Spicy Cinnamon Chicken Chili

Chili. Everyone I know loves it, some way or another. Vegetarian, beef, vegan, beans, no beans, turkey, and the ever heated debate of noodles/no noodles. I know you are desperately wondering my side of the ancient argument, I take my chili either way, I do not discriminate against noodles.

Spicy cinnamon chicken chili | shutupeatthis.com

The highly popular mid western dish reminds me of long nights wrapped up in velvety blankets. The October nights where the air has a chill, just cold enough to be enveloped in warm clothing, but not bone-chilling. The scent of the crisp fall air would waft through the windows, mixing with the peppery chili aroma, a blend of all of my fall favorites. 

This chili is the embodiment of so many of my beloved flavors. The heat of the chili pepper and cayenne compliments the sweet and smokey cinnamon. The chicken thighs and black beans give the dish that satisfying heft that chili is famous for. And my surprise ingredient, fall's darling, butternut squash, rounds out the recipe with a touch of sweetness.

To begin, cut the butternut squash, scoop out the slimy seeds (save for roasting), peel the hard, brown skin with a potato peeler, and dice into little cubes. I like to cut the top off of the squash half to make it easier to peel. Be careful! Go slowly, so you don't peel your fingers and accidentally start another sequel to Saw. Mine look strange here because this wasn't actually for chili, I roasted the squash to toss into lunches.

You can also purchase prepared peeled/diced squash, but butternut squash are so abundant this time of year. Purchasing an entire squash is also is much more budget friendly, while also yielding more product.

Melt a tablespoon of your oil or butter of choice in a Dutch oven, or large stock pot. Toss in the onion, and garlic, cook, sweating them for about 3 minutes, then toss in the diced chicken thighs. Mix together with the onion and garlic and brown them for about 10 minutes. Take your gorgeous butternut squash (you did such a good job dicing them by the way), and stir them around for 2 minutes, mixing them with the other ingredients. 

Dump in the black beans with the liquid, and bring the heat up to a boil, more of an angry simmer, add the tomatoes, cover and simmer until the butternut squash is cooked and you can pierce it easily, it took me about 22 minutes, but I used a cast iron, and it may take you longer. Everyone's stove-top is different, and you may not have the same pot, so I don't like to give exact times so you aren't panicking yours aren't cooked yet! 

Add in all of the spices except the chili powder and salt. Mix well. 

Now you can add in the chili powder in. I added 1 full teaspoon, but please start off with 1/4 teaspoon, as there are already spices in the pot and I am not sure how spicy you like it. 

Now you can move to the last step, and add the salt. Start off with 3/4 teaspoon, and adjust just like you did with the chili powder, adding 1/4 teaspoon at a time after that. I think the most important point I want to communicate to everyone reading this is everyone out there has varying taste. Some like their chili a tad saltier, or maybe you didn't use low-sodium tomatoes, and you don't need an entire teaspoon. I would rather you taste as you go so you reach your perfect meal. I believe salt, spice, and sweet are something that everyone needs to play with on their own. I give a guideline, but I don't want you to be cursing my name in your kitchen because your chili tastes like liquid fire.

If the sodium worries you, I would like to suggest soaking your own black beans, and using fresh diced tomatoes for the chili. I can deal with the higher sodium because typically during the day, Jake and I really only have one prepared meal that may be higher in sodium than the rest.

What I love are the levels of flavor that are achieved in the dish. The chili has layer after layer of depth. Smoky, sweet, spicy, and very rich with the addition of butternut squash. The best part? The toppings can turn this chili into a masterpiece.

Some options for complimentary toppings:

  • A thick Greek Yogurt (Fage 0% is wonderful)

  • Cheddar cheese

  • Avocado (trust me)

  • Pickled onions

  • Crushed saltines/oyster crackers/tortilla chips

  • Green onion/chives

  • Toasted pumpkin seeds

Now make this chili, slip into some over-sized pajamas, pop on a Harry Potter movie, and let fall give you a big bear hug!

Spicy cinnamon chicken chili | shutupeatthis.com

Spicy Cinnamon Chicken Chili

Recipe by Allie Brendel

Spicy, sweet, and hearty, this fall chili is easy to put together. The cinnamon is a star in this dish, bringing out the flavors of each ingredient. Aromatic and warming, it is the perfect bowl of fall flavors!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 35-45 minutes

Total time: 55 mins

Yield: 8 cups

Calories per serving: 292

Fat per serving: 4


  • 1 pound trimmed chicken thighs diced
  • 4 cups butternut squash cubed (bite-size)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet onion (1 large sweet onion)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced/about 3 fresh cloves)
  • 2 cans black beans low-sodium rinsed & drained
  • 1 28 oz can crushed/diced tomato low-sodium
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (for chicken)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (for chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (for chili mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (for chili mixture)
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (optional, to reduce acidity)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Dice your chicken, and sprinkle with a little salt, and rub the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of paprika into the chicken. Set aside.
  2. Dice both the onion and garlic (or used jarred minced), and set aside.
  3. Prepare your butternut squash (or use pre-packaged squash). Cut the butternut squash lengthwise scoop out the seeds, using a potato peeler, peel off the brown skin.
  4. Cut the squash into bite size cubes. You will more than likely have one half of the squash left over.
  5. Heat a dutch oven or stock pot with 1 tablespoon of your oil of choice. Add in the onion and garlic and cook, sweating the onions for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add in the rubbed chicken to the pot, mix well with the onion and garlic, turning and browning for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add the butternut squash, mix well and stir for about 2 minutes.
  8. Add both cans of black beans with the can liquid to the pot, bring heat to a boil.
  9. Add tomatoes, cover and angry simmer for until the butternut squash is cooked. It took me about 20 to 23 minutes.
  10. Optional at this point: Add 1/4 of a teaspoon of baking soda to break down acidic nature of tomatoes (it will foam like an alien creature so stir vigorously)
  11. Add the remaining seasonings to the potnadd the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder.
  12. When adding the 1 teaspoon of chili, please start with 1/4 of a teaspoon, each chili powder varies, and there are already spices in the pot at this point. I have no clue how you like the heat of your chili and I do not want you to ruin it by adding too much! I use a very hot variety, and I like mine spicy, so I used 1 teaspoon for the pot, just season as you go.
  13. Lastly, add the salt for last, I always suggest starting with 1 teaspoon (or 3/4) and go from there at 1/4 of a teaspoon at a time, I use sea salt, so I generally use less, just add to taste and ENJOY!
  14. *You can serve with Greek yogurt, it creates a nice creamy texture to the spicy mixture!