I have what I like to call “perfect timing”.

Like, remember when I decided to cook Indian-Style Chili on the exact same day at the exact same time that my lovely adorable Indian roommate happened to invite every single Indian member of our med school class over to eat some Diwali pastries?

No?  Really?  You couldn’t feel my embarrassment from all four corners of the globe?  It was palpable.  Tactile, even.  Cut-it-with-a-knife thick.


There they were.  Munching down on halwa and jalebi and some of the other most incredibly delicious sweets on this earth.  Gossiping about where one could find the most authentic Indian food in this damn city (my kitchen did not make the list.  In case you were wondering).

When I barged in with my coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon.  Thinking that I was doing something truly groundbreaking.  Indian-style chili?  SCORE! was the mantra of the evening and what I had been repeating to myself over and over at the gym as I bribed myself to bike for just one more mile (times 16).

I think they were pretty oblivious to my activities until, eventually, the smell of meat and spice must have permeated the apartment because all of a sudden the whole crew tumbled into the kitchen, peered over the oven, and asked me what I was making.

I looked at the chili.  Looked at them.  Looked back at the chili.  The silence encasing all of us.  Compelling me to both speak and not speak, a kind of psychological dystonia if ever there were one.

Until finally one of them looked at the cookbook sitting on the counter and read “Indian-Style Chili” .  With beef.  Interesting.  He said as he looked away.  Doing his best not to make eye contact with this obviously confused white girl who had just offended all kinds of centuries-old traditions.

My lovely adorable roommate who loves me with reckless abandon said, brightly, “Well it definitely smells Indian!”


And, yes. That it did.

It smelled Indian and it tasted delicious, especially after a stint in the fridge overnight, as any good chili is wont to do.  The currying spices melding so beautifully with the heat of the chile powder and the subtle sweetness of the roasted winter squash.

Will I be making it again?  Yes.  But perhaps under a new name.  “Indian-Spiced Chili with No Resemblance to Any Authentic Indian Dish At All Ever But That is Still Seriously Worth Eating” has a nice ring to it.  Don’t you think?


Before the recipe, be sure to vote for your favorite winter squash recipe at the contest I’m holding over at MarxFoods!
Indian-Spiced Chili in Winter Squash “Bread” Bowls
Serves 4-5, adapted from Monica Bhide’s Modern Spice 

2 (2 lb) winter squash – acorn squash, kabocha, or buttercup are ideal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium red onion, minced
1 tbsp storebought ginger-garlic paste (or puree equal parts ginger and garlic together)
1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I used the ones from Trader Joes with chiles in them)
1 lb ground beef (I used SUPER lean) or ground turkey
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup dried kidney or trout beans, cooked OR 1 (15 oz) can of beans
1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 450.  Cut winter squash in half lengthwise.  De-seed.  Spray with cooking spray or rub with a bit of oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place on a baking sheet cut side up and roast for 40-50 minutes or until fork tender.  Set aside.

2. In a large lidded skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the cinnamon stick.  When the stick begins to sizzle, add the onion and ginger-garlic paste.  Saute, stirring, until the onion is golden brown, 7-8 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes.

4. Add the beef and cook 10-12 minutes or until browned, breaking up the meat with a spatula.

5. Add the chile powder, turmeric. cinnamon, cloves and coriander.  Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.

6. Add the beans and 1 cup water.  Cover and cook for another 12-15 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated.

7.  Once the chili is cooked, season with salt to taste.  Remove the cinnamon stick and spoon chili into each squash bowl.  Garnish with finely chopped onion or green chiles if desired.  Serve immediately.

This is the 6th recipe in my 12 weeks of winter squash series!  I am submitting it to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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104 Responses to Indian Spiced Chili in a Winter Squash "Bread" Bowl

  1. janet says:

    This looks so unique, Joanne! I love your fusion dishes! 🙂

  2. that 2nd to last photo is beautiful!

    xo Alison

  3. Faith says:

    OMG Joanne, that’s too funny! I have to say though, I’m a huge fan of fusion flavors so I think this chili is brilliant. Lol, and you are so right, it can be so hard to live with a man who doesn’t like apples! 🙂

  4. HAHA! The irony! I love Indian-spiced things, too.

  5. That Girl says:

    I am also guilty of making “Indian” food with no real ties to India, heck I even make mock Mexican!

