Easy Smoky Turkey Chili

It’s finally dipped below 90 degrees in Texas, and that means… chili weather – Smoky Turkey Chili weather, to be exact!

Although, if I’m really being honest, every weather is chili weather as far as I’m concerned. This Smoky Turkey Chili recipe is too dang good to only eat during the 3 months of the year Texas has “cold” weather.

And really, this turkey chili is good year-round. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees outside… I’LL EAT IT.

(I mean, I wouldn’t actually eat it outside in the heat of summer, because you would actually melt your face off… but inside my air conditioned house at 72 degrees? Absolutely.)

But first: a confession about Texas chili.

Now before I dive into the recipe, I need to confess something to my fellow Texans:

This chili has beans in it.

I KNOW, I KNOW, Y’ALL. It’s downright un-Texan of me.

But listen, I never said this was Texas chili. It’s not Texas chili!

I love me a good meaty bowl of spicy Texas chili, piled on top of fritos or cornbread. Heck yes.

But to be honest (I’m nothing if not honest around here, amiright?), I really love what beans add to a bowl of chili.

Smoky Turkey Chili is so flavorful and delicious. You won't even know it doesn't have beef!

I love the thicker, softer texture it adds. I love the flavor it adds.

And I love that it bulks it up some, so it lasts longer (because I am both cheap and lazy, so leftovers are life).

So there, I said it – it’s all out in the open now. I prefer my chili with beans.

*cowers into the shadows in shame…*

OKAY, now that I’ve been effectively shamed and forever branded as a Texas chili traitor, let’s move on.

Turkey Chili vs. Beef Chili

You might be thinking, “turkey chili? Really? Real chili has BEEF.”

And you might be right… sort of.

I can promise you that this chili is so flavorful, you won’t even notice that it’s not made with beef.

That said, if you want to make it with beef – go right ahead. You can directly substitute the turkey for beef and follow the recipe as written; just make sure to drain the grease from the pot after browning the meat.

But here’s the deal – ground turkey is so much better for you than beef!

My general approach to my diet (and life, honestly) right now is this: easy over everything.

That basically means, I’m not going out of my way to radically change my eating habits, or adopt an intense dietary regimen, or cut out massive food groups. I just don’t have the capacity for that!

But if there’s an easy way to alter a recipe to make even it a little bit better for my family and myself, why wouldn’t I do it?

That’s where the turkey comes in here. This chili recipe loses nothing by using ground turkey instead of ground beef – aside from grease, fat, and calories.

Generally, when you use ground turkey instead of ground beef, the dish might be a little drier, less flavorful, maybe a little tougher or chewier. But none of those issues apply to this smoky turkey chili.

Your whole family will love this Smoky Turkey Chili – it's so flavorful, versatile, and EASY!

It’s not dry, because you’re cooking it in oil, crushed tomatoes, and water.

It’s packed with flavor, thanks to this chili’s insanely delicious seasoning blend (and dry-seasoning technique, courtesy of Food Wishes).

It’s not tough, because you’re giving it a nice long time to cook and break down.

The one caution I’d offer for using ground turkey here is to not use ground turkey breast. That would indicate that it’s all white meat turkey, which is super lean, but will be a bit too dry for chili. We want some of that good dark meat mixed in!

How to Make Smoky Turkey Chili

What really sets this chili apart from the rest is its flavor. This recipe has such a unique seasoning blend that gives it just the right amount of kick (but not too much, because toddlers), mixed with a smoky punch, and curbed by a teensy weensy little pop of sweetness.

If you’re thinking that sounds crazy because what could possibly have that many flavor variations?! – then let me tell you about this spice mix.

This recipe’s spice mix blends ancho chili powder (which gives it that smoky flavor), cumin, chipotle pepper, black pepper, dried oregano, salt, paprika, and – wait for it – unsweetened cocoa and cinnamon.

Whaaaat?! Cocoa powder in chili?!

Just trust me… it’s life-changing.

Besides the incredible taste of this chili, it’s also incredibly easy. It only uses ONE pot (whoop!), and while it may not be the fastest recipe, it’s largely hands-off.

{If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, I’d recommend you hop over to my Mini BBQ Bacon Turkey Meatloaf and try that instead.}

It really ~boils down~ to 5 steps (see what I did there…):

  1. Brown the meat with onions and garlic.
  2. Add seasoning, and cook in for a few minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and water, and simmer for an hour. {AKA – go do other things!}
  4. Add beans, and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
  5. Eat!

So while the total cook time on this chili is an hour and a half, you don’t have to do anything with it for the vast majority of that time.

Can you make this turkey chili in the Instant Pot?

