Turkey Chili

5 from 7 votes
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Looking for a hearty meal to keep you warm during chilly winter days? Here’s a delicious stovetop turkey chili recipe with flavorful spices and lean ground turkey. Perfect for cozy nights in or a game day spread.

Try my Instant Pot turkey chili or slow cooker turkey chili for alternate methods.

Big bowl of turkey chili with sour cream and cheese on top.

This easy turkey chili recipe is ideal even on the busiest days. Each serving is packed with nutrients like protein and fiber for a healthy and hearty dish. Lean ground turkey is simmered with my homemade chili seasoning mix for savory and spicy spoonfuls.

I combine fresh vegetables with canned beans and tomatoes to make preparation fast without sacrificing taste. In just 30 minutes, you’ll be able to dig in. Make a big pot to serve a crowd or meal prep for the week, as it tastes even better the next day!

Key ingredients

Ingredients needed to make this turkey chili recipe on the stovetop.
  • Meat: I use 93% lean ground turkey for the leanest poultry. However, you can also use 85% lean for more flavor from the additional fat. Ground chicken is a great substitution.
  • Chili Seasoning: My chili seasoning is a mix of chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and chipotle chili powder. Mix it and add ¼ cup to the pot.
  • Vegetables: Diced onions and garlic add dimension with their earthy and sweet notes once the sulfurous raw flavors have been tamed by cooking. Bell peppers add a pop of red color and complement the taste of the dried peppers and paprika. For extra spiciness, add minced jalapeno.
  • Tomatoes: Using convenience products like canned tomatoes helps to make the chili thicker with a balance of sweetness and acidity. I use tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and fire-roasted diced tomatoes.
  • Beans: I use three types of beans to add an interesting mix of textures and sizes. I use red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. You can use just one variety if preferred. To save time, use canned beans that have been rinsed and drained.
  • Liquids: Chicken broth or stock enhances the poultry flavor of the ground turkey. Worcestershire sauce adds a rich umami flavor and tanginess from the vinegar.

Cook the aromatics and turkey

I recommend cooking the chili with a large, high-sided pan or Dutch oven. To bring out the natural sweetness of the yellow onions, saute them in olive oil. Add the garlic and briefly cook to reduce the sulfurous notes.

Add the ground turkey, and immediately use a spoon to break it into small chunks. Creating smaller pieces is harder once the meat proteins are cooked and packed tightly together. Brown the turkey until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add the seasoning and vegetables

Pieces of red bell pepper and diced jalapenos being mixed with ground turkey.

To maximize the flavor of the dried chili seasoning, add it to the fat drippings from the turkey and olive oil. The spices will bloom in the fat, infusing the fat-soluble flavor compounds and capsaicin into the oil for a more intense flavor in the chili.

This step is crucial; you’ll instantly smell the bold aromas of the spices filling the air, which means a more delicious pot of chili! Add the tomato paste for thickening. Briefly saute the red bell peppers and minced jalapenos to soften. They will cook more as the stew simmers.

Add the beans and tomatoes

Tomatoes and beans in a pot being tossed with a metal spoon.

Now that you’ve developed layers of flavor with the sauteed vegetable and chili seasoning, it’s time to add the beans and tomatoes. Stir in the red kidney, pinto, black beans, crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, and Worcestershire sauce. The stew needs time to simmer to meld all the wonderful ingredients together.

Cook the chili

Delicious homemade turkey chili cooked in a large pot.

Bring the chili to a boil to quickly elevate the temperature, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow at least 30 minutes to gently cook to benefit the taste. The liquids get the chance to concentrate, thickening the texture of the chili and intensifying the seasonings.

The acid in the tomatoes helps to tenderize the ground turkey for a softer texture. The beans marinate in the seasoned liquid for extra tasty bites. Add your favorite chili toppings to customize the meal. I like a dollop of sour cream, cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, and crunchy tortilla chips.

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make the best healthy turkey chili, you can easily customize the base. Try these delicious ways to switch up the next pot:

  • Protein: Try ground chicken, mild or spicy sausage, or shredded chicken.
  • Chilies: Increase the spiciness with cayenne or smoky chipotle chili powder. Add different types of peppers like serrano, habanero, canned green chilies, or chipotle. Add a splash of hot sauce or Sriracha.
  • Vegetables: Add diced butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, celery, corn, mushrooms, zucchini, kale, or spinach.
  • Liquid: Add ½ cup of coffee or beer for bitterness. Soy sauce will enhance the umami taste. Vinegar helps to add extra zing.
  • Sweetness: Add a hint of sweetness with brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
  • Toppings: Add sour cream, creme fraiche, cheddar, pepper jack cheese, smoked gouda, or mozzarella. Add green onions, cilantro, or fresh herbs like sage, tarragon, thyme, or rosemary. Add crunch with tortilla chips, goldfish, pepitas, or nuts like pistachios or walnuts.
Close up of a spoon scooping turkey chili out of a large pot.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

Can I make turkey chili without beans?

Replace the beans with either an extra pound of ground turkey, or vegetables like corn, bell peppers, or zucchini, or grains like quinoa or rice. The chili needs more volume so it’s still a stew in texture, not a thin soup.

How do I make my chili less spicy?

Omit the chipotle chili or reduce the chili powder. You can also add less minced jalapenos.

Can I freeze the chili leftovers?

Chili is great for freezing! Cool it down completely, then store it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Making turkey chili in a slow cooker

Preparing the chili in a slow cooker is great for adding even more flavor. The low heat and long cooking process allow more time for the ingredients to distribute their flavors. Saute the vegetables and browning the meat first for more dimension. Cook on the high setting for 3 to 4 hours or the low setting for 5 to 6 hours. Add only 1 cup of chicken stock since the liquid will not evaporate and concentrate in the vessel. The liquid level can adjusted later.

Bowl of turkey chili with grated cheese and sliced green onions on the side.

Turkey Chili

This turkey chili recipe is a healthier alternative to traditional beef chili, it's packed with lean protein and tons of flavorful spices. Plus, it's so easy to customize with your favorite veggies and toppings.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion, ¼" dice
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground turkey, 85 to 93% lean
  • ¼ cup chili seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper, ¼" dice
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
  • 15 ounces canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounces canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5 ounces canned fire-roasted tomatoes, plus juice
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Instructions 

  • Cook Aromatics – Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil, then once hot, add the onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Cook the Turkey – Add the ground turkey and cook until no longer pink, breaking the meat into smaller chunks, 4 to 6 minutes.
  • Add Seasonings and Vegetables – Add the chili seasoning, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add bell peppers and minced jalapenos, and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the Beans and Tomatoes – Add the kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
  • Cook the Chili – Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally, cooking until the liquid reduces slightly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Reduce the heat if bubbling too rapidly. Add more stock or water for a thinner consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • To Serve – Serve with desired toppings like sour cream, cheddar cheese, chips, cilantro, and sliced green onions.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Homemade Chili Seasoning: 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp coriander, ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp black pepper, ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder. 
  • Increasing the Spiciness: Add cayenne or chipotle chili powder ¼ teaspoon at a time until the desired heat level is reached.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 302kcal (15%)Carbohydrates 39g (13%)Protein 25g (50%)Fat 6g (9%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0.01gCholesterol 31mg (10%)Sodium 739mg (31%)Potassium 1034mg (30%)Fiber 12g (48%)Sugar 8g (9%)Vitamin A 2634IU (53%)Vitamin C 40mg (48%)Calcium 120mg (12%)Iron 5mg (28%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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