can’t take the heat, you could back the peppers down to even one chipotle and 2/3 of the pablano if you wanted to. I bet you’d still get enough heat. We used all of our pablano and two chipotles.

On the pork shoulder – you can substitute a cut your grocer might label as boneless country-style ribs, which is what we did. It’s the same cut of meat as a pork shoulder, it’s just been de-boned and cut into nice, neat rib-esque pieces. It’s also easier to see which package contains pieces with less fat, because pork shoulder can be so very fatty, and it’s not easy to tell how much so till it’s been cut into. I opt for the boneless rib style whenever possible to choose leaner-looking cuts. I thought about just using a lean pork tenderloin, but am honestly not sure if it would have come out as tender. I’ll update here should we ever try it.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Natasha A. says:

    Oh goodness this is good! I actually keep a chipotle paste in my fridge. Basically I took a can of chipotle in adobe and pureed it in my Magic Bullet (TM) and just spoon some out into recipes all the time. LOVE it!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Brie says:

    I know all about chipotle peppers in adobo sauce being deceiving, once I ate a spoonful of the thing because it looked delicious and no spicy at all… Needless to say I almost died, but the taste is really good!

    I’ll try this recipe, it looks yummy and easy. And since I’m a cilantro addict I’ll probably add some right at the very end!

  3. KMont says:

    Natasha, I think my MIL must have been doing something similar with jalapenos, because for the longest time everything we ate at her house was mucho spicy lol.

    Brie, I’m so glad someone else knows what I mean by that chipotle allure! SO evil, yes? 😀 Your cilantro idea sounds fantastic, I’m doing that next time, too!


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