This paleo chili recipe uses butternut squash instead of beans. Butternut squash has fewer than half the calories and carbohydrates of beans.
I love beans, but they don’t love me. It’s the whole “magical fruit” thing that makes them off limits for me, and it’s what makes them off limits for the paleo/primal diets. Many people find beans difficult to digest, even when properly soaked and cooked. Even if you tolerate beans well, you might like to substitute butternut squash for a delicious, lower calorie change of pace.
If you are not familiar with butternut squash, here are some tips on preparing it:
First of all, if you have sensitive skin like me, I recommend wearing rubber gloves. The peeled raw flesh of butternut squash (and many winter squashes) will “eat” the skin on your fingers. It’s a self-defense mechanism that heals the plant’s skin when its flesh is pierced, and it also deters animals from having a little munch. Don’t worry, once the squash is cooked, the “skin-eating” is no longer a danger.
Remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. I like to cut the round bottom off, and then I cut it in half to get to the seeds. Scrape the seeds and fibers out with a spoon.
Then dice the squash into the bean-sized chunks.
Add the squash during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking, I used about half of a squash for this recipe. I made Roasted Butternut Squash with the remainders and had it for breakfast along with my eggs during the week.
I like to braise the chili in the oven so I don’t have to babysit it, and I can do other things while the oven does all the work. However, if you are short on time, you can simmer the chili on the stovetop for 45 minutes to an hour, just be sure to stir it often so it does not stick to the bottom of the pot or burn.
Chili is a staple meal at our ski house, and a great no fuss, make-ahead dish that reheats beautifully. This recipe is mildly spicy since I’m usually serving children. I serve it with a bottle of hot sauce on the side, for those who want more of a kick. You can adjust the amount of cayenne and chili powder to suit your own tastes.
I love this chili with my Gluten Free Skillet Cornbread:
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- 2 lbs organic grass-fed ground beef
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 large red onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 2 cups organic, gluten-free beef broth
- 2 Tbs chili powder
- 1 tbs cumin
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp coriander
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
- 3 cups of diced butternut squash
- I recommend using organic ingredients when possible.
- Heat an oven-proof stockpot or Dutch oven, on medium. Add the ground beef, as well as: 2 Tbs chili powder, 1 Tbs cumin, 2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp coriander, ¼ tsp cardamom, and ¼ tsp. Stir to incorporate.
- While the beef is browning, you can chop the red pepper. When the beef is mostly browned but still has some pink color, add the red pepper to the pot and sauté for 3 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile chop the onion and add it to the pot, sauté for another 3 minutes or so.
- As the onion is sautéing, you can mince the garlic, and then add it to the pot. Stir the garlic frequently being careful not to burn it. Burned garlic is bitter, and can ruin a dish. My Aunt Rose taught me that when you start to smell the garlic, it is time to get it off the heat or add something to the pan that will bring the temp down.
- At this point, if you have a lot of grease in the pan you can drain it off (not down the sink!), otherwise you can add the tomatoes, the beef broth, and the unsweetened cocoa.
- Bring to just a boil, cover and then put the pot into a 350-degree oven for at least an hour and a half. This should bring the flavors together, reduce some of the liquid, and tenderize the beef.
- Stir in 3 cups of diced butternut squash, during the last 20 minutes of the chili's oven time. When the squash can be easily pierced with a fork, it is ready to eat. If it is still too firm, bake for another five minutes and then check again.