Healthy Turkey Chili
Today calls for the BEST Healthy Turkey Chili! October is showing off here in all the right ways—football, flannel, flame-colored leaves, and footwear (yay, BOOTS)—so, it’s time for this delicious chili. It’s packed with lean protein and veggies, can be a spicy turkey chili if you like (or not spicy if that’s your family’s preference), and a few readers have even reported entering it into chili cookoffs and emerging at the top. That officially makes it an award-winning turkey chili recipe too!
In addition to the season, chili has been big on my brain, as I spent most of this past weekend working on a new healthy chili recipe for my upcoming cookbook. After several test batches, a run to the store for additional storage containers, and subjecting Ben to multiple blind taste tests, I’ve had an ample amount of time to reflect on the qualities that take a chili from “good enough” to “gobble it up.”
I’m pleased to report I nailed it! Like every recipe in my book, that upcoming chili is gobble-it-up-good, a highly unofficial term that I am officially adopting as a cookbook recipe standard.
Since I can’t share that chili recipe yet (AHHH you are going to love it!), I wanted to share this healthy turkey chili in the meantime. It’s fall, we need chili, and this recipe shares many of the same qualities I seek from my pot of chili.
This turkey chili recipe is classic in flavor, thick in texture, and ready for any and all of your favorite chili toppings.
I opted to use ground turkey (my preference), but you could easily use lean ground beef and still have a healthy chili, if that’s more your style. Lots of chunky vegetables ensure this chili is still plenty wholesome.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, I need to ask you a Very Important Turkey Chili Question.
Beans or No Beans?
About This Healthy Turkey Chili
I’m typically in camp “beans” (reference: Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili, Crockpot White Chicken Chili, and turkey Instant Pot Chili), but for this particular turkey chili recipe, I decided to take a walk on the no-bean chili side and omit them.
I reasoned I could taste the chili at the very end of its cooking time and add them at the last minute if I felt the recipe was lacking.
Verdict: I loved the healthy turkey chili without beans. It’s plenty thick, rich, and filling on its own, and I felt that the no-bean route allowed the savoriness of the meat and the depth of the spices to shine. (Another no-bean chili delight? This Green Chili recipe!)
That said, if you are a firm believer that chili should have beans and want to toss in a can of pintos or red kidneys, your healthy turkey chili will still be fabulous.
I owe this healthy turkey chili recipe to my friend Lexi. She released her first cookbook last year, Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, and it is packed with 150 (yes, 1-5-0) recipes that use whole foods and are Paleo friendly, this turkey chili included.
How Do You Make Healthy Turkey Chili?
My version of Lexi’s healthy turkey chili recipe follows her formula—brown the aromatics, add the turkey and a heap of colorful veggies, spice it up, let simmer—with a few shortcuts and adjustment of spices to suit our tastes.
The biggest shortcut is the cook time. The original healthy turkey chili recipe calls for slowly simmering chili on the stove for three hours, which I am sure gives it incredible depth of flavor. I hope to try it that way one snowy weekend when I’ve adequately planned ahead.
Because I was running behind schedule the day I made this healthy turkey chili (typical), I decided to see if I could speed it along by cranking up the heat from a gentle simmer to a more aggressive boil.
In 45 minutes, I had a gloriously thick, aromatic pot of turkey chili that we devoured all week long. I can only imagine how wonderful it will be when I cook it the low, slow way that Lexi suggests. (If your preferred low and slow method is a healthy turkey chili crockpot adaptation, check out my Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Chili.)
Recommended Tools to Make This Turkey Chili
- Dutch oven: I adore my Le Creuset, but Staub and Lodge (which is a steal of a deal) are both excellent too!
- My favorite measuring spoons
Healthy Turkey Chili
FOR THE HEALTHY TURKEY CHILI:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 medium onions - diced
- 2 bell peppers - any color, cored and chopped
- 2 large carrots - peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery - diced
- 1 medium sweet potato - peeled and cubed (optional—I added it!)
- 2 pounds ground turkey - I used 93% lean*
- 1 1/2-2 cups water - more as needed
- 1 can tomato sauce - (15 ounces)
- 1 can diced tomatoes in their juices - (14.5 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Sliced fresh avocado
- Thinly sliced jalapeño
- Shredded cheese
- Plain non-fat Greek yogurt - or sour cream
- Freshly chopped cilantro
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, and sweet potato. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft.
- Add the turkey and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often to break up the chunks.
- Once the meat is browned, add 1 1/2 cups water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes in their juices, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a moderate bubble. Let cook, uncovered, until the chili thickens, about 45 minutes, stirring every so often so that the chili does not stick to the bottom. If the chili becomes too thick, add a little water to reach your desired consistency.
- Toward the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Add more cayenne pepper for an extra kick and more salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot with desired toppings.
- Lexi's original version of the chili calls for slowly simmering it (in lieu of my "moderate bubble") on the stove for 3 hours, adding more water as needed. Since I started cooking the chili later in the day (ahem, I was running late), I cooked it more quickly, which you will see reflected in the recipe directions.
- Want to add beans? Lexi suggests adding 1 (15-ounce) can black beans and/or 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans.
- Store leftover chili in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for 3 months.
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