Black Walnut Chili

I know, I know. The end of June is not “chili season”. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of chili season. Temperatures regularly spike into the 90s – the last thing anyone wants is a steaming hot bowl of chili!

Blah, blah, blah …. Jump to Recipe

But have you seen meat prices at the grocery store lately? Recent price jumps have me (and I’m sure many of you) rethinking protein sources for my family. And I don’t mean the plant-based “veggie crumbles” you get in the freezer section, although I used to flirt with those dietary options way back in the day. The problem is, they are just as dependent on cheap oil, industrial processes, and big business as our meat supply.

And then I remembered how effectively black walnuts stood in for animal protein in stuffed acorn squash and veggie fritters. Well, why not other applications, like chili?

Black walnut chili with butternut squash
Black walnut chili with butternut squash

This recipe is a magical combination of paleo, vegan AND low carb, something which is very hard to accomplish. Of course, I ruined both the “paleo” and “vegan” aspects by topping mine with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, and other members of my household served theirs over rice!

Black walnut chili with butternut squash
Black walnut chili with butternut squash

Speaking of “members of the household”… I highly recommend soaking and dehydrating your black walnuts before using them in this, or any other recipe. You can find instructions online here. If you soak them overnight, then put them in the dehydrator in the morning, they will be crisp and ready for your recipe by the evening. Soaking makes nuts and seeds more easily digestible, and for black walnuts in particular helps moderate the strong flavor. Plus – most importantly – it gives you two more opportunities to ferret out shell bits! Once while putting the walnut pieces into the water, and a second time while spreading them out in the dehydrator trays.

…. yes, I still missed a few shells. It’s part of the “fun” of foraged black walnuts!

As a side note, the family also voted for more black walnuts in the chili next time. They even used the leftover nuts as extra crunchy topping on the chili!

Black Walnut Chili Print Recipe

Serves 6


  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder (or more)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups black walnuts, soaked and dried (or more)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (not drained)
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • salt & pepper to taste (I used 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper)
  • Toppings: chopped tomato, cilantro, minced red onion, avocado, cheese, sour cream, etc.


  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and sautee until translucent. Add garlic and bell peppers and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 3 – 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and black walnuts, stirring to coat the nuts in the spices, another 5 or so minutes.
  3. Add the broth, canned tomatoes, butternut squash, and nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until butternut squash is desired tenderness. Leaving the lid off the pot will allow some of the excess liquid to cook off; or cover if you prefer a soupier chili.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with preferred toppings.

Foraged black walnut chili with butternut squash - paleo, vegan and low-carb!
Foraged black walnut chili with butternut squash – paleo, vegan and low-carb!

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