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Spicy Pumpkin Grits with Bacon & Cheddar

Posted Oct 24 2012 4:41pm

Last month we played with apples for our 5 Star Makeover challenge.  This month we got another seasonal ingredient in the form of squash.  I’ve played around with squash a fair bit in the time I’ve had this blog.  Though pumpkin in particular takes most Americans to a sweet place, most of my experimentation has been savory.  I’ve used it in  chili , pasta , and my personal favorite, as part of the filling for a crispy wonton .  So I decided that perhaps it was time I took on a sweet application as well.

Since making pumpkin cookies that are truly chewy vs. cakey can be a challenge that seemed like a fun project.  It was also a chance to play around with an ingredient that was new to me –  pumpkin powder.  Online I was told I could use it in similar ways to fresh and to replace some of the flour in baked goods to amplify the pumpkin flavor.  So in my mind I thought I could use it in the same way as I do freeze dried bananas in my Chewy Banana Tolberone Cookies .

Unfortunately, that assumption was a fail because the cookies were awful in every sense of the word.  The powder seemed to give the cookies an off smell, the texture was still cakey, and overall, they left a lot to be desired.  I may tinker with the recipe again at a later date since I love a good challenge, but since pumpkin powder is a bit pricey at around $4.99 for 4 ounces, I’m not in a huge hurry.

Thankfully squash is so abundant this time of year that I had other recipes up my sleeve (and if I can get my act together I may share two different dishes for this challenge).  I admittedly went back to my familiar savory territory for this dish.

For whatever reason I’ve been craving grits lately so I got the idea in my head of doing pumpkin grits.  The pumpkin was your standard from the can variety, though you could easily roast and puree fresh pumpkin or other varieties of squash to make this dish.

To make the grits more savory than sweet I added in some shredded cheddar cheese and Worcestershire Sauce for umami.  The cheese was Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar.  I love it because it has a great aged cheddar flavor, but still melts very well.  And because that still didn’t seem savory enough, there was also applewood smoked bacon.  As I learned when making my Pumpkin Bacon Wontons  and   Bacon, Butternut and Bison Chili , squash and bacon have a natural affinity for each other so I knew I wanted to work pork into this dish.  The crumbled up bacon also provided textural contrast, a little crunch to offset the silky smooth grits.  And last but least, I added some minced jalapeno that I roasted.  Jalapeno may not be an ingredient commonly paired with pumpkin, but I think it should be.  I like how the heat added another dimension to the dish as well as a bit of freshness.  I personally love how the heat cuts through all the dairy.

For me this dish made a perfect weeknight dinner to combat the dreary, rainy nights we’ve been having recently.  And even better, leftovers reheated incredibly well so I’ve been enjoying it for subsequent cozy lunches at work.  Thanks to  Natasha  &  Laz  for another fun challenge, though I’m hoping this won’t be the last you’ll hear from me on this one.  I also have some fresh butternut squash on hand from the garden of my mother’s co-worker and plans to use them for a fusion take on Mexican Sopes.

Spicy Pumpkin Grits with Bacon & Cheddar
Adapted from Healthy Food for Living
Serves 4


-1 jalapeno chile
-2 slices bacon
-2 cups low sodium chicken broth
-2 cups whole milk
-1 cup stone ground grits
-2/3 cup pumpkin puree (from a can is fine)
-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-Salt and pepper, to taste


Turn your oven’s broiler. Place chile onto a sheet pan lined with baking foil. Place in the oven as close to the flame as possible. Broil until the skin becomes black and blistered. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and flip the chile over. Return the chile to the oven and broil until the second side is also black and blistered.

Place the chile in a Ziploc bag (or other airtight container) and seal. Set aside for 15-20 minutes to steam. You’ll know when it is done because the skin is easy to peel. Peel and mince chile and set aside.

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow the extra grease to drip off. Pour off excess grease from the pan so only approximately 1 teaspoon remains.

Add the chicken broth and milk to the pan and bring to a low boil. Stir in the grits and reduce heat to simmer. Cook grits covered over low heat until thick and creamy, stirring often, about 15-20 minutes. Crumble bacon and add to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Cook until heated through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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