My husband and I have been making this Turkey Chili recipe since the early days of our relationship. The recipe comes from his grandmother and is loaded with veggies — zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and bell peppers — ground turkey, canned tomatoes, and canned white beans.
It cooks up quickly, only on the stove top 30 minutes versus other chili recipes that require simmering all day, is healthy, and perfect for meal prep and game days.
Our favorite way to serve this healthy turkey chili? Over a big bowl of white rice with the usual chili toppings: sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, avocado, raw onion, and cilantro. If we’re really going for it, Fritos are a fun and crunchy addition!
Be sure to try our Green Chicken Chili Soup next!
Ingredients For Turkey Chili
- Extra virgin olive oil: to brown the ground turkey and sauté the veggies.
- Ground turkey: look for dark meat ground turkey! It has more flavor than lean ground turkey.
- Vegetables: zucchini, yellow squash, sweet Vidalia onions, bell peppers
- Canned tomatoes: we like to use a mix of crushed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes, but use what you’ve got!
- Dried spices: chili powder, ground cumin, dried basil, and dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: to season everything!
- Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed: though any variety of soft white beans will work!
- Lemon: the juice of 1 lemon really brightens the flavor of the ground turkey chili and rounds out the flavors.
For serving: cooked white rice (though of course this is optional, it’s still fantastic without!), shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and chopped raw onion.
Equipment: large soup pot or Dutch oven, spatula, slotted spoon and plate (for browning ground turkey).
How To Make The Best Turkey Chili
- Brown the turkey. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, then cook, breaking up with a spatula, until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large plate.
- Sauté the vegetables. To the same pot, add all the veggies. If the pot is dry, you can add another tablespoon or two of olive oil as needed. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper, then cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes. Stir in 2 (28oz) cans of tomatoes — 1 each of crushed tomatoes and canned whole tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon or spatula (or your hands!) to help break up the whole tomatoes.
- Add spices. We’re using 2 tablespoons chili powder, and slightly less ground cumin, dried basil, and dried oregano. Don’t forget to season with Kosher salt and black pepper!
- Simmer. Return the browned ground turkey to the pot, add fresh lemon juice, then cover and simmer for a half hour. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
- Serve! Now’s the fun part! Spoon big ladlefuls of ground turkey chili over white rice (or other grain), then pile high with all your favorite chili toppings!
How To Serve: The Best Chili Toppings
- Rice: white rice is our go-to, but but brown rice or even cilantro-lime rice would be delish! Can also omit rice entirely or use another grain.
- Dairy: shredded Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack if you like chili spicy! Crumbled queso fresco or Cotija would also be fantastic. And of course sour cream — the perfect thing to cool the chili down.
- Fresh herbs: Cilantro! Like, a lot of cilantro!
- Raw onion, both for crunch and that raw onion intense heat — the more, the better! White onion or red onion is great! If you aren’t a fan of raw onion, try thinly sliced scallions. Green onion is more mild than raw onion.
- Avocado: this is a nice dairy-free option for adding something creamy without using sour cream.
- Jalapeño slices, if you want additional heat. You can use thinly sliced raw jalapeño or pickled jalapeños from a jar.
- Fritos or tortilla chips, for a salty, crunchy bite!
Make Ahead, Leftovers, and Storage
Ground turkey chili is perfect to make ahead for meal prep!
Make ahead and storage: Allow ground turkey chili to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and store in a fridge for up to 1 week. Store cooked rice and toppings separate from chili.
Reheating leftovers: Chili can be reheated in a microwave safe bowl (with rice) or on a stove top until warm. Add toppings just before serving.
Freezing: Chili is perfect for making ahead and freezing! Allow to cool completely, store in large Ziplock freezer bags or containers for 4-6 months. To reheat, thaw overnight in a refrigerator, then reheat in a microwave or on a stovetop before serving.
Yes! Obviously the ground turkey is a pretty important ingredient here, but because our recipe is absolutely loaded with vegetables, if you want, you can omit the turkey altogether.
It may not be traditional, but cannellini beans are great in this recipe! In Grammy’s original recipe, she calls for canned garbanzo beans. You could also use pinot beans, black beans, or red kidney beans.
Yes! Brown the turkey and vegetables before adding to the slow cooker with remaining ingredients, then cook the chili on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
Yes! We like the lighter flavor of ground turkey or ground chicken in this recipe, but you can absolutely use ground beef.
Check out all of our soup and chili recipes here!
- Brown the ground turkey before adding to the chili. Do not skip this step and add raw turkey, it won’t have the same flavor or texture!
- Similarly, sauté the vegetables until softened, son’t just add them to the tomatoes and spices, as they won’t have the same crisp-tender texture.
- If you simmer for longer than 30 minutes, be sure to check the consistency of the turkey chili and add water or chicken broth, as needed, so it doesn’t dry out.
- Do not skip the raw onion for serving! This is, in my humble opinion, what makes the chili. Lots of raw onion!
- Want to make it spicy? Add ½-1 tsp cayenne pepper! If you want a smoky flavor, try adding chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce.
This is seriously the best turkey chili and we are so happy to finally be sharing it with you!
If you make our Ground Turkey Chili recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More game day recipes to try!Buffalo Chicken Sliders Garlic Parmesan Wings Grilled Jalapeño Poppers Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings Lamb Burger
Grammy’s Turkey Chili Recipe
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive plus 2 more Tbsp, if needed
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 medium zucchini cut into ½" pieces
- 2 medium yellow squash cut into ½" pieces
- 3 large sweet onions 2 onions cut into ½" pieces, plus another onion diced for serving
- 2 red bell peppers cut into ½" pieces
- 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp dried basil
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1½ Tbsp Kosher salt plus more, as needed
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (15oz) can of cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 1 lemon juiced
- Cooked white rice optional, for serving
- Toppings: shredded Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack cheese, sour cream, cilantro, raw onion
- Brown the turkey. Heat 2 Tbsp olive in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add ground turkey, then cook, breaking up with a spatula, until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.
- Sauté the vegetables. If the pot is a little dry, add another 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and red pepper. Season with ½ tsp Kosher salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes. Add 1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes and 1 (28oz) can of whole tomatoes, breaking the whole tomatoes up either with your hands or a spatula.
- Season the turkey chili. Add 2 Tbsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp dried basil, 1 Tbsp dried oregano, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, then stir to combine. Stir in 1 (15oz) can of cannellini beans.
- Simmer. Return the browned turkey to the pan, then squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on top. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Garnish, then serve. When ready, serve big turkey chili over white rice with your favorite chili toppings, such as: shredded cheese, sour cream, diced raw onion, and fresh cilantro.
- Nutrition facts do not include rice or toppings.
- Make ahead and storage: Allow ground turkey chili to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and store in a fridge for up to 1 week. Store cooked rice and toppings separate from chili.
- Reheating leftovers: Chili can be reheated in a microwave safe bowl (with rice) or on a stove top until warm. Add toppings just before serving.
- Freezing: Chili is perfect for making ahead and freezing! Allow to cool completely, store in freezer-safe bags or containers for 4-6 months. To reheat, thaw overnight in a refrigerator, then reheat in a microwave or on a stovetop before serving.
Photography by: Megan McKeehan