Ground Turkey Chili
You don’t need to simmer and wait for hours in order to have a flavorful chili. This Ground Turkey Chili is full of spice and flavor, and ready to eat in 45 minutes. It’s quick to make, and leftovers keep beautifully. Round out the meal with some Homemade Cornbread and Cilantro Lime Rice for an epic feast!
Even though I love a classic ground beef rendition, this ground turkey chili gives it some serious competition. This recipe is a family favorite, and has a cohesive, well-spiced flavor in every bite. It also has a surprisingly tender texture full of ground turkey and black beans.
A lot of people think of turkey as a boring meat, but during recipe testing, I played with various spices and ingredients, considering how to make healthy turkey chili taste better.
I can’t get enough of this stuff, and especially love the leftovers, which reheat beautifully on busy weeknights. You also can’t beat a warm bowl of chili on a cold day.
Why This Recipe Is The Best
Doesn’t need extensive simmering – This recipe only takes 45 minutes to make, which is very fast for a chili. Ground turkey doesn’t need as long of a simmering time to develop a very tender texture.
Full flavor and spice, without being too spicy – This is the best turkey chili in my eyes, because it has a nice level of spice and full flavor, but without being outrageously spicy. I’d probably call this a medium. I also offer instructions for making it milder, if you prefer.
Made in one pot – This whole recipe is cooked in one pot, and I always appreciate how simple this makes it. My favorite recipes are the ones where it’s easy and delicious, dishwashing is minimal, and you end up with lots of leftovers, and this chili fits that to a tee.
Great for leftovers or meal prep – This is one of the best recipes for having leftovers throughout the week, because if anything, it only gets better as it sits! It’s like a Beef Stew or Chicken Cacciatore in that sense.
Tips for Best Results
Use dark ground turkey – Make sure you do not buy the 99% lean ground turkey breast here. It’s too lean and doesn’t have as much flavor as dark ground turkey.
Use fresh spices – Spices, especially ground spices, tend to lose their flavor rapidly as they sit in the pantry. The general rule of thumb is that they will stay potently fresh for 3 to 6 months after opening. They won’t necessarily be “bad” at that point, but less flavorful. So try to use freshly purchased spices here for optimal flavor and the best chili.
Don’t skip the toppings – Don’t get me wrong, the chili is fantastic on its own, but what chili isn’t better with some sour cream or other toppings? I share ideas below for complementary toppings that really make the ground turkey chili incredible.
Step by Step Overview:
Saute the Vegetables
Start by cooking chopped onion and celery with olive oil, salt, and pepper, for about 10 minutes over medium heat in a large pot or braiser:
If there are any other vegetables you want to add here, like chopped red bell peppers, green pepper, or green onions, now is the time to add them.
After 10 minutes of cooking, the vegetables should be nice and soft, translucent in color and not brown.
Add the Ground Meat and Seasonings
Turn the stove top setting up to medium-high heat and brown a couple pounds of dark ground turkey meat, then add ground cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, ground chipotle chili powder, and fresh minced garlic:
Make sure you are using dark meat and not the lean turkey, which is usually 99% fat free and a bit too lean for this recipe.
Stir that around for a minute, until the spices smell fragrant.
Bulk It Up
Next add a can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained and rinsed black beans, yellow cornmeal, and chicken stock or chicken broth:
Sometimes I’m able to find turkey stock, and that’s even better!
Mix everything together, then bring the chili to a boil.
Simmer to Meld the Flavors and Thicken
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the homemade turkey chili gently for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has thickened slightly:
It should look like a very thick and hearty chili.
The ground turkey chili is now ready to serve with your favorite chili toppings or sides, which are the best part! My top four favorite toppings for the actual bowl are a dollop of sour cream, shredded Mexican cheese or cheddar cheese on top, freshly chopped cilantro leaves, or a dollop of fresh Guacamole. Crushed tortilla chips are also great for crunch.
Recipe Substitutions and Swaps
If you’d like to customize the recipe a bit, here are some substitutions that I’ve tested that work nicely.
Ground turkey – You may substitute ground chicken if you prefer. I recommend using dark ground turkey or dark ground chicken for the best texture, as ground poultry breast tends to be too lean.
Beans – I think black beans go great here, but you can use whatever canned bean you prefer, like red kidney beans, navy beans, or pinto beans.
Spices – The ground chipotle in particular is quite spicy, so if you want a milder experience, swap it out for smoked paprika. For a different kind of spice, add 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper.
Celery – Try switching the celery out for some butternut squash for a different flavor. I also sometimes like adding leftover Roasted Butternut Squash.
Tomatoes – For a deeper flavor, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste to the chili. You may also use tomato sauce instead of the canned diced tomatoes, but make sure it’s not Italian style.
Recipe Tips and FAQ:
Yes, it freezes well for up to 2 months in an airtight container.
I recommend moving the container from the freezer to the fridge the day before you’d like to serve it, then reheating it gently in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You may find that the turkey chili tastes even better the next day!
This recipe would actually work better in an Instant Pot (affiliate), because it’s important to soften the vegetables and brown the turkey. Saute as directed, then cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. If using a crockpot, I recommend softening the vegetables and browning the turkey first, then place all ingredients in the slow cooker on low for 2 hours.
Ground Turkey Chili
For the Turkey Chili:
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 3 cups chopped yellow onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1/2 tsp salt divided
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 lbs dark ground turkey
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground chipotle
- 2 tbsp minced fresh garlic
- 28- ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 15- ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 3 cups chicken stock
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the celery, onion, one tablespoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, until softened.
- Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the turkey to the pot and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Brown the turkey for about 5 minutes, until fully cooked through, breaking the turkey up into small pieces with your spatula.
- Add the cumin, chili powder, coriander, chipotle, and garlic and stir for 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, black beans, cornmeal, and chicken stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes (the cornmeal has a tendency to settle at the bottom of the pan).
- Taste the chili and add more salt if you’d like.
- To serve, ladle the chili into bowls and top with grated cheese, sour cream, corn chips, or whatever toppings you’d like. Enjoy!
- You may use ground chicken instead of ground turkey. Use the dark meat, not breast.
- You may use kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, or any canned bean you prefer instead of black beans.
- To make it milder: The ground chipotle in particular is quite spicy, so if you want a milder experience, swap it out for smoked paprika.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.