You were always on my mind... (Turtle Bean & Butternut Squash Chili)

I've had turtle beans on the brain lately.  I really don't know why.  But they've been there.  Stuck.  Like tires in the mud - or a foot of snow.  Not that I would know anything about stuck tires.  No siree.  Or mud.  Or snow...

I had purchased a bag of these sweet little turtle beans from a local natural foods store & promptly put them in my cupboard.  And was aggravated the whole time because I didn't know what I wanted to do with them. 

I like squash.  A lot.  Squash is good for you.  And it's pretty.  Pretty things make me happy.  Do you know what else makes me happy???  Clean dishes.  Folded laundry.  Mopped floors.  Organized spaces.  Uh - I guess I had better find some other things to make me happy - because if I am waiting on all of those things to make me happy, I am SOL...  I think I will stick with the squash. 

So what happens when turtle beans collide with squash?  A really great chili happens.  That's what.  (Add a little bulgur and it doesn't even need any meat.  Yeah!)  Now, I know that there are those who would say that no self-respecting chili would be seen without meat.  Beef, to be specific.  From a cow.  Mooooo.  (I work with a lot of Texans - they take their chili seriously - and I have it first hand that beans + bulgur + squash do not a chili make.)

But I don't live in Texas.  Or any other famous chili place.  Which in my mind buys me a "chili hall-pass".  Nope.  I don't have to work with beef chunks.  Nor do I have to serve it over spaghetti.  Or put chocolate in it (although that does sound good...)  I don't even have to take it seriously...   But it had better be good.  Since I am eating it.  (Plus, it is just plain wrong to waste good turtle beans and pretty orange squash). 


For those who aren't honor bound to stick chunks of cow beef in their chili - this one's for you.  For those whose first thought is "where's the beef?" - let's just call this "thickened bean soup".  I'm not here to pick a fight, I promise - we can call it whatever you want.  But no matter which side of the fence you are on - dig out a spoon, grab your favorite toppings & enjoy. 


Adapted from Bon Appetit - February 2011

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (I like to use Vidalia, but red onions are nice here too)
~1/2 head garlic, minced (or ~2 Tbs pre minced from a jar)
2  Tbschili powder
1 Tbs ground coriander
2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes (I prefer crushed because it's less texture, but diced will work)
1 pound dried turtle beans, rinsed
2 chipotle chiles from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (if you need less heat - only use one)
2 dried chilis - left whole (if you need less heat, omit)
Coarse kosher salt
1 2 - 3 lb butternut squash, cut into 1/2 cubes (peel & seed if buying a whole squash...) 
1/2 cup bulgur (preferably quick cooking)

Optional ToppingsSour cream

Coarsely grated cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack)
Diced red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Pickled jalapeño rings
Diced avocado

In a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot, heat oil.  Add onions; cook until tender and just starting to brown.  (Keep stirring).  Once onions are tender, add garlic and cook ~1 minute.  Stir in chili powder & coriander & cook an additional minute.  Stir in tomatoes (and their juice), beans & peppers.  Add ~10 cups of water.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat and bring mixture to a simmer & partially cover pot with lid.  Simmer until the beans are tender (2 to 3 hours - older beans will take longer to cook...).   Adjust salt & pepper if desired. 

In a medium sauce pan, cook squash in ~1 inch of boiling water until tender (15-20 minutes).  Drain well & set aside. 
 Stir bulgur into chili.  Over medium-low heat, keep at a low simmer until bulgur is tender (~30 minutes - may take longer if you did not use quick cooking variety).  The chili will thicken considerably at this point.  About 15 minutes before serving, stir in cooked squash.  Remove dried chilis, if using and discard.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with optional toppings - omit dairy toppings to keep this dish vegan.  Personally, I was happiest with a dollop of fresh sour cream and a few chunks of avocado. 


  1. That sounds delicious, Cher. Although I'd be tempted to add the chocolate.

  2. This chili sounds yummy, though I've never heard of turtle beans. I'll have to go on a scavenger hunt for them here. Great post!

  3. I don't think a great chili needs beef - it just needs to be hearty, which this one clearly is!

  4. I have never seen turtle beans before. Your chili looks wonderful and with the butternut squash I bet it is a little sweet. I agree that chili doesn't need beef. I usually make it with ground turkey and my family really likes it.

  5. LOL - you had my attention with that Elvis song title. Looks like a great dish - though I have nvere heard of turtle beans.

  6. Hi. Black beans are also a good fit here. However, most natural foods stores carry the turtle beans.

    @ Cakelaw - that song was running through my head when I made this. Seriously.

  7. This chili looks simply delectable. Thanks for sharing!


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