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The perfect combination of spices, aromatics, ground turkey and beans make this the best turkey chili recipe! The secret is toasting the spices in oil. Serve over brown rice or roasted cauliflower for an easy, healthy weeknight meal!  

pouring chili from ladle into bowl.

I have been secreting away this turkey chili recipe in the Notes App on my phone for well over a year, all the while making it at least twice a month! I am truly sorry that I kept this from you for so long! This recipe contains more diverse and different spices than my steak chili, chipotle chili and vegan chili recipes.

I serve this healthy turkey chili with roasted butternut squash and lemon roasted cauliflower or broccoli, but it is also delicious served over brown or wild rice. You can never go wrong with a slice of my Southern cornbread recipe or this moist sweet cornbread.

Why This is the Best Turkey Chili

  • Cooking the spices enhances the flavor. Cooking the spices in oil blooms them and intensifies the flavors. This means you can make a more flavorful chili with fewer expensive spices!
  • A variety of spices. Many recipes call for only 2-3 spices but this recipe masterfully combines 6 different spices. A little sweetness and smokiness from the smoked paprika and New Mexican chili powder, and a little heat from the chili powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. You can omit any and use what you have in your pantry!
  • Low fat, healthy meal. I use 99% lean ground turkey or ground chicken breast in this recipe for an easy, low-fat meal. The beans add additional protein and fiber.
turkey chili on spoon in bowl.
shaved parmesan on top of soup in white bowl.
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Professional Tips for Making Flavorful Turkey Chili

  • Build the flavor a layer at a time. The key to professional tasting meals, is layering flavors. Sauté the onions and garlic then blooming the spices in oil creates a flavorful base for your chili. I use pomodoro tomatoes like I do in tomato pasta sauce for their superior texture and flavor.
  • Use homemade chicken stock. In a pinch, I’ve made this recipe using store-bought chicken stock and even vegetable stock, but homemade chicken broth makes this chili even more flavorful. I keep it in the freezer for just this occasion.
  • The beauty of chili is that it is remarkably versatile and flexible. My professional advice to you is: use what you have and taste as you go (as long as that ground turkey is fully cooked!). Change up the spices or the protein, make it a vegan chili, or add any other vegetables you want! Go crazy.

Ingredients Needed

ingredients for turkey chili on marble.
  • Onions
  • Garlic: I use the jarred minced garlic in water for ease, but you could mince your own garlic cloves if you want! I used to be a stickler about it but then I had a baby and there is literally no time for pealing and mincing garlic cloves. IYKYK.
  • Olive oil
  • Spices: I use a combination of New Mexican chili powder (or ancho), chili powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and ground cumin. They provide a dynamic flavor base, but you can use whichever spices you have on hand.
  • Ground Turkey: I use 99% lean ground turkey but any ground turkey or chicken will be great. There is so much flavor, you won’t miss the extra fat.
  • Crushed Pomodoro Tomatoes: I use Amazon’s brand of crushed pomodoro tomatoes but San Marzano tomatoes are epic in chili, if they are in your budget.
  • Tomato Paste: Tomato paste thickens and adds a little contrasting sweetness to the chili. If you only have a large can of tomato paste, freeze the rest between layers of parchment for 15 minute pasta sauce, beef stroganoff, or baked chicken marinara.
  • Pinto Beans & Red Kidney Beans: Yes, I add beans to chili. I love using a mix of different beans for flavor, texture, protein & fiber. I use the canning liquid because it helps thicken the chili and add body. Use any beans you want. I do rinse and drain black beans, so they don’t color the chili.
  • Chicken Stock: Use either low-sodium chicken stock or homemade chicken stock.
  • Kosher Salt: Let the chili simmer after each kosher salt addition. This allows the flavors to meld and deepen, so you don’t over-salt your chili.  

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to serve Turkey Chili

  • Serve it over a grain: I love serving this one pot meal over brown rice, wild rice, quinoa (or this quinoa pilaf), or even cooked millet.
  • Add some complimentary toppings: Add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt to tame the heat, a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onions,  or a few slices of avocado. It isn’t healthy but no one ever complained about chili topped with Fritos, crushed tortilla chips or corn nuts. Just trying to give you all the powerful flavor options.
  • Serve up delicious side dishes: I like to crumble southern cornbread or sweet cornbread directly into my chili, but you could also try gluten free spoon bread, Mexican cornbread, or this jalapeno cornbread! It is also fantastic with easy dinner rolls, potato rolls or even served on brioche buns.