  6. Nelly says:

    Stolid honor of tradition be damned. That stuff looks AWESOME. (but irony is still funny ;P)

  7. Shannon says:

    YUM YUM YUM. That’s all.

  8. elra says:

    Such a delicious way to serve winter squash. Lots of fiber here Joanne.

  9. Amy says:

    If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, than it’s duck, I say! I’m starting to hate the word authentic. I posted a Cuban Tostada many many months back and someone got all up in my grill for it not having anything to do with Cuba. WHAT.EVER.

    This looks delish! I love using squash or bread as the vessel to hold the goodies.

  10. Dawn says:

    Way to keep things interesting around that place. You gotta keep em on their toes! I think it sounds amazing with beef! Definitely bookmarking.

  11. dear god, this looks fabulously filling and fibrous! triple F, yo. i want some. i like your story about cooking for people of other ethnicities. once, i suggested the Italian restaurant my boyfriend’s family should eat at in NYC. they’re Italian, I’m not. luckily, they liked the place but honestly: who do i think I am?!

  12. hahahahhahahaha that is super funny, lady! the chili looks amazing and i think your new name for it is awesome!

  13. Rachel says:

    Oh dear. I’m sure everyone understood that you knew you weren’t making anything authentic and that Indian spices are just delicious in everything…including chili with beef.
    I throw Indian spices into anything that makes sense to me and this dish sounds like a perfect blend. I’ve been thinking of making something to in the acorn squash I’m storing in my laundry basket. Chili, perhaps.

  14. Katerina says:

    Well, you made it this time. This one looks absolutely divine. And let me tell you, it doesn’t matter if it is authentic or not, what matters is to make you smile when you make it and when you eat it. That is my moto.

  15. Ha ha ha…Indian Style chilli with beef…that was soooo cute! Well from the look of it ….it seems divine..especially with the beans and those spice blends!All spiced up things taste better the next day…I agree with u on that one!

  16. Sophie says:

    Waw, Joanne!! Your dish looks pretty amazing!! yes!!

    I love it all,.;all of your flavours in here rock!

  17. Victoria says:

    Too funny! The chili looks good regardless of what it’s called. You’ll have to let me know what Indian restaurants they mentioned so I can go to each and every one of them 🙂

  18. Jennie says:

    Well I think it looks and sounds delicious! Authentic or not! : ) Keep those wonderful winter squash recipes coming Joanne!

  19. Swathi says:

    This chili looks delicious with all the spices i known. They tend to impart the their flavor in everything. Sure this one taste great.

  20. There is no shame in fusion foods–no shame I tell you! If it’s delicious and healthy, you’ve accomplished the goal of cooking. =)

  21. Pam says:

    You never fail to crack me up girl! This is a creative and flavorful recipe – yum!

  22. I can smell the Indian chili–and the aromas that permeated all of your personages as you went about life for the next 24 hours! When I directed a cooking school in Charleston, S.C., I had a guest instructor from India. She told us that we would always be able to “recognize” those who had prepared an Indian-style meal when we met up with them anywhere. I love that “perfume”.


  23. Mo 'Betta says:

    I know nothing about Indian food, but you make me laugh 🙂

  24. tigerfish says:

    I like the idea of the squash bowl! Diwali pastries are not for me but for a spicy savory chili – yay yay yay! Can’t you see I like savory food? ;p

  25. Eliana says:

    Not only does this look delicious but I love the presentation 🙂

  26. girlichef says:

    {chuckles} It totally sounds awesome to to this white girl, too 😉 And looks awesome. Just plain awesomeness going on in your kitchen. Tell them I said so. tee hee….

  27. sweetlife says:

    oh man joanne, your a doll…I love your stories, oh i am sure everyone enjoyed this bowl of goodness..


  28. This sounds so good, I love all the spices!

  29. Beef or no beef, I love anything Indian inspired. I also love that this comfort food is stuffed in squash. Nice job!

  30. RamblingTart says:

    Once again you crack me up, Joanne. 🙂 LOVE it! Way to be brave and forge ahead anyways. 🙂

  31. Priya says:

    Mouthwatering dish, love all the spices..yumm!

