Turkey Chili is a healthier version of classic chili you already know and love. It’s an easy recipe that’s ready in about an hour and loaded with ground turkey meat, vegetables, beans, and spices. Instructions included for stove-top, Crockpot, and Instant Pot!
Change things up a bit by making White Turkey Chili next time!
Table of Contents
I love making chili when there is the faintest whisper of chill in the air. It doesn’t mean that I don’t make chili in the summer though, I actually make it all year long! Colder temperatures just put me in a mood for a bowl of chili or hearty soup.
Classic Beef Chili is my son’s favorite dish, so I make it almost every week. Personally, I love turkey chili even more because it’s a little healthier and lighter. You still get a hearty bowl of flavorful chili, but turkey and the lack of bacon makes it much lighter than beef chili.
Here’s the deal about MY turkey chili recipe, I like to have a more even ratio of vegetables, meat, and beans. I like my chili hearty and packed with protein, so I add extra meat. That way, we’re not just eating vegetables and beans. When I have an opportunity, I like to use a mixture of white and dark turkey meat. It adds more flavor and better texture.
You can ask the butcher at your grocery store if they ground their own turkey meat and if it’s possible to get a combination of white and dark meat. Many of them will be able to do it for you. If not, I recommend getting the “lean” turkey meat rather that “extra lean.” Extra lean meat tends to be a little too dry and chewy.
Oil – Use a neutral oil like olive or avocado oil.
Onion – A yellow onion is preferred because it has a subtle sweetness to it that compliments the chili. A white onion also works if that’s what you have.
Bell Peppers – I like red bell peppers because of their natural sweetness, versatility and bold color. However, really any bell pepper you prefer will work just fine.
Jalapeños – For a spicier chili, leave the jalapeño seeds in the mix instead of throwing them away. That’s where most of the heat comes from.
Garlic – I prefer using fresh garlic over pre-minced because the flavor is much more potent.
Turkey – A combination of both light and dark ground turkey creates the best flavor and consistency. With that being said, this chili is also a great way to use up leftover holiday turkey. Simply use diced of shredded leftover turkey meat instead of ground turkey in this recipe.
Chicken Broth – For even more flavor, consider using my favorite Homemade Chicken Stock.
Beans – I like to use both red kidney beans and navy beans. Remember to drain them before stirring them into the pot!
Herbs – A couple of bay leaves and a pinch of oregano create a great subtle herbaceous flavor. I also enjoy stirring in some fresh cilantro right at the end for a pop of fresh flavor.
Seasonings – A bold medley of chipotle chili powder, paprika, cumin and salt create the very best flavor.
See the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients and instructions.
How to Adjust the Spice Level
When it comes to spices, I like a lot of flavor in my recipes. But spicy does not mean flavorful because heat level is not the same as flavor. So even through this chili is spiced very well, many of you may want to adjust the heat level to your own preference. This chili recipe is about medium heat level.
It’s very easy to adjust the spice level by adding or taking away a few ingredients. If you want your chili more spicy: choose older jalapeños with more veins on the skin, leave the jalapeño seeds in, and/or add more chili powder. To make the chili less spicy: choose younger jalapeños with smooth skin, discard the seeds, and don’t add extra chili powder.
How to Make Turkey Chili
Prepare. This is a pretty fast moving recipe, so you’ll want everything ready to go before you start. Dice the vegetables and measure everything so you’re set up for success. Preheat the dutch oven (or large pot) and add oil.
Sauté. Toss the onions and peppers into the pot and let them soften (1). Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant (2).
Cook the turkey. Add the turkey to the pot and break it up as much as possible (3). Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook, opening the lid every few minutes to break up the meat as it cooks.
Add more ingredients. Once the meat is fully cooked, stir in the canned tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, broth and spices (4).
Simmer. Once everything is stirred together pretty well, lower the heat to low and let the chili cook low and slow for about 30-40 minutes (5). The flavors really have time to develop this way.
Add the final touches. Just before serving, stir in a squeeze of fresh lime juice and cilantro (6).
