Classic Turkey Chili

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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.

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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.

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Comments

  • Excellent, as always! Perfectly spiced and so much flavor! As I was pinching the balls of ground turkey for the last 40 minutes, I briefly thought that this step seemed unnecessary but I know to trust Jenn and follow the recipe anyway. First bites revealed it was obviously very worth it – I couldn’t believe the great mouth feel and texture I was getting from ground turkey! So delicious and my beef loving husband loved it too. Thanks again Jenn!

    • — Lynnessa on January 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • Delicious and worth the wait! Good directions. Made yesterday. My diced tomatoes are a year out of date so I used 30oz of Rotel
    Highly recommend

    • — Theresa on January 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • What type of chili powder….there are many. Thank you.

    • — Cathleen I Christian on January 10, 2024
    • Reply
    • Just your standard chili powder. This is the one I typically use. Hope you enjoy the chili!

      • — Jenn on January 10, 2024
      • Reply
  • I only had 1 pound of ground turkey and that was just fine. Instead of canned beans, I cooked 8 ounces of dry Rancho Gordo beans beforehand. I used the bean water instead of chicken broth. It was delicious! The spices in this recipe are spot on!

    • — Linda LaBash on January 10, 2024
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  • I made this for my grandson a few years ago and he called it ‘Top Notch’ …that’s been it’s name ever since! 😂. It really is a winner!

    • — Hella on January 7, 2024
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  • Outstanding flavours. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

    • — Carole Ann O'Connell on January 7, 2024
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  • Another amazing recipe from Jenn! I looooved this turkey chili. It was a perfect chili recipe and I truly didn’t miss the ground beef. The turkey was soft and wasn’t dry, the method for adding the turkey was excellent. Just wanted to add that when we prepared it we split it into 8 servings instead of the recommended 6 because it looked like a lot. However, I would stick with the original 6 serving suggestion to keep you filled. Topped the chili with cheddar cheese and served with cornbread. What a great meal to welcome fall! The leftovers also make an amazing lunch. ☺️

    • — Lilee on October 7, 2023
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  • Yummy!! Highly recommend. Did find it a bit spicy (I have a low spice tolerance) but still really enjoyed it.

    • — Liz on October 4, 2023
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  • Jenn…thank you as always another perfect recipe! I cut the cayenne pepper in about half only bc I was making it for my family and a neighbor and used small red beans bc that’s what I had in my cupboard. But WOW I just love your recipes!! You will always be my go to girl!!!! Thx again! xoxo Jen Moore

    • — Jen Moore on September 25, 2023
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    • ❣️

      • — Jenn on September 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!

    We always love your recipes! I’m making this turkey chili and, because my husband doesn’t really like chunks of tomato, I used 2 big cans of crushed tomatoes instead of one each of crushed and diced.

    I think the chili is going to taste too tomato-y or acidic. What would be a good fix? A little sugar?

    I’m hoping you can help me. I don’t need to serve it until Sunday (I was making it ahead because Sunday is supposed to be too hot to have a pot on the stove for 2 hours.)

    Thanks in advance!

    Maryalice

    • — MARYALICE O'BRIAN on May 12, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Maryalice, yes, I think a little bit of sugar will help to temper any acidic flavor. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 12, 2023
      • Reply
  • Jenn,
    This is my tenth time with your recipe. It is spot on my favorite seasonal chili. The rounded turkey ball drops later in the recipe are such a great way to add a nice “mouth feel” to your chili.
    Thank you as always!
    Bob Adams

    • — Robert Adams on March 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • I followed the recipe and the result was a very nicely spiced thick chili. Served with Everyday Corn Bread (which is my new go to corn bread recipe). Delightful combination of flavors!

    • — S Harvey on February 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • P.S. – I am not a fan of kidney beans, so I used a 28 oz can of Goya “Small Red Beans” and I recommend them highly to others who find kidney beans to be too large to be palatable. Small red beans are about half the size of kidney beans.

    • — Laura on February 13, 2023
    • Reply
    • Oh, and I like a mild chili, so I didn’t use either the red pepper flakes or the cayenne.

      • — Laura on February 13, 2023
      • Reply
  • Thank you, Jenn! This is the only chili I’ve ever liked! I had a hunch that the coriander and the oregano would be difference-makers and they definitely are. I don’t even miss using ground beef. This chili has a brightness and complexity of flavor that other chilis just lack. I found that I didn’t need to cook it as long as you advise in the recipe – perhaps because I use cast iron on an induction cooktop – just 25 minutes initially and then another 25 min after the ground turkey bits are added. I’m eating leftovers today as I write and I think it’s even better today, lol.

    • — Laura on February 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • My husband and I didn’t like the turkey chili. I followed the recipe but for some reason this chili was too soupy and we weren’t big fans of the turkey meatballs. The flavor was ok we didn’t think it was too spicy, We prefer a chili that is a little thicker. First recipe from Once Upon A Chef we didn’t like.

    • — Karen on February 12, 2023
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  • Excellent! I omitted the spices because of my family but without even that, it was so delicious!

