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. 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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Comments

  • Really good! My new turkey chili go to.

    • — Karen on January 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is one of the best chili recipes I’ve ever made. I did everything but add in the extra turkey balls. I also like to add a touch of vinegar before I eat it. Yum!

    • — Cheryl on January 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious and simple recipe to follow. Makes for excellent left overs too. Thanks For Sharing another amazing recipe.

    • — Sissy on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe for the first time last week. Wow! My husband said it was so flavorful and one of the best chili recipes he’s ever had. I didn’t have any kidney beans, so I put in white Cannellini beans. It was still great! We have an annual neighborhood chili competition, and we think this one could be a winner. The combination of all the spices and the tenderness of the ground turkey are so unique and not too spicy for us. I did reduce the salt content because of my health needs (I used no-salt tomatoes and reduced the added salt). The spices flavored it so well, it didn’t need much salt. Thanks Jen. Another great recipe!

    • — Jacquie Harrison on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I was wondering what would be the best way to make this a milder heat chili. Would you recommend reducing amounts of chili powder, red pepper flakes, or cumin?
    If so, by how much? I just don’t want to end up with bland chili!
    Just made your beef stew last week.
    Fabulous!

    • — Jeanne Paschal on January 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jeanne, You can cut back or omit the red pepper flakes and/or cayenne pepper. Those are the spices that add the heat. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • Just made this, exactly as written, except added 1 cup of frozen corn (personal preference, we like corn in chili for some reason). Outstanding! So flavorful, and just the right amount of heat to balance the other flavors. I think the coriander must add a depth of flavor that other recipes are lacking. It is also better than beef chili, IMO. Thank you for sharing your talent, and your recipes with us, Jenn!

    • — Shanna on January 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • This chili is amazing, I just did black beans because my family prefers those!

    • — Denise on January 9, 2022
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  • You know what is better than this chili? This chili over a year later! I just found a container hidden in the freezer and thought it was from December 2021; but after I ate it I realized it said 2020! It was better than the last time I ate it. And I didn’t have to cook it! That’s a win for me!

    • — Dawn on January 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hello
    I am pretty sensitive to spicy food but really want to make this if I add less Chile powder do you think It would compromise the flavor? Thanks!

    • — Crystal DISTEFANO on January 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Crystal, You can definitely get away with less. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Good. I guess I’d say it was an average chili recipe. Sorry.

    • — Ann on January 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • A keeper—an excellent, well-balanced chili! Made it tonight for the two of us, and there is enough for another dinner. Added a touch more cumin and a little more salt. Looked and tasted great with the cornbread.

    • — Linda Purvis on January 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another perfect recipe! Whole family loved it and the chunks of turkey were amazing. Best part was that no one knew it was turkey! Nice alternative to beef.

    • — Annalisa on January 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Have you tried substituting plant-based meat for the turkey? Any feedback? Changes in how you’d cook it? Any particular brand you recommend either using or steering clear of? Thanks

    • — Carla Sinz on January 6, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Carla, I don’t have any experience with plant-based meats so I don’t have any wisdom to share — I’m sorry!

      • — Jenn on January 6, 2022
      • Reply
      • I have made this with Beyond Beef, and a vegetable broth. It’s quite good, but you need to be a little heavier on the spices to make up for the depth of flavor that comes from meat.

        • — Linda Purvis on January 6, 2022
        • Reply
  • You could sell this stuff. It’s that good. I admit to making small tweaks to the recipe (took a bit of heat out, mostly) after making it the first time. Judge me, but I don’t prefer peppers in chili. Ok, I may have added more beans. The point is, this awesome chili is not possible without this awesome recipe as a base. The balance and depth-of-flavor from this dish is outstanding. Guests served this chili invariably ask for the recipe. It’s that good. You could sell this stuff.

    • — Mike Ess on December 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Such a great tip on pinching off mini balls of turkey into the broth. Its texture in the chili is a nice feature (mouthfeel?) that I’ve missed for ten years of using ground turkey. Thanks!
    Bob Adams

    • — bob on December 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this the other day for a freezer meal to give away. I must have used an extra spicy chili powder because it was too spicy for my husband to even eat a small amount to test. I used the end of the bottle so don’t know what I used (possibly Chipotle powder, could that have ruined it?). I also used Korean red pepper flakes, but such a small amount. What can I do to tone this down so I don’t have to toss it? It is in the freezer now, so would add at reheating. Thanks. It was tasty, but too spicy.

    • — Kathy on October 21, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathy, sorry to hear this turned out too spicy for you! My guess is that you must’ve used chipotle chili powder as that does have quite a kick. The best way to tone down something that is too spicy is with dairy products. It may sound unconventional for chili, but you could stir some heavy cream or sour cream into the chili when you’re reheating it. Also, a little sugar can help to balance out the heat. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on October 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made exactly as is. Outstanding and will make again!!! Thanks again for another easy to make dinner/winner!

    • — Lori on October 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is so delish – the best turkey chili ever! There’s not one recipe of Jen’s that I’ve made that I have not loved. I pre-ordered the new cook book and it’ll be like Christmas in September!! 🙂

    • — Hella on May 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on May 27, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is good! I didn’t make the meatballs, just browned all the ground turkey at the same time and I added a 2nd can of kidney beans. Will definitely do that again. The seasonings are great!!

    • — Kathy on May 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • Has anyone made this in the Instant Pot? If so, how long would you cook it?

    • — Christina on March 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • I might have already reviewed this, I don’t know, I have reviewed quite a few of Jenn’s recipes and even more have told my friends about her cooking. But anyhow, how can something so simple be so good? I mean, it’s chili. Who follows a recipe when making chili? Well, you should! Another one done ✔️ right Jenn! Thanks for being a kitchen prowess!!

    • — Holly Walters on March 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve tried a lot of Turkey Chili recipes, but this one is my favorite. I served it over rice and with shredded cheese and a handful of corn chips. Yum! Thanks, Jen!

    • — Janelle on February 12, 2021
    • Reply

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