Classic Turkey Chili

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

A lighter yet equally hearty twist on the classic, this turkey chili brims with rich, spicy flavor and is perfect for everything from game days to cozy nights in.

Spoon in a bowl of turkey chili topped with cheese and sour cream.

When it’s chilly outside, whether on a game day or just a cozy evening in, what could be more welcoming than a big, bubbling pot of chili simmering on the stove? This turkey chili recipe, a gem adapted from The Complete One Pot Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen, is my go-to for those cozy nights in when I’m looking for something lighter than my classic chili recipe. It’s not only rich and spicy but also brimming with fiber-rich kidney beans.

The recipe smartly tackles the challenge of lean ground turkey, which has a tendency to dry out, by employing a clever technique: sautéing a portion of the turkey first to build a base of flavor and then adding the rest later on, ensuring every spoonful has tender, juicy chunks of turkey. Serve this comforting chili with a side of cornbread (or cornbread muffins) and all the fixins—I promise, no one will miss the beef!

“You could sell this stuff. It’s that good.”

Mike

What You’ll Need To Make Turkey Chili

turkey chili ingredients
  • Onions, Red Bell Pepper, Garlic: These form the aromatic base of the chili, providing a foundation flavor.
  • Spices (Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Ground Coriander, Red Pepper Flakes, Dried Oregano, Cayenne Pepper): A crucial component for any chili, these spices create a complex smoky, earthy, spicy, and herbal flavor profile.
  • 93% Lean Ground Turkey: A healthier alternative to beef, ground turkey makes the chili lighter while still providing a hearty texture. Remember, 93% lean ground turkey, which includes both light and dark meat, is your best bet here (the leaner stuff will dry out and taste a bit bland).
  • Canned Kidney Beans: Add substance and texture to the chili, as well as fiber and protein, making the dish more filling and nutritious.
  • Diced Tomatoes and Crushed Tomatoes: The combination of these tomatoes adds moisture, acidity, and a rich tomato flavor that forms the base of the chili’s sauce.
  • Chicken Broth: Used to adjust the consistency of the chili and add an additional layer of savory flavor.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

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 chili.

Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve with your favorite chili toppings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make turkey chili ahead of time? How long can I freeze it?

This chili can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can also 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.

What should I serve with turkey chili?

Turkey Chili is a hearty dish that pairs well with a variety of sides. For a classic combination, serve it with cornbread. A green salad with a tangy vinaigrette can balance the richness of the chili and add a fresh element to the meal. For a hearty twist, you can also serve it over cilantro lime rice or a baked potato. If you’re looking for something to complement the spicy flavors, consider a side of guacamole.

What are the best toppings for turkey chili?

Popular options include shredded cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, green onions, cilantro, diced avocado, thinly sliced jalapeño peppers, and a squeeze of lime. For a bit of crunch, you can add tortilla chips.

Bowl of turkey chili with sour cream and cheese.

You May Also Like

Classic Turkey Chili

A lighter yet equally hearty twist on the classic, this turkey chili brims with rich, spicy flavor and is perfect for everything from game days to cozy nights in.

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
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (add up to 1 teaspoon for a spicier chili)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ 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
  • 1¾ 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 1¼ 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 ¾ 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.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • Really delicious! Very flavorful and satisfying for my tastebuds! This has become a dish I make on a regular basis for my family!

    • — Dolores Alquist
    • Reply
  • I’ve been making this recipe every few weeks this winter – it’s amazing! I usually finely chop the onions and peppers, and press the garlic. I add just a bit more broth (1 1/2 cups) as well since I tend to let it simmer longer and as the recipe notes, it can get thick.

    Truly outstanding recipe here, Jenn – a real keeper!

  • Great recipe! I’ve made this twice now and my family loves it. I omitted the beans (my kids don’t like them) and added the turkey meat all at once and it was still delicious! This is my go-to chili recipe from now on.

  • This truly is spot on. The measurement of ingredients are perfect! Since first using this recipe…I have made every week …no lie 🤪 This comes out perfect every time!

  • This chili is great for lunch or dinner. It keeps well for a few days and gets even better the next day. It’s inexpensive and healthy for the whole family. Delicious and hearty.
    Thank you!

    • — Genevieve Griffith
    • Reply
  • OMG….I made this last week; it’s super easy, and hardy. I threw it in my crockpot because I had to leave the house. I had to adjust the heat spices to accommodate my kids. They love adding cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream, green onion. Plenty of leftovers to use on a weeknight when the kids are at sports. I cannot wait for the new cookbook. I have never been disappointed with your recipes. They’re consistently delish!

