first published this recipe five years ago around this time of year. We have an annual get-together to carve pumpkins and eat chili, and I serve this vegetarian version of it. But we didn’t do it this year because we’re living in Carbondale with my parents while waiting to return to Aspen. 

My parents offered to host at their place, but nobody who lives in Aspen will drive past the roundabout unless it’s for Target. So the chili party will probably be more of a December holiday thing this year, once we’re back in town. 

That said, I couldn’t wait that long to eat it. As the weather changes, a hearty stew with some kick is the perfect antidote to the cold. It’s also easy to make and keeps for leftovers a day or two later. After living downvalley and commuting with a baby, I’m all about simplifying the end-of-day hustle to make dinner. (Please send ideas on how to accomplish this.)

Some say it’s blasphemous to make chili without the meat, but I disagree and think this recipe proves why. With lots of beans and a smoky flavor from the adobo sauce, it’s a filling entree that has even the most carnivorous in the group happy with the meal.

The whole pumpkin-and-chili tradition started when I first moved to Aspen and was invited to a friend’s house to carve and eat. She moved shortly after, but we kept the tradition going – 11 years strong now. She was from Mississippi and was of the belief that meals weren’t actually meals unless they involved chicken, pork or beef. We miss her, but not the meat. 


Vegetarian Chili

• Two 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, or four to five fresh tomatoes chopped and cooked

• Two 15-ounce cans of black beans

• One 4-ounce can of diced green chiles

• Two or three chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

• One onion

• Two cloves of garlic

• Cumin to taste

• Chili pepper to taste

• Salt and pepper


In a large pot, saute the onion over olive oil on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until a translucent color. Add garlic. Slowly, combine tomato, black beans, chiles and peppers with the onion. Add chili pepper and cumin. Continue stirring for 10 to 15 minutes, or longer depending on desired thickness. For a heartier version, add diced carrots, celery and potatoes.

On the side, offer shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and diced green onions as toppings. Also include freshly baked cornbread as a side to temper the heat in the chili.


Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.