Classic Turkey Chili

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This healthy turkey chili has a rich, spicy flavor and thick texture — and it’s loaded with nutrient-rich kidney beans.

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing more inviting than a big pot of chili simmering on the stove. This classic and healthy turkey chili is adapted from The Complete One Pot Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen, a great resource for reliable meals made with a single pot or pan. The chili has a rich, spicy flavor and thick texture, and it’s loaded with fiber-rich kidney beans.

Since ground turkey is lean and can easily dry out, the recipe uses a genius technique to ensure the meat stays moist. Instead of adding all of the meat at once, a portion of the turkey is sautéed in the beginning and cooked low and slow to build flavor. Towards the end of the simmering time, the remaining turkey is pinched into small pieces — almost like mini meatballs — and stirred into the chili, creating chunks of tender turkey in every bite. Be sure to use 93% lean ground turkey, which is a combination of light and dark meat, rather than 99% lean ground turkey breast.

What You’ll Need To Make Turkey Chili

turkey chili ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Roughly chop the onions, bell pepper, and garlic and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
vegetables in bowl of food processor

Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the vegetables are finely chopped. Do not over-process; the vegetables should not be puréed. (Alternatively, finely chop the onions, bell pepper, and garlic by hand.)
minced vegetables in bowl of food processor

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne pepper.

vegetables and spices in Dutch oven

Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
softened vegetables and spices

Add about 1-1/4 pounds of the turkey to the pot.

adding part of the turkey to the pot

Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

partially cooked turkey with vegetables and spices in pot

Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes and their juice, crushed tomatoes, broth, and salt and bring to a simmer.

adding tomatoes and beans to the pot

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the chili has begun to thicken, about 1 hour.
simmering the turkey chili

Pat the remaining 3/4 pound turkey together into a ball, then pinch off teaspoon-size pieces of meat and stir into the chili.

adding the remaining turkey to the chili

Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until turkey is tender and chili is slightly thickened, about 40 minutes. (If the chili begins to stick to the bottom of the pot or looks too thick, stir in extra broth as needed.)

finished turkey chiliTaste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve with your favorite chili toppings.

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Classic Turkey Chili

This healthy turkey chili has a rich, spicy flavor and thick texture — and it’s loaded with nutrient-rich kidney beans.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours
Total Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add up to 1 teaspoon for a spicier chili)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey, divided (see note)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt

For Serving (Optional)

  • Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop the onions, bell pepper, and garlic and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the vegetables are finely chopped. Do not over-process; the vegetables should not be puréed. (Alternatively, finely chop the onions, bell pepper, and garlic by hand.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables, chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add about 1-1/4 pounds of the turkey, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes and their juice, crushed tomatoes, broth, and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the chili has begun to thicken, about 1 hour.
  4. Pat the remaining 3/4 pound turkey together into a ball, then pinch off teaspoon-size pieces of meat and stir into the chili. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until turkey is tender and chili is slightly thickened, about 40 minutes. (If the chili begins to stick to the bottom of the pot or looks too thick, stir in extra broth as needed.) Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve.
  5. Note: Be sure to use 93% lean ground turkey, which is a combination of light and dark meat, rather than 99% lean ground turkey breast. (The 99% lean ground turkey breast will have a dry texture.)
  6. Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 466
  • Fat: 21g
  • Saturated fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Sugar: 15g
  • Fiber: 12g
  • Protein: 39g
  • Sodium: 1484mg
  • Cholesterol: 114mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This is the most delicious chili, and since reviewers say it’s better on Day 2, I can’t wait!! I don’t eat red meat, and am not a fan of kidney beans, HOWEVER, I always commit to making a recipe as written once before adapting. The proportion of beans, turkey, spices, veggies, and tomatoes is complete perfection. I did add about 1/2c more chicken broth mid-point during the last 40 minutes of simmering. I will use 1/2t red pepper flakes and 1/4t cayenne to tame it down just a little going forward, because it was pretty spicy. It is so hearty and flavorful and I am so glad to have something like this to add to the rotation. It’s important to use a high quality ground turkey (Plainville Farms is delicious, organic even better, and it does go on sale) as well as San Marzano canned tomatoes (they have crushed and diced). Honestly, Jenn, this is one of your absolute best recipes ever…..and I have made quite a few!

    • — Mary M. on January 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious. Not ‘good’ or excellent … Delicious. The second day? Beyond delicious.

    Of the many Once Upon A Chef recipes I’ve prepared, all deserve a five-stars rating except one. That was a four-star rating for which I figured an error must have been made on my part somewhere during preparation.

    • — Michael Shinevar on January 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • I would like to make this recipe for 8 people, would you just add a little more meat?

    • — Raina Kor on January 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Raina, To keep the ratios correct, I would actually recommend multiplying all the ingredients by 1.5. You may have some leftovers but it keeps nicely in the fridge for a few days and freezes well. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • I love classic chili but don’t eat beef. This was perfect. Tender and flavorful. Used white kidney (cannellini) beans. It’s going into the winter rotation.

