Weekend Cooking Challenge: Turkey Chili

Beth from Beth Fish Reads recently created a new challenge–Weekend Cooking–and from the minute I read about it, I knew that sharing my Turkey Chili recipe with the book blogging community would be my top priority!  But first, a bit of background for perspective…

Cooking isn’t my strong suit–I’m first to admit this–my husband heartily seconds the fact–but to be fair, I get home after 7pm most nights and a showdown with my stove, empty fridge, and forlorn pantry is not exactly how I want to round out my day. What I can cook is great, but my culinary repertoire is limited to tacos, Shepherd’s pie, and pasta.  Oh, and I get a lot of mileage out of “Breakfast for Dinner.”  Is it any surprise that we eat out a lot?

Compounding this is my palate, which has oft been compared to that of a 7-year-old’s.  Kraft mac & cheese would trump your grandmother’s homemade version any day of the week.  In my dreams, streets are paved with mashed potatoes and grilled cheese is the sun in the sky.  Spices, flavors, and anything from the ocean are my Kryptonite.  It’s easier for me to list the food I will eat rather than the stuff I won’t.

But the moral of this diatribe isn’t to highlight my inflexibility when it comes to trying new things,  it’s to introduce you to a simple and delicious recipe for autumn!  Raid your larder for the following 9 ingredients:

Chili Cast

Roughly dice a medium white onion and three or four green bell peppers.  Toss them into a frying pan (mine is 14″) with some olive oil.  Saute until softened and a bit browned.

Chili peppers and onions

Once cooked, transfer onions and peppers to a Crockpot*.  Using the same frying pan, turn up the heat to High and get ready to fry up some turkey meat!  This is where the magic happens…IF you follow my instructions! (Before adding ground turkey to the pan, I go through it by hand just to make sure there aren’t any weird gristly pieces or crunchy bits.  Feel free to omit this step if you’re brave.) Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to brown the meat in two or three batches.  I use 3 pounds of ground turkey meat and season it with salt and a dash of pepper.

Chili turkey closeup

I apologize for the disturbing close-up but don’t want you to miss the most vital step of the recipe.  After tossing the turkey into a flaming hot pan, DO NOT TOUCH IT until one side browns/burns/caramelizes.  Caramelizing is what gives the turkey a nutty, red-meat flavor.  Note how the turkey gets a bit foamy as it almost cooks through.  Only flip the meat when it resembles this picture, 7-12 minute cook time.  (I flipped the piece in the middle so you can see what it looks like on the browned side.)

Chili done turkey

This is what the meat should look like when it’s finished cooking.  I usually break it up into smaller pieces before adding it to the Crockpot.  And speaking of the Crockpot, it should now contain the cooked peppers and onions, one box (26 oz) of chicken broth, 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, 2 or 3 cans of red kidney beans (RINSED and drained), 2 tablespoons of both sugar and chili powder, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  To this, add the browned meat.

Chili everything in the crockpot

The longer you cook this chili, the better the flavor–3 to 5 hours with the Crockpot lid snugly latched.  After that, I leave the lid ajar and cook it for another hour or two to allow some of the liquid evaporate, creating thicker chili.  Doesn’t this look tempting?  Come to mama…

chili close spoon

You can dish this up naked or with cheese, crackers, sour cream, and/or jalepenos.  Enjoy!

chili final

Nat’s Turkey Chili (That Doesn’t Suck) adapted from The Canyon Ranch

  • 3lbs. ground turkey breast
  • 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 26oz. chicken broth (Swanson box has 26oz.)
  • 2 cans dark red kidney beans, RINSED
  • 3 green peppers
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil for the pan

1.  Roughly dice onion and peppers.  Sauté in pan with olive oil until soft; transfer to Crockpot or pot.

2.  Turn up heat to high and brown/burn/caramelize turkey on one side.  DO NOT FLIP IT TOO SOON…it must caramelize for flavor!

3.  Rinse kidney beans and add to Crockpot.  Toss in peppers and onions.  Add box of chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt, and chili powder.

4.  After meat is completely cooked, add to Crockpot.  Set on high and cook for at least 3 hours.  The longer you cook it, the better the flavor!  If you want to cook it longer, watch to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Turn to low after 5 hours.  I leave my Crockpot lid ajar during the last hour of cooking to help the liquid evaporate a bit so the chili can thicken.

5.  Dish up with cheese, sour cream, crackers, peppers, or whatever floats your boat.  ENJOY!

*This recipe can be prepared on the stove top in a pot if you don’t have a Crockpot.  Watch and adjust the cooking time as the chili cooks much faster on the stove.


  • At 2009.11.08 20:10, Beth F said:

    Okay, I admit, sometimes ground turkey meals don’t quite have the flavor that I want. I am definitely going to try your trick of making sure the turkey gets very browned before using it in the dish. Thanks for sharing this and I love your description of your sophisticated palate!!
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Book Blogger Holiday Swap =-.

    • At 2009.11.08 20:51, Kathy said:

      I’m not a fan of ground turkey, but it sounds like I haven’t been cooking it right! Thanks for sharing your recipe.
      .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Review: All-of-a-Kind Family =-.

      • At 2009.11.08 21:03, Natalie said:

        beth & kathy,

        like you guys, i used to DESPISE ground turkey…until i started making this chili. i admit that i still won’t eat a turkey burger, but turkey chili, tacos, and shepherd’s pie have really grown on me since i started caramelzing the meat. take it from the fussiest eater…caramelizing is magic!


        • At 2009.11.08 23:36, Alita said:

          That looks so tasty. Thanks for sharing this recipe! We hardly ever have ground turkey (maybe never?), but this looks like a great way to start our turkey adventures.
          .-= Alita´s last blog ..Soundtrack Saturdays – The Truth About Stacey =-.

          • At 2009.11.09 00:41, Ti said:

            It looks good enough to eat! I love chili in the crock. Yum!
            .-= Ti´s last blog ..The Sunday Salon: ‘Tis the Season =-.

            • At 2009.11.09 14:16, Steph said:

              I’m with all those others who generally aren’t fans of ground turkey (roast turkey is a whole different ballgame!), but maybe it’s time I gave it a shot again. I love to make chili, especially in the crock pot, because isn’t that the easiest kind of cooking?
              .-= Steph´s last blog ..Week 1 Winner and Week 2 Giveaway! =-.

              • At 2009.11.09 15:35, vivienne said:

                I make a lot of chilli, but I have never tried it with turkey. If you ever make chilli with beef mince, be sure to add dark chocolate to it, as it gives it a lovely rich taste.
                .-= vivienne´s last blog ..Monday Mailbox =-.

                • At 2009.11.10 22:02, Dishy said:

                  UGH. I come looking for you, hoping for some savory new fare – but all I find are LEFTOVERS!!
                  .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Why I hate vitamins. =-.

                  • At 2009.11.12 11:52, Meg said:

                    Um, this looks delicious — and considering it’s 45 degrees and pouring rain down here in Maryland, this would be QUITE the excellent dish to have right about now!

                    Seriously, what are the odds that I’d come back from gorgeous, warm and sunny California to find the remnants of a freaking tropical storm stalled out over my part of the country? As if I wasn’t depressed enough to come home! Really, Weather Gods? Really?
                    .-= Meg´s last blog ..California, here we come — right back where we started from =-.

                    • At 2009.11.12 14:34, Margot said:

                      I actually use ground turkey quite often but always with ground beef (half and half). But I am honestly going to try this recipe – as is. I love all the extra peppers and I bet that helps improve the flavor. Thanks for sharing.
                      .-= Margot´s last blog ..An Old Favorite: Memoirs of a Geisha =-.

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