  32. Esi says:

    Love using squash as the bowl!

  33. Lynn says:

    Such a funny post. It reminds me of when my husband and I went to Japan a few years ago and excitedly sat down to a Japanese dinner — because we love Japanese food! — and realized it was absolutely, completely unrecognizable. Apparently the teriyaki, etc. we’d been eating for years does not, actually, resemble what the Japanese eat. Who knew?

  34. Shannon says:

    hehe, nice. did they taste it???

  35. Stella says:

    Hey Joanne, your chili is actually pretty. I’ve never seen pretty chili (smile). Oh, and it looks really delicious too.
    I’m going to run over to Marx Foods to see what’s going on…

  36. wow..this looks very irresistable:)

  37. Simply Life says:

    ha, I love it! hey, if someone makes me Italian food I’m usually pretty happy and don’t know the different if they make a few mistakes 🙂

  38. haha! Joanne that reminded me of my Egyptian friend who wanting to help made me hummus for a party and put the favorite Egyptian spice in it: dried coriander! by the bucketful.
    No your chili looks and smells amazing and the idea of the squash bread bowl is nothing short of a flash of genius; I want to eat it, Indian or not!

  39. Natalie says:

    your story cracks me up. are you sure you want to be a dr? because you have some serious talent as a writer (and creator of awkward situations apparently!). this looks awesome, can’t wait to try. and the squash “bread” bowl? brilliant!

  40. teresa says:

    oh this is great! and i love that you served this in an acorn squash, delicious and so beautiful!

  41. This is an amazing dish Joanne. I am sure I can smell the mysterious and exotic flavours up here.

  42. Reeni says:

    I am smitten with the whole idea of an Indian chili! And serving it in a squash bowl is nothing short of genius. I bet if they could of seen how you served it they would of been seriously impressed!

  43. This is so comforting! And seasonal! And vegetarian! I love it! 🙂

  44. jenna laughs says:

    Oh my goodness! This looks so rustic and flavorful.

  45. Will you be my mom and come cook for me! Gosh this looks good! Going to vote!

  46. Megan says:

    I am laughing and blushing at the same time. What a situation! But hey, the chili sounds amazing. Enough to sway anyone to take a bite! 🙂

  47. gotnomilk says:

    What a great looking dish. The flavors sound sensational.

  48. Mary says:

    You always make me smile. This sounds delicious and is something a little different. I like different. I hope you had a great day. Blessings…Mary

  49. Insane!! I love this. Sounds sooooo good.

  50. Monet says:

    What a great anecdote…you are so precious and hilarious. I wish I lived closer so I could actually hang out with you. I make embarrassing moves all the time…and at least your meal turned out tasting great. Thank you for sharing…I hope your Friday is full of joy.

  51. Shirley says:

    Ha ha I can imagine the looks you must have got for the beef!

  52. Doesnt something very interesting always happen ,when ur cooking up a delicious storm in ur kitchen, a place u love to be!!
    I honestly loveee the idea ,coz i love this kinda cooking and indulge in too!!
    I want to buy all the books that u have and love:-)
    and i have a little voucher too now!!
    Fortunately i have some beef ,jus simmered today, actually its a french style cooked beef ,with a sour gherkin fruit added, some goan spices and coconut milk and there i have a thick curry!!
    Wish i had some beans to add!

  53. I had some of my ”chilli” with steamed rice and am back , i had to have a few bites after looking at these pics here!!
    I couldn continue writin , so thought i add in later!
    Well, hey , u dont need to be embarrassed, come ‘on infact they must have been dazed in awe, its Jo ,the super Chica , cooking and she cooks good, way way good gurl!!
    I am sure about what i say here!!
    I voted ,unless u giving me another chance!!
    And bdw, u have a cool write up there too!!

  54. The spice blend sounds very tasty and delicious! I am putting indian spices in my röstis and call them “fusion röstis”, so why not a “fusion-chili” 😉

  55. Fantastic recipe. I think you should write a book about squash, it would be a great hit!

  56. How did I not get to this post sooner?! Love this recipe!

    I think your kitchen should have made the list for sure!!!! 🙂

  57. Oh hell, if it tastes good I don’t think it matters what you call it. Indian spices are amazing! My husband likes to buy them whole and grind/toast them himself which admittedly tastes much better, but I’m too lazy 🙂

  58. Kristen says:

    We bake meaty things in pumpkins a lot this time of year, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to make a “bowl” out of a squash. I love getting ideas from other blogs!!