    • — Barb on January 21, 2021
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  • Does this recipe really call for 1/4 cup of Chili powder???!

    • — Anna on January 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, I know it sounds like a lot, but yes, that’s correct (and I don’t think you’ll find the flavor overwhelming). Hope you enjoy if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hello! I love your recipes and cook them often! I was wondering if I could substitute another can of crushed tomatoes for the can of diced tomatoes. I have a picky eater who does not eat diced tomatoes (sigh). If not, what would you recommend? Thank you!

    • — Rebecca on January 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Rebecca, that should work. It will just have a little less texture, but will still be good – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Very nice! The method to add turkey again towards the end made for some nice tenderness. The dish was a pretty big taste and quantity payoff, especially considering how easy it was to put together. Was it as good as Jenn’s chicken meatballs, spicy glaze thighs, or spare ribs? Not quite, but in my experience OUC recipes do not disappoint, this one included. Solid 4 stars. Next time I might add another kind of pepper in at the beginning with the bell. Thank you, tasty!

    • — Katie on January 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Another winner!

    • — Cheryl on January 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made the chili and the cornbread tonight to eat while watching the football playoffs. These two recipes were perfect. My husband who had Pooh poohed turkey chili had two helpings and said he loved it. I also sent both recipes to my three kids snd their families. Thank you for such great recipes.

    • — Joanne Samela on January 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Great recipe – and easy to make – my family loved this one – and I didn’t even tell my husband it was turkey! He had seconds! I will make this again.

    • — Christine on January 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I have a friend who’s allergic to all onions. Can I just leave them out or do I also need to add any seasonings to it to offset the missing onions?

    • — Cherry on January 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Cherry, the onions definitely add flavor here but you could replace them with an equal amount of celery. Please LMK how the chili turns out!

      • — Jenn on January 15, 2021
      • Reply
      • It turned out great. I don’t have a food processor so I hand chopped everything. Used probably 3 celery stalks (it was more in terms of count but I had to trim out a lot of bad parts lol) finely chopped. At the one hour mark it had an aftertaste of celery but once the second hour hit (after the meatballs went in and were simmering) you couldn’t taste it. I liked the fact that it wasn’t too sweet. Usually my chili ends up a little sweet from the onion but this wasn’t. I liked it a lot.

        • — Cherry on January 21, 2021
        • Reply
  • What is the purpose of reserving some of the turkey to make into meatballs and then adding to the chili?

    • — Mary on January 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, Because ground turkey is lean and can easily dry out, adding those little “meatballs” near the end of cooking time helps to ensure the meat stays moist. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on January 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • I didn’t think I needed another chili recipe, but it turns out I do! This turkey chili was truly excellent. Will be making this again.

    • — Julie on January 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe was a huge hit- so much so that we are making it again 5 days later for company! I did not change a thing and it was just the right amount of heat. It is even better the second day. I paired it with cornbread muffins from Once Upon a Chef. Delicious!

    • — Maura on January 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • Delicious and easy to pull together. Will definitely make again!

    • — Stacy on January 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this amazing chili yesterday and used a combo of evoo and avocado oil with everything else as written. It was incredibly delicious as expected! Thanks Jenn for another winner.

    • — Abbie on January 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen, I love your recipes! I’ve made so many! Thank you for sharing and being so accurate. Where I live it’s hard to find ground turkey. Do you think it works with ground meat?

    • — Ana Maria on January 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Ana! If you only have access to ground beef, I’d recommend this recipe instead. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on January 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • I just made the chili for dinner and it was delicious! I did make a couple changes, I only had one pound of lean turkey so I used it and a full can of kidney beans with everything else the same but cut in half. I cooked it for less time since it was lean, maybe 40 minutes and then another 15-20 after adding the little turkey balls and it wasn’t dry at all. My husband and I both loved it. Thanks again for another great recipe!!

    • — Dwc on January 10, 2021
    • Reply
  • Superb!

    • — Chad on January 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. My kids won’t tolerate anything remotely spicy. Will this still work if I omit the cayenne, chili powder and red pepper flakes? Should I substitute anything instead?

    • — Laura on January 8, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, It’s fine to omit cayenne and red pepper flakes; I’d keep the chili powder in there as it’s really important for the flavor of the chili and as long as you’re using traditional chili powder, it shouldn’t be spicy. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 8, 2021
      • Reply
  • Jenn, my market does not have 93 % turkey, can I mix white and lean successfully and if so, how much of each

    • — Carol Winkelman on January 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, It’s hard to say – I’d use the fattiest version you can find (and if the butcher is accessible, I’d ask him/her).

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, what do you think about using leftover rotisserie chicken? Will it work? Thanks, Sue
    P.S. love all your recipes!

    • — Susan Shortley on January 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the recipes! Unfortunately, rotisserie chicken won’t work for this – sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2021
      • Reply

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