Preheat a large pan over medium heat and add oil. Sauté the onions and peppers together until they start to soften and add garlic. Stir the veggies for a few seconds until the garlic is fragrant, then add the turkey. Break up the meat as much as you can, cover and cook until meat is just cooked through. Make sure to break up lumps of meat as much you can while it’s cooking.
Next, transfer the mixture into the Crockpot and mix in canned tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, broth, and spices. Close the lid on the Crockpot and cook on HIGH for about 4 hours or on LOW for about 6 hours. Discard bay leaves.
Finally, stir in cilantro and lime juice right before serving.
Set Instant Pot to “sauté” setting and give it a couple of minutes to warm up. Add some oil to the pot and sauté the onions and bell peppers until softened. Stir in garlic and sauté it until fragrant. Add turkey meat into the pot and break it up as much as you can. Keep cooking and breaking up lumps every few minutes until the meat is just done.
Next, stir in canned tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, broth, and spices. Close the lid and latch it. Make sure to turn the valve to “seal” and set pressure cooker to “beans/chili.” If your pressure cooker does not have that setting, set it to cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Make sure to consult your pressure cooker’s manual for exact settings and safety instructions.
Let the pressure cooker do a natural release for about 10 minutes and then carefully do a quick release. Discard the bay leaves.
Some fresh options include sliced avocados, sliced jalapeños (seeded or not based on how spicy you prefer your chili), cilantro and green onions. You can also make it cheesy with some shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican blend cheese. Go creamy with sour cream or plain greek yogurt.
How to Store Turkey Chili
Cool chili to room temperature and store it in the refrigerator. You can store it in the same pot it was cooked in, covered with a lid, or transfer it into a food storage container with an airtight lid. Properly stored, turkey chili will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
How to Freeze Turkey Chili
Cool chili as quickly as possible if you plan to freeze it. This will give bacteria less chance to build and will help extend the shelf life of food. The best way to cool food quickly is to place the pot of chili into a larger container filled with ice and make sure to stir it from time to time as it cools.
Once it’s cooled, portion it into smaller freezer bags, let all the air out, and close it well. Remember to label and date.
Lay the bags flat on the cutting board and freeze. Once frozen, it will be easy to stack bags of chili.
To thaw, take the bag out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to slow-thaw it overnight.
How to Serve Turkey Chili
There are so many ways to enjoy this turkey chili recipe!
- Serve it with a side of cornbread, like Buttermilk Cornbread or Jalapeño Cornbread. It’s also great with Buttermilk Biscuits and Jalapeño Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits.
- Turn this chili into a dip by serving it with tortilla chips, crackers or veggies!
- Serve turkey chili as a topping for nachos, tacos, eggs, baked potatoes and/or fries.
- Serve it over macaroni or other pasta.
Enjoy More of the Best Chili Recipes
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Turkey Chili Recipe
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 jalapenos
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 lbs lean ground turkey
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 16 oz can red kidney beans drained
- 16 oz navy beans drained
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp chipotle chili powder
- 3 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp oregano
- 3 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp kosher salt more of less based on personal taste
- 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
- 1 large lime juice only
- Dice vegetables and prepare the ingredients before starting to cook.
- Preheat the Dutch oven (or another large soup pot) over medium heat and add oil.
- Saute onions and peppers together until it start to soften and add garlic. Stir and cook until garlic is fragrant.
- Add ground turkey and break up the meat as much as you can. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook. Keep breaking up the lumps of meat with a wooden spoon every few minutes, as it cooks.
- When turkey meat is cooked through, add canned tomatoes, drained beans, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and spices.
- Carefully stir everything together, lower the heat to low, and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaves.
- Stir in cilantro and lime juice and serve with your favorite toppings.
- Make it more or less spicy: It’s very easy to adjust the spice level by adding or taking away a few ingredients. If you want your chili more spicy: choose older jalapeños with more veins on the skin, leave the jalapeño seeds in, and/or add more chili powder. To make the chili less spicy: choose younger jalapeños with smooth skin, discard the seeds, and don’t add extra chili powder.
- Storing: Cool chili to room temperature and store it in the refrigerator. You can store it in the same pot it was cooked in, covered with a lid, or transfer it into a food storage container with an airtight lid. Properly stored, turkey chili will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles in January, 2018.