Make Ahead

Best Ever Turkey Chili

July 14, 2021
4.5 Stars
Photo by Alpha Smoot
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! —kmartinelli

Test Kitchen Notes

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
In This Recipe
  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.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kristin
  • SophieL
  • Cecile
  • JJ Avinger-Jacques
    JJ Avinger-Jacques
  • Susan Subracko
    Susan Subracko
A native New Yorker, I recently moved to Be'er Sheva, Israel with my husband while he completes medical school. I am a freelance food and travel writer and photographer who is always hungry and reads cookbooks in bed.

36 Reviews

Kristin December 6, 2021
TBH I wasn't enthused about making chili with ground turkey but it's what I had on hand so I thought I'd give it a try. The seasoning was underwhelming so I added a whole lot more which isn't a problem of course. Also added another can of beans since there weren't enough to populate the stew. Also used a good craft ale which made a slight positive as well as sliced crimini mushrooms since it's what I had on hand. I would suggest adding a fresh serrano or jalapeno - it really needs a kick up in heat/spice level. My unhappiness with this recipe is likely due to my dislike of ground turkey texture; need to get the spouse to buy less of it!
SK September 22, 2021
Landed on the family Top 10 list.
katsmith115 September 11, 2021
Crazy delish. I had my doubts but it was deeply flavorful. Went with dark kidney beans for the esthetics. Also, I recommend you choose a high quality dark beer or ale.
Mollie C. October 17, 2020
Liked this and made some tweaks (definitely needs more spice for me) but a solid recipe. Nice use of staple pantry ingredients.
SophieL January 9, 2020
Really good, really easy! The spiciness was perfect for me. I used leftover roasted turkey breast and didn't change anything else. Topped with sour cream and grated cheese. It'll be better the second day.
Louise November 6, 2018
I thought this was delicious.... I used a heavy lager instead of dark beer and a little more of the spice. Used about a 1/2 tablespoon of salt and tsp of pepper.... not bland at all!
Cecile March 4, 2018
Hmm. Bland. We fixed it up with red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, some ketchup and a lot of salt & pepper. Should I use this recipe again, I might add more beer. I wondered about adding a bay leaf as well.
Jackie November 5, 2017
After reading the comments (some say it's amazing, others say it's bland), I decided to blend aspects of this recipe with one of my favourite chili recipes: Smitten Kitchen's beef chili. My hybrid chili turned out pretty great.

I gotta say, all the spice levels in this "Best Ever" chili are very, very conservative, so I'm not surprised that people say it's bland. And any chili without cumin is just not chili, in my opinion. :)

So I upped the chili powder significantly, upped the oregano too, added cumin, used Spanish paprika, and added a quarter of a jalapeno with seeds. I kept the beer, the cinnamon and coriander the same, and didn't add hot sauce (though, I should have).

In sum, this is a good chili base, and I love the addition of beer. Just spice yours to taste.
ENEB August 1, 2017
It was very bland. I had to add a lot to make this taste just OK. I was disappointed with this recipe.
Larry July 19, 2017
Its just meh. Expected more from a Food52 recipe.
Stacey May 22, 2017
Anything called "Best Ever" makes me skeptical... But I gotta tell you, this recipe is fantastic! I was convinced it was too simple to be THAT good. I was wrong. I (strangely) was out of dried coriander, so I just threw some fresh cilantro in the pot. Plus, I used the entire red pepper. Super tasty! Huge flavor even though I used a Pacifico instead of a dark beer. I'm definitly keeping this one on file. (ps. It was 90 degrees in LA today and I STILL couldn't get enough of this chili.)
JJ A. September 23, 2016
Just made this today for my workers who are building my art studio. I DID make a few tiny additons/changes....added a lot more chili powder, some dried Sweet Basil, a tad squirt of honey, some cumin, a second can of pinto beans, a bit more garlic, some chopped parsley and beef broth, since I didn't have any dark beer. Served it with toasted garlic toast. The contractors/workers ate it ALL up! I barely had a bowlful for myself!!! They gave your recipe rave reviews, and it was on the FIRST DAY of making it...and we all know that the longer chili has to meld flavors, the better it is, but HEY...I'm not complaining. They think I'm a great cook...LOL.
Susan S. February 24, 2016
If I triple this, do you think I should triple every ingredient? Trying to make a large batch but don't want to mess up the flavor!
june C. December 28, 2015
For the first time TURKEY chill this was a pretty good recipe..I did however find it to be a little bland so pump up the hot stuff. I used roasted turkey breast and chopped it up which worked just as well.
Amelia H. October 30, 2015
This turned out fantastic! I made a few subtle subs, smoked paprika instead of regular, some chopped chipotles in adobo for the chile and tomato paste, and strong brewed coffee instead of beer. Ugh, perfection. Had it for lunch all week and never got tired of it.
Stephanie October 28, 2015
This is a very mild chili and needs spicing up. I'll try Cmc's suggestion for adding more chili powder and a hit of cumin next time.
Cmc February 26, 2015
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.
Randa January 18, 2015
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!!!!
Shira January 14, 2015
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!
AlainaMK January 7, 2015
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!