  • Great recipe that I usually make for the Super Bowl. I don’t bother processing the vegetables at the beginning of the recipe though. Don’t want to have to wash the processor. I actually like it better this way.

  • This chili was amazing! I’ve never found a turkey chili recipe I liked until now! Another winner’

  • Really yummy, I made it with lean grade fed ground beef and added a little extra cumin because its my favorite. Served it for dinner topped with some diced avocado and corn bread !

  • Hi Jenn – I’m tired of the constant bickering between my husband (who likes a “real” beef chili) and my daughter (who only eats a mince beef chili) so opted to try this turkey recipe! Very easy and delicious! made it in the morning and then added the meat balls when I reheated it for an hour before dinner time! No more arguing over chilis last night! Would probably taste even better in a Le Creuset Dutch oven!!!

  • I love this turkey chili recipe. I sometimes throw in a can of chickpeas in addition for texture. I especially love the idea of making mini Meatballs with some of the turkey so again this adds to texture. This is a great go to winter recipe. My family loves it!

  • Love love love! It has the right amount of heat for those who can’t handle too spicy. Extremely flavorful. I did not have lentils on hand so I added black beans. This is a keeper!

  • This chili was delicious! Excellent flavor which can be hard to achieve with turkey chili. Thanks for another great recipe that my family (including the littles) love!

  • DELICIOUS, EASY & HEALTHY so perfect recipe

  • I wanted to love this recipe, I really did…but it was too liquidy and just ok. Slightly thicker the next day but the flavor was like every other chili recipe I’ve tried. Sorry.

  • Delicious and satisfying!

  • I made with ground turkey breast instead of light/dark mix, as I’m just not keen on dark meat flavor even in a stronger flavored dish such as this. The flavor is definitely milder and I had to guard against the turkey breast meat becoming too dry, but it was still great. I did use little avocado oil during saute to help prevent dryness. Will make again.

  • Am on weight watchers and this is great! So many of your recipes can be used with my plan. Thank you.

    • — Fran Hitchcock
    • Reply
  • Jenn, all of your recipes are outstanding. This one in particular stood out with the family. I love learning new methods when following your recipes. I had never made a chili like this where a portion of the meat was added later in the cooking process. Those tender pieces really make the dish. Delicious!

  • My family’s new go to football recipe. The whole family loves this simple and delicious chili.

  • I made the turkey chili last week. I was reluctant as I’ve made lots of boring turkey chili. I’m glad I did! We loved it. The broth was thick and rich, the flavors/spices were delicious- very hearty for a cold winter night. I used whole Italian canned tomatoes and squished them into the pot. I loved the idea of making chunkier pieces of turkey to add to the chili. It made a delicious and low calorie lunch the next day.

    • — Katie Gillespie
    • Reply
  • In an effort to eat more healthfully, I am substituting ground Turkey for ground beef. In most chili recipes I tried, this has not been totally satisfying. Not the case with this hearty, rich, full-flavored chili. Now my go to recipe.

    • — Linda McQueary
    • Reply
  • Yum! I halved some of the items to make a smaller portion, but wished I had kept the recipe as is to freeze some for later.

  • Love this chili recipe. Make sure to follow the recipe by adding the Turkey to the chili at the end. I enjoy all of the different chili recipes from Jenn over the years, but this one is my favorite.

  • Absolutely the best Turkey Chili ever!!
    I used San Marzano tomatoes and extra kidney beans! Came out Fantastic!!

  • Best turkey chili I’ve made yet! Love all the spices and beans. It was hearty and filling; my whole family finished it on the first night!

  • This chili was so good that I look forward to making it again soon. I think it will be a great recipe to make when I want to deliver a family meal to friends or family and want it to be an easy one-pot meal with a few accouterments on the side such as all that Jen suggests.

  • Looks so yummy! I can’t wait to try it. It looks perfect for a cold wintery day

  • 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!

  • 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
    • Reply
  • I would like to make this recipe for 8 people, would you just add a little more meat?

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • Does this recipe really call for 1/4 cup of Chili powder???!

    • 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!

  • 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!

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

  • 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!

  • Another winner!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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!

      • 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.

  • What is the purpose of reserving some of the turkey to make into meatballs and then adding to the chili?

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Delicious and easy to pull together. Will definitely make again!

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • 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!

  • 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!!

  • Superb!

  • 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?

    • 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, my market does not have 93 % turkey, can I mix white and lean successfully and if so, how much of each

    • — Carol Winkelman
    • 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).

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

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

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.