Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Wheatberry Chili

My absolute favorite thing to make on a cold winter weekend, this chili is loaded with sweet butternut squash, hearty black beans, chewy wheatberries, and some delicate heat. This is a really easy recipe to customize based on your tastes and is perfect for a winter party!


  • 2-3 c cooked wheatberries
  • Oil of choice for cooking
  • Salt and pepper throughout
  • Medium-sized butternut squash
  • 2 sweet, white, or yellow onions
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1-2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2-3 tsp Ancho chili powder
  • 1-2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1-2 tsp coriander
  • 0.5-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5-1 tsp ginger
  • 0.25 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 poblano peppers
  • Dash of tequila
  • 1-2 c pumpkin puree
  • 2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-3 c frozen corn
  • 2-3 colored bell peppers
  • Juice of a lime
  • Garnishes of choice


  1. Precook the wheatberries by boiling them for at least an hour until tender. You may want to do this the day before since it takes a while. They (approximately) double in size, so a cup dry will yield about two cups cooked.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425. Peel and dice the butternut squash, then roast at 425 until golden and medium-soft, about 20-25 minutes. (Or you can do this the day before for ease!).
  3. When you're ready to start cooking the chili, begin your flavor base by dicing and caramelizing the onions in a dash of oil. Salt and pepper liberally. Caramelize them deeply so that you allow all those delightful toasted flavors to develop!
  4. Mix up your spice blend (chili powders, cumin powder, cumin seeds, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, plus more salt) and set it aside. You can always add more later but can't take away, so be delicate at first so you can taste and add as you go.
  5. Fire-roast your poblano pepper(s), either directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, until charred. Remove the seeds if you wish and dice finely, since you want this delicate heat to spread evenly throughout the dish.
  6. Once the onions are caramelized, add the finely diced poblano and the dried spice blend you mixed previously. Toast for a few minutes to bloom the flavor of the spices.
  7. Deglaze the pan with a few shots of tequila and allow the onions, pepper, and spices to steam for a minute.
  8. Add some water (about 4 cups to start) and the pumpkin puree. This is your base liquid that will develop into the flavorful broth that will eventually bring everything together. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  9. Add in about half of the butternut squash (you'll add the other half later). This will allow some pieces to break down more fully and others to remain as visible chunks.
  10. Add the wheatberries since they can stand up to a lot of cooking and will absorb all the great flavors of the broth. Simmer for half an hour to keep developing the flavor.
  11. While the wheatberries continue to soften and absorb all the great flavors you're creating, grill your corn (probably on an indoor grill pan during the winter!) and get some good char on it.
  12. Add the beans and grilled corn to the chili.
  13. Taste and adjust! Do you want more heat? Then add more cayenne and/or chili powder. Do you want more depth without adding heat? Add chili powder (if yours is relatively mild) and cumin. Feel like you need more zing in general? Add a bit more salt. Keep simmering and letting the magic happen, and keep tasting.
  14. About 15 minutes before you're ready to eat, add the remaining butternut squash.
  15. Fire-roast your bell peppers, either directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, until charred. Dice them coarsely, and add them about ten minutes before you want to serve so they maintain some texture.
  16. Right before serving, add the lime juice in order to keep it fresh and bright.
  17. Serve and garnish as you desire, or make up a toppings board so that everyone can customize their own.