Best Ever Turkey Chili

By • May 15, 2011 19 Comments

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Author Notes: I don’t mean to be cocky, but this chili really is the best ever (at least the best I've ever made). And it's dirt cheap! While beef is usually my protein of choice for this purpose, it’s expensive here in Israel. So I decided to give leaner, cheaper turkey chili a whirl -- and I got to watch as they freshly ground the turkey breast for me at the shuk.

I’ve made a decent amount of chili in my day: We usually make it at least once a year and have been known to host a chili party. It’s the perfect cold weather comfort food, and when I was home in New York in December I couldn’t seem to get enough of it. I usually make a decent chili, but I can get a little heavy-handed. I add too much jalapeño or beer or cinnamon. But this time, everything was in perfect harmony -- the ingredients balanced each other to create a hearty, highly satisfying chili. Also, for the first time I measured and wrote down ingredients as I went instead of haphazardly throwing things in the pot. Which means, lucky for me, I can recreate this again.

This is a fairly mild chili, but it can be easily spiced up with jalapeño peppers (I just forgot to get them). Enjoy it with a cold beer -- the Leffe I cooked with was a perfect complement, although a cheaper beer would be just as good!

Food52 Review: WHO: Kmartinelli is a food and travel writer who has spent the past three years in Be’er Sheva, Israel.
WHAT: A good reason to break out your thermos.
HOW: Sauté and season red pepper, onion, and garlic. Add ground turkey and, when it's nice and brown, some dark beer. Pour in a can of tomatoes, a can of beans, and hot sauce, then let the chili simmer until it’s thick (we recommend making a baked potato in the meantime). Top with all the fixings.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The amount of STUFF in chili can sometimes make for an overwhelming eating experience, but not in this case. This recipe makes careful choices about the meat (turkey), beans (kidney), and spices (paprika, coriander, oregano, and cinnamon), which means you can adjust the heat however you’d like (and add toppings aplenty).
The Editors

Serves 4

  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup dark beer, such as Leffe Brown
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15 1/2-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or chile paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream, chopped chives, cilantro, and/or shredded cheese, for topping
  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the tomato paste, onion, garlic, and red pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the chili powder, hot paprika, coriander, oregano, and cinnamon; stir and allow to cook until aromatic, 1 minute.
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until lightly browned. Pour in the beer and allow to cook down slightly.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beans, and hot sauce or chili paste.
  4. Allow the chili to simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with sour cream, chopped chives, cilantro, and/or shredded cheese.

More Great Recipes: Chicken|Soups|Stews|Soup|Tomatoes

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Comments (19) Questions (1)


6 months ago Cmc

My favorite recipe for chili. I find I need to add more chili powder (about 1 tablespoon total)and also add about 1 tsp cumin.


7 months ago Randa

Just made this.....LOVE IT!!!! The best turkey chili recipe I have made!!!! Topped with chives only....perfection!!!! I also added serano peppers with making for extra sizzle!!!!


8 months ago Shira

Not sure I'll get a response but here goes: I plan to make this tomorrow and I hate coriander/cilantro. I'd just leave it out but it sounds that the the success of this recipe lies in the few chosen ingredients.. so any ideas what to replace it with? Thyme, rosemary, or basil maybe? I'm excited for a great turkey chilli recipe and love the simplicity here. Thanks for any ideas or responses!


8 months ago AlainaMK

Yes, this is quite possibly the best chili ever. I have tried it with turkey in the past, and it was great but I think any ground meat would work. This most recent time, I subbed ground elk since we have a ton of it in our freezer, and added pureed cannellini beans because I read somewhere on Food52 that it adds nice texture (and it did!). Also added a touch of raw honey. @kmartinelli, thank you! I've tried a million chili recipes and this one is by far the best!


9 months ago Phyllis Whelan

Going to make this for a Church meeting, can I double this recipie?


9 months ago robin

P.S. My boyfriend ladled it over linguine and proclaimed it to be the best "I don't know exactly what this is but I can't stop eating it" sauce ever! :)


9 months ago robin

Made this last night and am eating leftovers right now. I am in love! The only thing I did differently was to leave out the beans and add fresh spinach a few moments before serving. I am making it again tonight just so I have it in the fridge for quick and delicious lunches...I seriously feel an addiction coming on! Lol. Thank you!


10 months ago kim!

Just made this evening! Super easy and delicious with great depth of flavor for not much effort. Thank you for sharing the recipe!


10 months ago Julie

Amazing! Used a local Richmond brown ale - even our 5 year old loved it!!!


over 1 year ago Tarragon

I should have commented months ago - I have been making this almost weekly for about 7 months - love it, especially the seasoning! I follow your recipe exactly, although sometimes I sub chicken or beef stock (or mixed) for the beer to save calories.


over 1 year ago Katherine614

That is so wonderful to hear!! Thanks for letting me know. I make it often as well :-)


almost 2 years ago Lisa Kasanicky

Made this recipe last night and it was delicious! Hearty, rich flavor and easy!


almost 3 years ago MissEliz

I made this tonight - A HUGE HIT. It's delicious. We went with Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout...I just wish I had doubled the recipe for more leftovers :)

Really easy to make and super tasty!


over 3 years ago marynn

My husband's family traditional Christmas Eve chili dinner just got a delectable update. Thank you, Midge!


about 4 years ago lylebama

I just made this, substituting roasted piquillo peppers for the fresh bell, sundried tomato paste for the tomato paste, harissa for the hot sauce, Rotel with green chiles for diced tomatoes, and guajillo chile powder for garden variety chile powder. It is delicious - spicy, with a nice sweetness from the cinnamon and roasted peppers. Looking forward to having it leftover for the Womens World Cup Final Sunday. Thanks so much


over 3 years ago Tbird

Lyle -
Didn't you just pretty much create your own recipe? Kmartinelli provided a great recipe. I appreciate a tweak here or there, but....


over 3 years ago michelle kimbrough

Yummm! both varieties sound great. Thanks for the idea of possible changes that work well!


over 4 years ago Midge

I made this for dinner the other night with a few substitutions (used carrots instead of a bell pepper; pinto beans for kidneys, and a tbsp of chili garlic sauce for heat) and boy was it ever tasty! Thanks so much for posting it!


over 4 years ago kmartinelli

Oh Midge you've just made my day! I am so glad it came out. Love the addition of carrots and garlic sauce!