Variations & Substitutions

  • Add vegetables: I am always in favor of add more vegetables. This turkey chili would be wonderful with sautéed bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potatoes or winter squash. This will make it even more filling, healthy and flavorful.  
    Make this recipe using ground chicken: I have made this same recipe with ground chicken as well as lean ground beef, and they are both fantastic. I generally use whichever I have on hand or a mix of several (usually because I have random ½ pounds frozen).
  • Tame the heat (or amp it up!): To quiet the heat in this recipe omit the cayenne pepper and use less chili powder. If taming the heat, try adding some dried oregano for added flavor. You can also add more cayenne pepper or use hot paprika in place of the mild.   

How to Make Healthy Turkey Chili

Use these instructions to make the best turkey chili recipe! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Step 1: In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil, garlic and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent but not browned.

Step 2: Add all the spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to keep them from burning. Add additional oil if desired.

The more oil, the less stirring is necessary, but the less healthy. Cook’s choice! This allows the spices to bloom in the oil and heat, amplifying the flavor.

Step 3: Season the turkey with salt. Add the ground turkey and cook through, chopping it up into medium pieces. I like to keep some nice big chunks, but it will take longer to cook.

saute onions and garlic in red pot.
cooking spices with onions in oil.
adding ground turkey to cooked spices.

Step 4: Add crushed tomatoes, pinto & kidney beans and their liquid, kidney beans and their liquid. This canned bean liquid thickens the chili.

Step 5: Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minute to meld the flavors. Taste for salt, add additional kosher salt as needed. Stir occasionally.

The longer it simmers, the better it will taste, but for a fast meal, it only takes 30 minutes! If you want it thicker, remove the top for some or all of the cooking time.

adding all ingredients for turkey chili into Dutch oven before cooking.
scooping chili from dutch oven with ladle.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

This healthy turkey chili tastes even better the next day. I always make extra, cool it, and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. The flavors meld even more!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store turkey chili leftovers?

Cool chili to room temperature and package in air-tight containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months. You can also package it in zip-top freezer bags, freeze flat and then stack or store vertically (like books).

How do you reheat chili?

Reheat chili in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, or microwave it in a microwave-safe dish. I prefer the microwave because it is faster for individual portions but the stovetop is best if reheating for a crowd (or a family).

If it is frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at 50% power in the microwave. It will thaw faster, if frozen flat in plastic bags. Simply thaw in running cool water.

What is the secret to really good chili?

The secret to really good chili is cooking the spices after the aromatics in oil. This “blooms” and intensifies their flavors. Low and slow is also another good tip for making excellent chili.

How do you make turkey chili in the slow cooker?

You can make the whole dish in a slow cooker especially if yours has a “sauté” function, however, sautéing the onions, garlic and spices before adding them to the slow cooker will ensure the best flavor and keep your chili from being dull or bland.

serving chili with ladle into white bowl.
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Best Turkey Chili Recipe

The perfect combination of spices, aromatics, ground turkey and beans make this the best turkey chili recipe! The secret is toasting the spices in oil. Serve over brown rice or roasted cauliflower for an easy, healthy weeknight meal!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 Servings

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, add the olive oil, garlic and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add all the spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to keep them from burning. Add additional oil if desired. The more oil, the less stirring is necessary, but the less healthy. Cook’s choice! This allows the spices to bloom in the oil and heat, amplifying the flavor.
  • Season the turkey with salt. Add the ground turkey and cook through, chopping it up into medium pieces. You want some nice big chunks!
  • Add tomatoes, paste, drained black beans, pinto beans and their liquid, kidney beans and their liquid. This canned bean liquid thickens the chili. You can use the black bean liquid too but it will cloud the chili and change the color. [please don’t for the photos]
  • Add chicken stock. Simmer for at least 30 minute to meld the flavors. Taste for salt, add additional kosher salt as needed.
  • The longer it simmers, the better it will taste, but for a fast meal, it only takes 30 minutes!

Notes

Yield – Serves 6-8. Makes approximately 3 quarts.
Presentation – Top with sour cream or Greek yogurt, cheese, or sliced avocado.
Storage – Cool chili to room temperature and package in air-tight containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 183kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 658mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 853IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Calories: 183
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. You might also enjoy our other soups and stew recipes or more healthy turkey recipes!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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