  59. WOw that looks divine! Great to put it into a squash and I could see that as a thanksgiving side dish…even skipping the meat for vegetarians would make them feel like they had their own grand dish on the table!!!

  60. Marisa says:

    Hahahahaha, I can almost *smell* the awkwardness! But hey, that chili looks darn good. So I say, ignore ’em.

  61. Holy cow that must have been embarrassing! 😉

    It looks delicious and love the squash bowl. Sweet and spicy – yes!

  62. Peggy says:

    I love the fusion going on with this chili! Sounds mighty tasty to me!

  63. Joanne you’ve outdone yourself. This dish is beautiful and so are your photographs.


  64. Ben says:

    You got me at the first picture. I’ve always loved to stuff pumpkins, squashes and any kind of vegetable. Amazing recipe!

  65. Haha this is probably my favorite story ever! I love Indian food (authentic and spiced just so) and I would love to try this. Of course, the bowl looks awesome too 🙂


  66. Ha, love it. I love authentic Indian food, but am not so adept at cooking it myself. Whenever I’m concocting any sort of “ethnic” dish I like to cover my butt by saying “Indian-spiced” or “Moroccan-spiced” Like, this is the pleather of Indian food, but you know what, it’s still kind of awesome, so let’s love it for what it is, ok?

    🙂 Laura

  67. sra says:

    Hey how are you, haven’t been able to visit as often as I wanted. Beef is eaten in India, not only by non-Hindus but even by some Hindus, though I suppose they are in a minority. There’s proof, I hear, that some holy texts of Hindusim didn’t quite treat beef as a holy cow – that it was permitted – that’s hotly debated, of course.

  68. Raina says:

    You are too funny! I am sure if they tasted it they would have been very impressed. This sounds amazing. Your apartment must have smelled wonderful.

  69. Meesh says:

    so creative. LOVE IT.

  70. Dana says:

    While living in London, Randy invited a couple over for dinner and neglected to tell me. Normally not a big deal – I was always cooking big meals there – but this was an Indian couple and I had made Indian food. It tasted good to us but I’m sure they found it mortifying. I do remember my rice totally stuck together which it never normally does. Anyway, love the squash bowl!

  71. Loves it! I like your new title for the dish too. It’s nice and concise.

    I’d write a longer comment but I’M GOING TO SEE YOU IN 3 DAYS YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

  72. jen cheung says:

    very interesting dish you got here! looks healthy and yummmmies!!!

    have a lovely weekend!
    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  73. Alisa Cooks says:

    Hey, if it’s delicious, who cares if it’s authentic! Indian-spice covers it well I think, it does have Indian type spices in it!

  74. Kim says:

    This recipe is beautiful Joanne! I’m loving the whole squash bowl concept, definitely a healthier and more colorful option than the standard bread bowl. I bet you won everyone over with the intoxicating aromas.

    16 miles on the bike – way to go!

  75. Joanne, you are too funny. Authentic or not, this looks amazing (love the idea of serving it in the roasted squash) and I can almost smell it here all the way at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean – bet it tasted sensational.
    Sue 🙂

  76. Joanne, you are such a versatile and creative cook! Your baked squash looks scrumptious!

  77. Vivienne says:

    ahh the “bread” bowl lol.
    indian food is the one cuisine which causes me the most headaches in the kitchen. in some recipes there will be heaps of spices and not so in others…and id be putting all these spice combos in and shaking my head thinking…im sure that’s not how they do it 😉
    but yes, at the end of the day…whatever tastes good to you is what counts…unless you’re cooking to impressive an indian guy (and/or his parents)

  78. Julie says:

    Hi, Joanne: I hope the run was good this morning! We’re having our first snow of the year today. This looks delicious. I’ve never cooked indian food before.

