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I’ve never understood the autumnal obsession with “pumpkin spice”-flavored foods. Practically any processed snack or beverage can be found, once August ends, in this now-universal variety. But until recently, I had never caved. It’s too popular. I’m above it. Why do they call it “pumpkin spice,” anyway? The spices have nothing to do with pumpkin, except that they’re used in pumpkin pie. No. No. Not a chance.

Then, Trader Joe’s introduced a pumpkin pie-spiced herbal tea– and that was that. I’ll admit it: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves pair perfectly with pumpkin. Things become popular for a reason, apparently.

I’ve been interested by the fact that, with all of the obsession surrounding these spices, nobody (from what I’ve seen) has used them in a savory dish. That’s what I set out to do with this soup.

I’m not sure what to call it, exactly. It was intended to be a chili, but when I decided against using chili powder, it couldn’t qualify any longer. It’s thicker, I think, than a soup– so let’s just call it “chili.” In quotes.

Whatever it’s called, it’s fantastic.


Pumpkin Pie “Chili”

Serves 8 to 10


  • 1 sugar pie pumpkin
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 handful of small, mildly spicy peppers (mine were pepperoncini)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 C frozen corn
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1/2 t cloves
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • cilantro


  1. Peel, seed, and/or chop pumpkin, sweet potatoes, peppers, and onion as needed.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and salt; cook until translucent.
  3. Add spices and peppers; stir, and let cook until fragrant. Add balsamic vinegar, diced tomatoes, broth, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and beans. Simmer until tender.
  4. Add corn, then simmer for 5-10 more minutes. Serve with lime juice and cilantro.



  • This soup makes a lot, because I wanted to use up the whole pumpkin at once. It could easily be frozen, or just eaten every day for every meal until it’s gone; that’s what I did, and I never tired of it.
  • After quite a bit of trial and error, I’ve finally found the most efficient way to peel a pumpkin. The butternut squash method doesn’t work well because of the shape, but a potato peeler is perfect. Were I to do this again, I would peel the whole pumpkin, then cut it into slices and just cut out the seeds and “guts.” I don’t know if this is normal, but in my pumpkin, they would not come out with a spoon.