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Vegetarian chili with butternut squash, apple and cheddar jalapeno cornbread

The trick to making a chili that tastes like it’s been cooking for hours over an open fire is pre roasting some of the ingredients.  In this vegetarian chili, the fiery flavour comes from roasted earthy butternut squash, sweet bell peppers, and tangy green apples!

Another great trick for chili on the fly: use a can of tomato paste to give your chili that slow-cooked deep tomato flavour!



  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1 1/2 centimeter cubes
  • 1 green apple, peeled and diced into 1 1/2 centimeter cubes
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced into 1 1/2 centimeter chunks
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium (or 2 small) yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves, optional
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if you like it spicy
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 796 milliliter can of diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 540 milliliter can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 540 milliliter can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 2 centimeter cubes
  • 1 – 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with lime juice, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, and/or grated cheddar cheese, to taste

For the cheddar jalapeno cornbread:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeded and very finely diced


  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and place a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
  2. On a sheet pan, toss the cubed butternut squash, apple, and bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Set this aside while the oven preheats.
  3. Meanwhile, pour the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in your Dutch oven or heavy pot and add the onions, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about seven minutes or until the onions start to colour then add the minced garlic and bay leaves.  Cook for an additional one minute then add the tomato paste, Dijon mustard, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and paprika.  Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or so or until the mixture is nice and fragrant.
  4. Add the can of tomatoes (juice included), the rinsed beans, tofu, and enough vegetable stock to bring it all together, bring to a simmer, and cover partially with a lid.  You want some of that steam to escape so your chili cooks down a bit and gets nice and rich!  Stir your chili occasionally and reduce the heat if necessary to avoid burning.
  5. By this time your oven should be up to temperature.  Pop the prepared squash, apple, and peppers into the oven and roast for 20 – 25 minutes until tender but still firm, stirring once midway through to ensure even browning. 
  6. When your veg comes out of the oven, transfer it all into the chili pot and stir to combine.  Cook, slightly covered, for an additional ten minutes or so to let all of the ingredients come together and finish with a final seasoning of salt, pepper, and lime juice.
  7. Serve your chili with some delicious cornbread and any garnishes your family likes!  And watch out for those bay leaves – they aren’t tasty eats so be sure to fish them out when serving.

Note: this chili freezes beautifully!  Just portion it into zip top bags and pop them into your freezer.  Defrost overnight in the fridge or just reheat, covered, in your microwave or over low heat on the stove.  If you are using the stove method, you might need to add a little water or vegetable stock to make sure the chili doesn’t go dry.

For the cornbread:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a 9x13” pan by greasing it with butter.  If you’d rather use cooking spray, that will work perfectly but the butter will give you a much tastier crust.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, eggs, and mayonnaise making sure that it is well combined.
  4. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients.  Pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and stir four or five times just to lightly combine.  Pour in the melted butter and continue to stir just until a smooth batter forms.
  5. Fold in the cheddar cheese, green onions, and jalapeno until it is evenly distributed throughout the cornbread batter, pour into your prepared pan, and allow this to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.  This allows the cornmeal to absorb some of the moisture in the mixture and gives your cornbread a much better texture.
  6. Pop your cornbread into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cornbread to cool slightly and serve with some nice salted butter alongside a bowl of your favourite chili!

*Note: this cornbread freezes beautifully.  Just wrap the uneaten portion tightly in plastic wrap and place it into a freezer bag.  When ready to eat, either thaw at room temperature and reheat in a low oven or slice thin pieces off and pop it into the toaster.

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