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Hidden Veggies Chili

Veggie chili – hidden veggies in a delicious and hearty chili. A secret ingredient gives this chili a vitamin-packed boost. Recipe has meat and meatless options.

veggie chili

Confession time. I grew up, nay, I cut my teeth on canned chili. Well, not literally. That would be painful. My parents would buy epic amounts of canned soups and chili when I was a kid, with the thinking that my sister and I could make our own lunches on weekends during the summer. And make our own lunches we did. So very much Campbell’s Tomato, Top Ramen (chicken flavor only), and Nally’s classic chili were consumed in those years. To this day, I still love soup for a quick meal, but the canned stuff holds little attraction for me anymore. Strange ingredients, a tinny taste, and industrial food recalls leave me leery. Thankfully, my childhood staple is simple enough to make.

You can easily make this chili vegetarian/vegan by eliminating the meat and doubling or tripling the beans. Also, this recipe calls for two pounds of ground meat, which seems like a ton. At least to me. I love the homemade sausage our local butcher makes, but the sizes are never exactly what I want for a recipe. I usually end up buying two pounds worth, cooking it all, and then freezing half for other dishes. Why not cook once and use twice? If you don’t want to roll that way, just use one pound of meat. If you’re using dried beans, cooking them in the Instant Pot will cut the soaking and cooking time dramatically.

The secret ingredient in this recipe that makes this an extra-special veggie chili? It’s butternut squash! I am not a huge butternut squash fan, and I thought surely adding it to this recipe would be a turnoff. In reality, I couldn’t even taste it, and since I kind of mashed it up a bit to make it more indistinguishable to Jack, it just became part of the sauce. The chili became extra hearty with the squash, and I felt completely full until bedtime after just one bowl. It was a perfect dish for the “the calendar says it is spring, but the weather says otherwise” kind of season. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I think you should serve this veggie chili with delicious homemade biscuits.

Making this recipe or others?

Post a photo on my Facebook page, share it on Instagram, or save it to Pinterest with the tag #sustainablecooks. I can't wait to see your take on it!

veggie chili
5 from 2 votes
Hidden Veggies Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins

Veggie chili - hidden veggies in a delicious and hearty chili. A secret ingredient gives this chili a vitamin-packed boost. Recipe has meat/meatless options.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: Sarah - Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 lbs sausage, burger, ground chicken, etc. You'll only use half of it. See the note in step 2 below.
  • 2 cans tomato sauce (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup water Used to rinse the tomato sauce cans out and get all the extra!
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted preferred)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp prepared BBQ sauce
  • 1.5 cups pinto beans Or 1 15 oz can, drained
  • 1.5 cups kidney beans Or 1 15 oz can, drained
  • 2 cups butternut squash
  1. If using dried beans, soak in hot water starting the night before. The day of, drain and place in a slow cooker set to high, cover with water and let cook until they feel done.

  2. In a heavy bottomed pan (like a dutch oven), brown the meat if using. I cook two pounds - use a little over half of it for this recipe, and freeze the cooked sausage for something else later on. Cook once and eat twice! If you don't want to do that, simply cook about a pound of meat. Once the meat is about halfway cooked, I use a pastry cutter to dice it up into really small pieces. Works like a charm. When the meat is fully cooked, use a slotted spoon and transfer it to a bowl. Drain all but about 1 tbsp of any fat that remains.

  3. Throw the diced onion in the pan and stirring often, cook them down until soft; about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. If making this without meat, use 1 tbsp of olive oil.

  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the beans, and cook for 20 minutes. I like to use this time to kind of mash up the butternut squash in the pot and let it thicken the chili. Some chunks remaining are totally fine!

  5. Add the beans, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Top with shredded cheese, green onions, sour cream, Greek yogurt, or any of your favorite chili toppings.

Veggie chili - hidden veggies in a delicious and hearty chili. A secret ingredient gives this chili a vitamin-packed boost.Recipe has meat/meatless options.

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2 comments on “Hidden Veggies Chili”

  1. packed full of flavor!