  79. Allison says:

    Hahaha. Great post. I’m sorry about your great timing. But, the recipe still looks really good. 🙂

  80. Jessie says:

    You like those ridiculously-long titles, don’t you? 😉 Haha, that’s ok – your titles always say it all; although, I think you’re denouncing your creation too much in this post! Authentic, shmawtentic. There’s nothing wrong with a chili that SMELLS Indian (“Well it definitely smells Indian!” <-- Oh man, I'm still giggling over that one. Adorable roommate!). Especially after it sits overnight and the flavors meld, mmm. I'LL sit with you and eat your chili, even if your Indian friends don't. Nice one, Joanne 😉

  81. Girl, you always crack me up – that story is hilarious! I could only imagine the cringe factor here. The beef choice is something I would do & realize way later why everyone had a “face” on! The perfect Indian chili to me & love the squash boats too! xxoo

  82. Beautiful! Very tasty, and so creative!
    I used to live and work in a largely South Asian community. We had not only different meats for the different groups, but also used different BBQs. (So as not to have the pork touch the chicken touch the beef touch the veggie.)
    One thing I did learn, people aren’t so strict in the privacy of their own homes. 😉

  83. Hannah says:

    You could basically stuff anything into a squash and I’d be interested in eating it, but this sound amazing! I usually lean towards more traditional “thanksgiving-type” herbs and flavors when stuffing squash, but I could totally go for a spicier twist.

  84. Nicole, RD says:

    I died laughing at, “Indian-Style Chili” . With beef. I’ll never forget studying ancient traditions in 4th grade where I learned cows are WORSHIPED in India. They have some pretty gorgeous lei-looking necklaces made for the cows, too. I got jealous! This look awesome, Joanne! And the story was hilarious 🙂

  85. Chris says:

    You should have pulled a “Constanza Lobster Eggs” trick on them and sworn it was Tofu! (I’m evil like that.)

  86. Authenticity only brings about so many dishes, right? The flavors sound great, and I love the edible bowl!

  87. Kathleen says:

    Joanne this looks amazing!

  88. Julie says:

    i need your help. (btw i’m bookmarking this chili recipe. i love chili with all my heart)

    anyways tomorrow i have a challenge of making my older brother the best beef stew and dumplings he’s ever had. i feeel like i saw a recipe for this from you at some point. but if i didn’t i KNOW you’re the recipe goddess. if you have one share pleaaaaaaaaaaaase 🙂 🙂 thanks girlfraand!

  89. I would never have thought of putting it in a squash! That’s such a great idea to make it even more filling :0)

    Hope you are having a nice weekend, my daughter Claire got her ears pierced today, I posted pics on FB

  90. Barbara says:

    That looks fabulous! And I adore your “stuffed bread” presentation!

  91. Authentic Indian or not, it sure does sound wonderful with all of those spices. Love the bowl!

  92. ann says:

    I think that it looks delicious, Joanne. Love the bowl, too.

  93. Mmm delicious, Joanne! I absolutely love kidney beans prepared Indian-style and putting it in the squash is an awesome idea.

  94. Kerstin says:

    Indian spiced chili sounds awesome to me! I LOVE using Indian flavors in unexpected places and going beyond traditional dishes too.

  95. Susan says:

    It’s taken me years to develop a good and authentic working knowledge of Indian recipes, but the learning curve never ends. Helps to study cookbooks, but you’ve got other studying to do. ; )

    Thanks, Joanne, for your WHB tasty fall tribute to spices fr/ the other side of the world.

  96. Debinhawaii says:

    You are too funny! 😉 I understand your “pain” but I am all for mixing it up–of course that could be because I have no strong cultural identity anyway.
    😉 Regardless it looks completely tasty.

  97. Lizzy says:

    I am not sure how it tasted but that certainly looks Indian to me..

  98. Cara says:

    Why must you always come up with all the great ideas before me? I’ve been trying to think of something uber-creative to stuff into some squash and you totally beat me. Well, I might just copy you. What do you think those Indian friends would say to using chicken or lamb? Hmm…

  99. Deborah says:

    Hey – you could trick me into thinking it’s authentic Indian – I wouldn’t know any better!! I think it sounds fantastic.

  100. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    Delicious looking dinner! I love the Indian spices…yum!

  101. grace says:

    what a nifty use for a shell of squash, and what a lovely way to fill it. i like the way you think, joanne.

  102. Katy ~ says:

    Bookmarked! This recipe is perfect for the allergic-to-everything kid.

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