Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Turkey Chili Recipe

I am thankful I was not born a pilgrim...

Life in Plymouth, MA in the early 1620s was definitely not an easy one.  If you even survived the long voyage and the first few months on land (2-3 pilgrims died each day, possibly, from scurvy or pneumonia),  you had to build your life and home entirely from scratch in a completely foreign land.  You had to grow and hunt for your food (my brown thumbs would not have been handy) and spend the better part of the day preparing, cooking and preserving the food in pretty sparse and oftentimes harrowing conditions.  

There is one thing, however, that I may have enjoyed…it seems pumpkin or "pompion" was a readily available ingredient and was served throughout the day as depicted in this early verse:

"For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."
Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

Now granted they weren't having pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ravioli and stuffed pumpkin cupcakes, but there was pumpkin home-brewed beer and this recipe for Pilgrim-era Stewed Pompion sounds pretty tasty despite the noted side-effects:

“The Ancient New England standing dish.
But the Housewives manner is to slice them when ripe, and cut them into dice, and so fill a pot with them of two or three Gallons, and stew them upon a gentle fire a whole day, and as they sink, they fill again with fresh Pompions, not putting any liquor to them; and when it is stew'd enough, it will look like bak'd Apples; this they Dish, putting Butter to it, and a little Vinegar, (with some Spice, as Ginger, &c.) which makes it tart like an Apple, and so serve it up to be eaten with Fish or Flesh: It provokes Urine extreamly and is very windy.”
Josselyn, John. An Account of Two Voyages to New-England, Made during the Years 1638, 1663. Boston: William Veazie, 1865.

I've enjoyed creating recipes with pumpkin over the past few years, branching out from the usual pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread that we all grew up enjoying.  I love pumpkin in both savory and sweet preparations and I'm not alone; pumpkin flavored anything is huge right now.  I do occasionally cook with a fresh whole pumpkin, but canned pumpkin is pretty handy and is still very healthy as it's loaded with Vitamin A, fiber, potassium and iron.  Canned pumpkin puree is the ingredient I use in this savory pumpkin turkey chili.  

This chili is perfect for a cool autumn evening.  The pumpkin lends a nice body to the chili and when combined with pumpkin pie spice adds a wonderful warm aroma and flavor to the dish.  I brown (tan?) the turkey and then combine it and the rest of the ingredients in a slow-cooker - so it cooks itself.  No all-day cooking over an open hearth for me!  We love it served with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and some crumbled tortilla chips, but you can top it with whatever you like!  So, I dedicate this recipe to those brave and steadfast pilgrims who paved the way for us to have an easier life full of freedoms. That is something we can all be thankful for.  

Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Turkey Chili:

Pumpkin Turkey Chili Recipe:

Christina Verrelli -

Makes 8 servings


2 tablespoons oil (I used safflower)

2 pounds ground turkey breast

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 (15.5-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used Rotel)

1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon Tabasco

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Optional Toppings:

lime wedges to squeeze in

chopped fresh cilantro

sour cream

tortilla chips


Add oil to large skillet over medium heat.  Crumble in turkey, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up as it cooks, until no longer pink or opaque.  About 10-12 minutes.

Add cooked turkey and all other ingredients to slow cooker.  Stir and cook on high for 4 hours or low for  6-8 hours, stirring occasionally.  Taste and season with more salt if desired.

Printable Recipe Link: Pumpkin Turkey Chili

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Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me!  I hope you like the recipe!  Tina ( :