How to Make the Best Turkey Chili

When you're craving down-home comfort food—but not all of the fat—turn to this turkey chili recipe. Ground turkey recipes, like this one, are packed with tons of flavor. Here's how to make it at home.

On a cold day, nothing warms you up faster than a steaming bowl of chili. But over time, those big, meaty bowlfuls can start to take a toll on your waistline. Luckily, turkey chili is the perfect compromise. It has the same hearty texture as beef chili, but it yields only 200 calories (and just 4 grams of fat!) per serving. Here’s how to make the best turkey chili at home.

Not a fan of red chili? This white turkey chili recipe is another healthy favorite.

How to Make Turkey Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup each chopped celery, chopped onion and chopped green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) meatless pasta sauce
  • 1 can (16 ounces) hot chili beans, undrained
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • Optional toppings: Sour cream, cubed avocado, diced jalapeno peppers

Step 1: Brown the Turkey

First, we’ll need to cook our turkey. In a large skillet, start by crumbling together the turkey, celery, onion and pepper over medium-high heat. Cook until the turkey is no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: Lean ground turkey contains 53% less fat and 38% less saturated fat than regular ground turkey. It works great in casseroles, tacos and other dishes that use crumbled meat. Check out our best ground turkey recipes here.

Step 2: Transfer to the Slow Cooker

Next, we’re going to get our slow cooker in on the action. Transfer the turkey and vegetable mixture to a 5-quart slow cooker. Stir in the seasonings, tomatoes, pasta sauce, chili beans, water and corn. Cook the chili, covered, on high for 1 hour.

Step 3: Cook Low and Slow

The secret to this chili isn’t in the ingredients as much as it’s in the cooking method. To really build flavor, we’re going to cook the chili on low for an additional 5-6 hours. You can also elevate your dish with one of these chili flavor boosters.

Step 4: Add Remaining Ingredients

To finish the chili, stir in the kidney and pinto beans. Then, cook covered on low for an additional 30 minutes or until hot.

Step 5: Top It Off

Serve chili in bowls and, if desired, top with sour cream, avocado and jalapeno.

Make It Your Own:

Can I use ground beef instead of ground turkey in this chili?

Yes, but it will affect the nutritional value of the chili as ground beef has more fat than ground turkey. To substitute, simply replace the turkey with 1 pound lean ground beef. Or, check out our best chili recipes of all time to find a new favorite.

Can you make turkey chili without beans?

Yes, but the end result will be more like a soup than a chili. Consider using a little less water if you omit the hot chili beans and adjust the spice levels to your taste. You can also substitute different types of beans—such as black beans—if you’d like.

What seasonings can you use in turkey chili?

Our recipe calls for chili powder, cumin, pepper and cayenne pepper—and it also gets some flavor from the hot chili beans. Feel free to adjust the spice level to your individual tastes. For more spice, we recommend adding additional chili powder, 1/4 tablespoon at a time, until you’ve reached the desired spice level.

What toppings go well with turkey chili?

We love to serve this turkey chili with sour cream, cubed avocado and diced jalapeno peppers. But it’s also delicious topped with tortilla chips, bread cubes (we’re big fans of these cornbread recipes), green onion or pepper jack cheese. Go ahead and use whatever chili toppings you love!

How to Make Turkey Chili in an Instant Pot

Short on time? You can use a pressure cooker to make this recipe, too. This version cooks in just 25 minutes!

To make, simply select the saute or browning setting on a 6-quart electric pressure cooker and adjust it for medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until it’s no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes, breaking up the turkey into crumbles as you go. Drain away any fat, then add the water and cook for 1 minute, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the pan.

Return the turkey to the pressure cooker and stir in tomatoes, pasta sauce, beans, celery, onion, green pepper, corn and seasonings. Lock the lid and close the pressure-release valve. Pressure-cook the chili on high for 5 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Quick-release any remaining pressure and serve with desired toppings. You’ll also want to check out our favorite Instant Pot soup recipes.

Freezer Tips:

Can you freeze turkey chili?

Yes! Simply cool the chili and place it in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, then heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.

How long does turkey chili last in the freezer?

If properly stored, turkey chili lasts between 4 and 6 months in the freezer. Find out how long other foods last in the freezer here.

Still hungry? Take a look at more tasty turkey chili recipes.

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Katie Bandurski
Katie is an Assistant Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in writing and email newsletters. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and combing through antique shops.