Vegan Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chili

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Now that fall has finally graced us with its cool mornings and evenings here in Arizona, my body has immediately started craving warm, stick-to-your-bones kinds of dishes. Those summer days of eating fresh mango and watermelon by the pool seem like a far away dream now that I’m finally bundled up in chunky sweaters and ankle boots. Trust me, I’m happy to see summer go and have fall stick around for a few weeks or so. Fall means Thanksgiving, cable-knits, pumpkins, changing leaves, football season, cuddling by the fireplace, and hearty comfort food that warms up your body and soul.

The epitome of these fall comfort foods is chili – hearty, meaty, warming chili, simmering away on the stove while you tailgate your heart out or frolic among the falling autumn leaves on a crisp day. Chili is best served with family, friends, laugher, or a shouting match over the big game, and never fails to disappoint on the flavor factor. The best part about chili is that you can make it in the morning and let it sit all day while the spices intensify and your kitchen begins to smell like comforting, fall goodness. Go for a brisk walk, toss the pigskin around, or get a head’s start on holiday shopping (eeek!) – the chili will be ready for you when you are.

This chili is absolutely everything you’d ever need in a chili. It’s super hearty with the best meaty texture, packed with filling fiber, so ideal for chilly football tailgates, brimming with spices and a rich flavor, warming on a cool night, and oh yeah – it’s vegan!

Now, don’t let the V-word scare you. Embrace the veggies and dive spoon first into this hearty bowl while you contemplate why you ever asked vegans and vegetarians where they got their protein in the first place. And fellow non-meat eaters, the next time someone asks you that dreaded question, just simply print out this recipe and hand it to them instead.

Because, oh man, this chili is hearty and protein packed. Black beans and quinoa bulk up the protein count while adding in tons of digestive happy fiber. Not to mention, the quinoa gets cooked while your chili bubbles away on the stove and creates the best nourishing texture in every bite. Butternut squash provides a touch of sweetness, Vitamin A for an immunity boost, and more cholesterol lowering fiber. All of the delectable spices, plus a bit of cacao, create the best aroma and provide your chili with oh my gosh this is vegan flavor and taste.

Delicious spicy flavor, heart healthy, protein packed, vegan, and comfort food too? Happy fall indeed.

Vegan Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chili

Serves 4

1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced (2 pounds or less)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 T olive oil
½ cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, including liquid
2 (14 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ½ cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
¼ tsp cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
¼ tsp cinnamon
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper
1 avocado, diced (to garnish)
Handful of diced cilantro (to garnish)

In a large dutch oven or sauce pot, heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add in butternut squash, onion, bell pepper, chili, and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until onions appear translucent.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add in the spices, uncooked quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, vegetable broth, and freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Cover chili and let bubble away on medium-low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

When chili is done, serve in individual bowls and top with diced avocado and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro if desired. Feel free to drizzle with some hot sauce if you want a spicier chili. Enjoy!

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