    • — Jennifer Dubler on February 7, 2023
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  • When I originally read the recipe, I did a double take with 1/2 tsp each of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. But I went ahead and followed the instructions because I am a huge fan of Jenn! I wish I trusted my instinct because it was much too spicy (and I love spicy). The “heat” dominated the chili overall and I plan to garnish it with sour cream and cheese to offset the kick. Next time I will eliminate the red pepper flakes and scale back on the cayenne.

    • — Joanne on February 6, 2023
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  • This is a fantastic recipe. Only change I made was to use a method that I read about on a food blog, where you dissolve baking soda in a tiny bit of water, mix it into the raw meat and let it sit for 20-25 min before cooking. It sealed the moisture into the turkey and the meat browned up beautifully. This one’s a keeper!

    • — Lauri on February 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’m somewhat of a chili snob and if it doesn’t have beef in it, it ain’t chili – it soup or stew.

    Regardless of what you call it, this recipe is a good one.

    • — Jim on February 5, 2023
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  • While I enjoyed the flavors, I feel that simmering the chili for 2 hours affected the texture of the turkey meat, giving it a mushy texture. I understand the chunks of turkey added later was to probably to fix that but there was still an off texture. If I made this again, I would brown all of the turkey at once, then simmer for only an hour.

    • — Rusty on December 4, 2022
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    • Another excellent recipe. I browned the meat all at once and added pinto,black and cannoli beans along with corn..I like a thicker chilli. Your recipes never disappoint. Thank you!

      • — Mary Cupar on February 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can I replace ground beef and beef broth using the rest of these ingredients to make a tasty beef chili or are these ingredients good with turkey only?

    • — Catherine Chapman Quigley on November 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, I’d recommend my beef chili instead. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2022
      • Reply
      • That beef chili is our fav! Don’t skip the baking soda! Makes such a difference!

        • — Cindy on February 5, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I am excited to try another one of your amazing recipes. You have become my favourite chef and I highly promote you with my family and friends.
    I have a small uncooked turkey roast(white meat) that I would like to use up. I was thinking that I would cut the turkey roast into small bite-size pieces. Would it work in this recipe?If so, should I sauté the turkey first before putting it in with the other ingredients?
    Thank you so much!
    Have a fantastic day!
    Catherine

    • — Catherine on November 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, so glad you like the recipes (and thanks so much for spreading the word about the blog)! I would not recommend using the cut up turkey for chili, but you could cook it and then use it as you would a rotisserie chicken. Here are some recipes that you could use it in.

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is the first time I made this recipe and so far so good -it’s on the stove simmering right now! However, when I saw the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of chili powder I did a double take. Is that correct?? So I put in about 1/16 cup to be safe. Could you explain why so much chili powder? Thank you!

    • — Rachel Kane on October 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Rachel, I know it sounds like a lot, but yes, it’s correct; the flavor really isn’t overpowering. Hope you enjoy it with the reduced chili powder!

      • — Jenn on October 10, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’m trying to swap more ground turkey for beef in our family meals but my family doesn’t love the taste of ground turkey and can always tell the difference. I’m always trying to mask the turkey taste as best I can. Do you think substituting beef broth for the chicken broth would help it to taste “beefier” or is it best to stick with chicken broth in this recipe?

    • — Maria on August 26, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Maria, I’m not certain how much of a difference it will make in the taste to use beef broth, but it’s certainly fine to use that in place of the chicken broth. Hope your family enjoys!

      • — Jenn on August 26, 2022
      • Reply
  • Just made this tonight. Added about 1 1/2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder to add another layer of complexity, and a little extra chili powder. Turned out very nice 👍🏼!

    • — Lori from California
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe last night for the Superbowl. It did NOT disappoint! Absolutely delicious. Rich in flavor as well as complex, with just enough mild heat to keep it interesting. The nearly two hours of simmering makes all the difference. I served it with a dollop of sour cream and lots of tortilla chips. I will be keeping it in rotation for sure.

  • My family loves this chili!

  • I prepared this based on all the positive reviews but for us it’s not a keeper. I’ve loved several other recipes from your site and enjoyed them but this was so so.

  • Really good! My new turkey chili go to.

  • 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!

  • Delicious and simple recipe to follow. Makes for excellent left overs too. Thanks For Sharing another amazing recipe.

  • 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
    • 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
    • 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!

  • 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!

  • This chili is amazing, I just did black beans because my family prefers those!

  • 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!

  • 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
    • Reply
    • Hi Crystal, You can definitely get away with less. Enjoy!

  • Good. I guess I’d say it was an average chili recipe. Sorry.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Can I use ground chicken

      • — Poonam Sharma on February 9, 2023
      • Reply
      • yep!

        • — Jenn on February 10, 2023
        • 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

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

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • Made exactly as is. Outstanding and will make again!!! Thanks again for another easy to make dinner/winner!

  • 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!! 🙂

  • 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!!

  • Has anyone made this in the Instant Pot? If so, how long would you cook it?

  • 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!!

  • 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!

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