Ground Chicken Butternut Squash Chili

I’ve been trying to get this recipe up for weeks.  I suck.  I don’t know where my time goes, but it sure hasn’t gone to my blog! Chili With the “holiday season” starting, things have gotten a little hectic and it’s so easy to get side tracked.  We tend to focus more on parties and presents rather than our daily routine, me included.  I’m completely guilty of indulging in every sense of the word when it comes to the holiday season…any holiday for that matter.  I love giving presents and baking and making people feel good and loved.  It makes me beyond happy.  BUT, even though it is the holiday season, we shouldn’t lose sight of our personal goals of fitness and health.  Believe me, I’m going to have my fair share of treats and cheats over this holiday season, but when I do, it will make sure whatever I’m cheating with is worth it and I will feel damn good about doing it because I have stuck to my nutrition and training goals up to that point.  Over the years I’ve learned that you can afford to give yourself a day off here and there and it’s not going to kill your overall fitness, however, allowing yourself to eat like shit for a whole “season” is a different story.  It goes without saying that there are consequences to derailing your nutrition.  Eat shit = feel and look like shit.  Bottom line.  Taking a month or two off from clean eating because it’s the holiday season just doesn’t cut it anymore.  It’s not worth having to start over from square one.  I’ve put a lot of time and energy into my body and health and really have no desire to undo all of that progress.  So for me, it’s about finding balance and clean eating options that are so good that you won’t miss the unhealthy ones.  Again, I’m not going to turn down a nice big piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or clam chowder in a bread bowl on Christmas Eve, however, in between I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing so that my general well-being doesn’t suffer.  My point here is, stick to your nutrition goals despite the craziness.  Keep cooking clean eats.  And plan ahead!  Making healthy food in bulk allows you to have great options ready to go in the fridge when you’re feeling too busy to cook.  And make something that you can eat as is or modify it as the week goes on.

Perfect example: Chili.  Halloween kind of marks the beginning of the holiday season which also means it’s a great night to start making chili again.  A few years ago, my girlfriend Amy Thompson shared a recipe for butternut squash chili that kind of stuck with my husband.  I can’t take credit for the original recipe which is all her and so delicious, but over the years I’ve experimented with it and made my own version.  I really don’t like beans and any chili that doesn’t call for them is already a winner with me.  As a flexible eater, I’m also trying to find balance in my meals and although chili can be super low carb it can end up being extremely high fat depending on what meat you choose to use.  I talked about simple swap outs of certain ingredients in paleo cooking that can omit a lot of the fat content of a dish and my modification of this chili is a perfect example of cutting back on fat.  When making an “alternative” meat chili, people seam to always grab ground turkey.  It’s SO bland though and needs so much help to taste good.  So I always opt for ground chicken thigh.  I’m obsessed with ground chicken.  It has just enough fat to keep the meat moist and tasty but doesn’t kill your fat macros like your typical 85/15 ground beef would.  When I make substitutions like this I’m always worried that my husband is going to hate it.  He’s such a big guy and can handle ALL of the fat and ALL of the carbs, but my small frame can’t.  Damn genetics.  I also tend to think that anything I make tastes good, but obviously I’m biased 🙂  Anyways, I tried out my new chili recipe on him about a month back and he couldn’t stop eating it.  When I asked him if I should use ground beef or ground chicken for our Halloween party this past weekend he said go ahead and use the chicken…it was that good.  When I make this chili, I purposely make more so that we can have leftovers for days.  The first night we eat it straight up.  Then as it starts to thicken we usually put it over rice or spaghetti squash and treat it like a super thick hearty meat sauce.  And finally, when there’s only a little left, I usually add a bunch of veggies to it like zucchini, squash, carrots, etc. to extend it even more.  Get creative with your leftovers.  Every one of these options taste equally good.

For those on a flexible eating program, the approximate calories and macros for

one serving of chili are (no toppings, but with olives):

358 Calories – 23C / 11F / 42P

Ground Chicken Butternut Squash Chili


16 oz. Ground Chicken Thigh Meat

16 oz. Ground Chicken Sausage (either bulk or take out of casings)

1 Whole Chopped Yellow Onion

1 Whole Chopped Red Onion

5 Finely Chopped Garlic Cloves

1 Cup (8 oz.) Chicken Broth

14.5 oz. Can Petite Diced Tomatoes

4 oz. Can Fire Roasted Diced Chiles

Optional: 3-4 oz. Can Sliced Black Olives

32 oz. Precut Butternut Squash (Trader Joe’s Bag works perfect)

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil (Olive Oil Spray if you want to omit the fat)

3 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

2 Tbsp. Cumin

1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder

1 Tbsp. Onion Powder

2 tsp. Chili Powder

1 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (less if you are sensitive to spice)

1 1/2 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Pepper


First, take your precut butternut squash and cut into quarters or even sixths depending on the size of the squash pieces.  The pieces of butternut squash should be about the size of a bean.  Then chop your onions and garlic.

On medium heat, sauté the butternut squash, chopped white onion, red onion and garlic until softened in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.  If you choose to omit the olive oil, use olive oil non-stick spray but make sure you use enough to coat the bottom and stir frequently so that the onions do not stick. Season with a little salt and pepper.  The onions will be softer than the butternut squash and that is ok.  The butternut squash will continue to cook as the chili simmers.

Remove onions and squash from the pot and place in a bowl to the side.  In the same pot, break up the ground chicken and chicken sausage with a wooden spatula and sauté until browned on the outside and mostly cooked through.

Once mostly cooked, add onions and butternut squash back to the pot and season with all spices:  Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders, cumin, cayenne and chili powders.  Coat the meat mixture thoroughly and sauté for an additional minute or two.

Turn the heat down to low and add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, chiles, tomato paste and optional black olives.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and turn heat back up to medium low and let simmer for about an hour.  Serve hot.

Optional:  This chili is amazing as is, however, top chili with chopped avocado, green onions and a little sprinkle of cheese for added texture and flavor.  Absolutely not necessary but this chili has barely any fat, so a few added fatty toppings won’t kill you 🙂

*** It is not necessary to make this chili hours before eating it, however, the longer it sits,

the better the flavors meld together and taste ***

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