If you are looking for a healthier version of chili, a turkey and bean based recipe is a good option. The key to a tasty and healthy turkey chili is developing layers of flavors with aromatic herbs and spices. You can serve a variety of toppings to make this a more complex dish.

The simple turkey chili recipe developed here is lower in calories and fat than a traditional red meat based chili. It provides you with useful sources of protein. The vegetables and carbs in chili are rich in fiber. If you are vegan, you can just as easily substitute tofu, tempeh, or a hardy whole grain for the turkey.

Time and Tools

This is a one pot meal that doesn’t require a ton of equipment. There is some cutting, chopping, and sautéing involved. Once everything is in the pot you can relax, unless you decide to make a side dish. We will discuss appropriate sides to go with this easy turkey chili a little bit later in this post.

Tools you will need:

  • Cutting board;
  • Sharp chef’s knife;
  • Large pot, stainless steel is best when cooking with tomatoes;
  • Large wooden or stainless spoon;
  • Can opener;
  • Strainer or colander;
  • Box grater (if grating your own cheese for topping).

Preparation will take approximately 10 minutes.

Cooking time will be 35 minutes.

Total time to prepare is 45 minutes at most.


The ingredient list for this simple turkey chili is intended to feed 4 people.


  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil;
  • 1 medium onion;
  • 2 garlic cloves;
  • 1 green bell pepper;
  • 1 jalapeno pepper*;
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. chili powder;
  • 1 tsp dried oregano;
  • 14 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with liquid;
  • 1 tsp ground cumin;
  • 1 bay leaf;
  • 15 ounces can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed**;
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast;
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper;
  • (1/2 cup chicken broth or dark beer, if needed).

Topping suggestions:

  • Greek yogurt;
  • Grated cheddar cheese;
  • Avocado slices;
  • Minced cilantro.

*If you don’t have a jalapeno pepper, you can substitute 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper flakes for heat.

**Kidney beans can be substituted for pinto beans for a sturdier texture.

7 Steps to the Simple Turkey Chili

  1. Prepare the vegetables: Peel and mince the onion; smash the garlic cloves with back of your knife. Remove the skins, and mince. Then, remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper and dice. Also, remove the stem from the jalapeno and mince. For less heat, remove the seeds and white parts before mincing.
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and peppers. Sauté for approximately 5 minutes until the onions start to soften.
  2. Add the herbs and spices to the pot and heat through for another minute to release the oils and develop flavors.
  3. Add the turkey and cook for approximately 7 minutes until the meat is browned. Break up the turkey with your spoon as it browns.
  4. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a very slow simmer covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check the moisture content. If the chili is dry, add enough chicken broth or beer to moisten but not so much that it becomes a soup.
  5. Add the beans and desired amount of salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Prepare your favorite toppings in side serving bowls while the chili simmers.
  6. Remove the bay leaf. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and serve in bowls with toppings on the side.

Dry paprika

Nutritional Information and Calorie Count

Nutritional information for simple turkey chili is based on one serving. Values are approximated, based on the ingredient amounts and do not include toppings.

  • Calories: 375;
  • Fat: 15g;
  • Saturated fat: 3g;
  • Cholesterol: 84mg;
  • Sodium: 593mg;
  • Carbohydrates: 29g;
  • Dietary fiber: 8g;
  • Sugar: 7g;
  • Protein: 31g;
  • Vitamin A: 6% RDA (recommended daily amount);
  • Vitamin C: 76% RDA;
  • Calcium: 12% RDA;
  • Iron: 27% RDA.

Percent Daily Values are for adults and are based on a 2,000-calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual caloric needs.

As you can see from the values, this simple turkey chili is relatively low in fat, especially saturated fat. That is because the breast meat of the turkey is approximately 93% lean. As well, we have only used 1 tbsp. of oil for cooking. Additional fat will come from toppings, such as yogurt, cheese, or avocado. Avocado will supply the dish with omega 3 fatty acids.

There is a good amount of protein at 31 grams and iron at 27% RDA from both the turkey and the beans. Additional protein can come from yogurt or cheese. Yogurt will also provide probiotics for gut health. Both toppings will provide additional calcium.

The vegetables give this healthy turkey chili a good dose of antioxidant rich vitamin C.

At 375 calories per serving, this dish is a well-rounded meal with protein, carbohydrates, a little fat, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Additional Notes

There are two sides that go quite well with simple turkey chili. The first is cornbread. A recipe that is tasty and much healthier than a boxed cornbread mix is one developed by the Amy’s Healthy Baking blog.

Another favorite with simple turkey chili is a cold and crunchy slaw that has a little sweetness. There is a recipe for red and green cabbage slaw on Real Simple that has apples in it for the sweetness instead of sugar.

Also, the chili itself doesn’t have common allergens. Yet, it does have fruits, in the form of tomatoes and peppers, and spices that are in the nightshade family. You can certainly leave out the nightshades if they bother you. Add diced carrots and celery instead for additional texture and fiber. You can make a good Texas style chili with just the beer and broth for liquid.

Bon Appetit!

Many of us are searching for ways to eat better with less fat and sugar in our diets. We are also pressed for time in a busy, high-tech world. Chili is one of those go-to dishes that hit all the notes for simplicity, nutrition, and flavor.

This simple turkey chili recipe is a good place to start when trying to eat healthier meals. There are a few minutes of prep involved. If you really want to go for easy, brown the meat the night before and chop your vegetables. In the morning, toss all the ingredients in your slow cooker and turn it on low for several hours. Leave out the extra liquid if using a slow cooker. Enjoy.

Images: 1, 2.