Pumpkin Can Be More Than a Latte

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It’s pumpkin season. Some people carve them into jack-o-lanterns and others just set them on their porch as a decoration. But, don’t forget, pumpkins can be eaten.

Technically, from a botanist’s point-of-view pumpkins are fruits. Whether you consider it a fruit or a vegetable, just think of it as healthy. Just one-half cup of canned pumpkin provides four grams of fiber with no fat or cholesterol and only 50 calories. Pumpkin also has more beta-carotene per serving than any other commonly eaten food. Our bodies convert this beta-carotene to vitamin A. Pumpkin is also full of potassium and antioxidants. While pumpkin is often added to sweet desserts such as pies and breads, it can be a great addition to more healthful fare such as soups, sauces, hummus, and oatmeal. 

With that thought in mind, Meghan Lassiter, the Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension in Brunswick County recently prepared a Pumpkin Chicken Chili on this month’s edition of Kitchen Connection. In case you missed it, here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Chicken Chili

Pumpkin Chicken Chili


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ pounds boneless chicken breast
  • 1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground sage
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ingredients: cilantro, green onion


  1. Start by washing your hands and making sure your cooking space is clean. All vegetables should be rinsed and scrubbed under running water before chopping. 
  2. Set electric pressure cooker to the sauté function and add olive oil, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until lightly browned and fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken broth and seasonings. Stir well until combined.
  5. Add the chicken breast, pumpkin puree, tomato paste, and black beans to the pot. Stir again and cover the electric pressure cooker with the lid. 
  6. Check the pressure release valve to make sure it is sealed and turn on high pressure for 12 minutes. After it is done, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes and then release the pressure valve.
  7. Carefully check the internal temperature of the chicken to see that it has reached 165°F. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred with a fork. Add the chicken back into the pot and stir.
  8. Serve Pumpkin Chicken Chili with desired toppings and enjoy. Makes 6 servings.

Extension Master Food Volunteer, Laura Vaughan from Leland, testing the Pumpkin Chicken Chili recipe in the electric pressure cooker.

Lassiter’s version is made in an electric pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, the recipe can be easily made on top of the stove- it will just take a little longer. Simply sauté the vegetables in the olive oil in a large pot and then add the remaining ingredients. Simmer until the chicken has reached 165°F and is tender enough to pull apart into shreds (approximately one hour).

This recipe can also be adapted to your own personal tastes. She used chicken breasts because they have slightly less saturated fat than dark meat chicken, but if you like dark meat it works great – just be sure it is boneless.

The same goes for the peppers and spices. If you don’t like heat in your chili, omit the jalapeno. Also, adjust the other spices to your liking. The cinnamon adds a sweet flavor that goes great with the pumpkin.

Using the canned pumpkin puree is an easy way to add pumpkin to this recipe. Be sure to use plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling has added spices and sugar. Canned pumpkin is simply cooked pureed pumpkin without all of the extras.

If you’d like to see Lassiter make this recipe, a recording is available on our YouTube. On the third Monday of each month at noon, you can watch Lassiter preparing a healthy recipe live on Kitchen Connections on Facebook.

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610 or by email at cheryle_syracuse@ncsu.edu.