October 02, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chili! Turkey Chili Recipe

Virginia is dragging its feet to an infuriating degree when it comes to fall. We finally got down into the low 70s this week, and now it's back up to 78. To my Northern blood, these sorts of temperatures at the end of September feel unnatural, so I decided to push the weather along by cooking a classically hearty fall dish: turkey chili!

Because they're pretty easy, I've made a lot of chilis in my first year-ish as a real adult (whatever that means). Some have been really healthy, with little fat or salt (or flavor). Naturally, some others have been really unhealthy (and delicious), with ground beef, sausage, and bacon. In the spirit of compromise, I decided to cook this chili with lean turkey meat, but to add some extra flavor to the base of the chili via a piece of bacon.

I know, I know, bacon isn't healthy for you. But one piece adds a ton of flavor to this chili, and if everything else is either lean meat, a vegetable, or a bean, I just can't feel guilty about it.

Turkey Chili Recipe

  • One pound of ground turkey meat (preferably thigh, for flavor)
  • One large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • One large can of crushed tomatoes, with liquid
  • One can of pinto beans, with liquid
  • One can of kidney beans, with liquid
  • One piece of smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (chili powder, garlic powder, oregano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Sauté your bacon over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven until bacon is cooked. Keeping the fat in the pan (it's not much, but it's enough to get the party started), stir in your chopped onion and cook until it becomes translucent.
2. In a separate pot, over medium heat, cook your turkey until it loses color and firms up.
3. Add the cooked turkey to the onion and bacon mixture, and stir until it's well coated in yummy onion and bacon juice.
4. Add in your beans and tomatoes, with liquid. Stir well, until all ingredients are combined.
5. Add your spices and your jalapeno (more or less according to your taste). Be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes after handling the jalapeno.
6. Reduce heat to low and let the whole mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes.
7. Slap on a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of cheese, or a bit of chopped fresh cilantro, and serve!

My favorite part about making chili is that it yields between 4 and 6 servings, depending on how hungry you are. My other favorite part about chili is that its flavors improve the longer it sits (to a point, of course). My most favoritest (English teacher shudder) part about chili is that it means fall, weather be damned.

Confession: the one thing I did wrong the first time I made this was to add some Tabasco in search of a bit more heat. The taste was great and the heat level was perfect, but the sour smell of Tabasco was totally off-putting. More jalapeno probably would have helped.


  1. Tread softly when you diss my bacon.
    Nitrate cureative agents [used in those "fat strips" that pass as bacon to the masses in front of the cold case] are converted to nitrosamines due to high heat cooking. This is what promotes the most severe of the possible health risks.
    Find a good, abett more expensive, kind of home-cured, smoked bacon and those risks drop substantially. Microwaving will reduce the fat content and simple restraint from daily overdoses of bacon will reduce the ill effects to the point that I'm willing to say, "Fry those bad boys up and screw it, I'm 60 in six weeks and I'm still sucking air."
    Bring Home the Bacon AND the troops

  2. I made turkey chili for dinner last night in the slow cooker and it was delish! Although, it wasn't as thick as I prefer it to be. Any thoughts? My ingredients were similar, although we didn't use bacon or cheese. My recipe called for one 12 oz. can of beer and I'm not sure if the extra 12 oz. of liquid is what made it soup-like. Suggestions Chef Kitt?

  3. It sounds like the beer may have made the chili more soupy than usual, although a good way to counteract that is to use the water that comes in the cans of beans, as it's filled with that great "beany" thickness that may help. In the future, I'd recommend using half a can of beer, or adding more beans/bean water to compensate. I hope that helps, and thanks for the question!