Of course! Full disclosure: I haven’t made this particular recipe in the Instant Pot (yet), but I have made other chilis in it and I know it comes out just as flavorful and tender that way.

Instant Pot Tips ALL Beginners Should Read

To make this smoky turkey chili in the Instant Pot, you’ll follow the same basic recipe steps:

  1. Saute the onions, turkey, and garlic in the Instant Pot on Sautè mode.
  2. Add the seasoning and stir, sautèing for another few minutes.
  3. Make sure to really scrape the bottom of the pot so you don’t get a burn warning.
  4. Add the liquid and the beans, and stir everything to combine.
  5. Seal the pot, and set to Manual mode for 20 minutes.
  6. Allow to natural release for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Release the remaining pressure, stir, and serve!

The next time I make this chili, I plan to try it in the Instant Pot, so I’ll be sure to update here when I do!

How to Serve Smoky Turkey Chili

In my opinion, you can make or break a good chili by its fixins.

Since this recipe is already so flavorful, it doesn’t need much, but there’s also so much you can do with it.

I love to top my chili with any combination of:

  • sour cream
  • Fritos
  • avocado
  • cilantro
Your whole family will love this Smoky Turkey Chili – it's so flavorful, versatile, and EASY!

Sometimes I just use one or two toppings, sometimes I load ’em all up – it totally depends on my mood.

What do you do with leftover turkey chili?

I’m a working mom with two kids and a husband who all get ragey by dinnertime, so leftovers are everything in my weekly meal plan.

When I’m plotting out our dinners for the week on Sundays, I always make sure two of my meals will have enough for leftovers. (Because that gives me two nights off from cooking, duh.)

My family loves this chili, so we’ll just eat it as-is over and over again – I’ve trained them to have low expectations, what can I say?

However, if you’re wanting to change it up a bit, there are tons of ways to spruce up leftover turkey chili:

  • Serve over baked potatoes
  • Serve over cornbread with cheese
  • Serve on hot dogs or burgers
  • Mix in with Mac & Cheese
  • Or, my new favorite – sweet potato chili nachos
Sweet potato chili nachos are a delicious and EASY way to serve leftover smoky turkey chili!

You guys probably already know I’ve become obsessed with eMeals, for many, many reasons – not least of which is the awesome ideas it’s opened my eyes to.

Many of the recipes in the app are so simple, yet things I never would have thought of on my own. Sweet Potato Chili Nachos are one of the those things.

It’s so simple – cook a bag of frozen sweet potato fries in the oven or air fryer, then dump chili and fixins on top.

It becomes a completely different meal, and the combination of the chili with the sweet potatoes brings out totally different flavors. Plus, my kids both love sweet potatoes, so I barely have to fight with them to eat it.

(I mean, they’re still toddlers – I still have to fight with them some, just not as much as usual.)

Can you freeze leftover turkey chili?

Sure! Just make sure it’s completely cooled off before transferring it to a freezer-safe container, cover it tightly, and it’ll be good for up to 3 months in the freezer.

To serve the frozen turkey chili, you can either:

  • take it out of the freezer the day before, and let it thaw out in the fridge, or
  • dump it straight from the freezer into a pot on the stove, and let it simmer, covered, until it’s totally defrosted

Can we just see the recipe, already?

YUP. With that – go forth and make your Smoky Turkey Chili! And make sure to let me know if your family loves it as much as mine does in the comments.

Smoky Turkey Chili

Smoky Turkey Chili

Yield: 8 servings
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This turkey chili is so tasty, you'll never even notice it doesn't have beef. It's smoky, but not too spicy, with a hint of sweetness, and jam-packed with flavors.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup frozen chopped onions
  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (12 oz) cans pinto beans

Spice Mix

  • 1/4 cup ancho chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp chipotle
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

To Garnish

  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Fritos corn chips
  • Cilantro

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and sautè until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground turkey and garlic.
  4. Brown meat, breaking it up as it cooks.
  5. Combine spice mix ingredients, and add to cooked turkey.
  6. Stir in and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add crushed tomatoes and water, and bring to a boil.
  8. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. Stir, add beans, and simmer for 20-30 more minutes, uncovered.
  10. Stir, taste, adjust seasonings as needed, and enjoy!

Notes

Top with sour cream, avocado, Fritos corn chips, and/or cilantro.

Serve by itself, or over rice, baked potatoes, corn bread, or sweet potato fries.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 589 Total Fat: 38g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 24g Cholesterol: 181mg Sodium: 1069mg Carbohydrates: 18g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 3g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 47g
This smoky turkey chili is perfect for the whole family! Easy. one-pot winter meal.

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