A hearty pot of Turkey Chili is the best way to use up the leftover Thanksgiving turkey! Or with a few variation options, it can be made any time of year! With bold spices, lots of veggies, pinto and black beans, this easy one-pot chili is loaded with toppings and finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice!
When the big Thanksgiving meal is over, it's all about the leftovers! Simmer the carcass over low heat all day to make turkey stock. The leftover turkey is also fantastic used in Turkey (chicken) Wild Rice Soup or Turkey (chicken) Pot Pie!
This quick and easy "dump and go" Turkey Chili is a cozy meal to use up the rest! It's just a few simple steps and then simmers away on the stovetop, ready to be loaded up with your favorite toppings!
With fresh veggies and simple ingredients, this Dutch oven turkey chili can be prepped and ready to simmer in under 15 minutes.
- Onion and Green Bell Pepper - The veggie base gives this healthy turkey chili some extra nutrition and a pop of color!
- Garlic - Fresh garlic is always best, but you can use 2 teaspoons of garlic powder if you don't have it.
- Spices - The spices start with simple salt and pepper, and then the bold flavors of chili powder, paprika and cumin. The acidity of the tomatoes is balanced with a bit of brown sugar.
- Turkey Stock - If you made a huge pot of turkey stock with the Thanksgiving turkey, use it! But you can also simply substitute chicken or veggie stock or even water. Use it to deglaze the pan, especially if your spices start to burn.
- Canned Tomato - This chili uses a combination of tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes. This gives you a good combination of thickness, smooth tomato sauce, and chunky tomato pieces. Drain the juice from the whole peeled tomatoes into the pot, then chop them on a cutting board. You can chop them as chunky or small as you like. If you don't like any chunks of tomato, use 2 cans of crushed tomatoes instead. Diced tomatoes or fire roasted would also work in place of the whole peeled.
- Pinto and Black Beans - A great combination with turkey chili, but you could also substitute kidney beans. I like having 2 different kinds of beans, but use whatever beans you like!
- Leftover Turkey - This recipe is made quick and easy by using cooked leftover turkey from the holidays. If you don't have it, you can also start the chili by browning 1 pound of ground turkey or ground beef before adding in the onions and peppers. Or you could use cooked shredded chicken in place of the turkey, like leftover or rotisserie chicken.
- Fresh Lime Juice - The big finish, a squeeze of fresh lime juice gives this chili a bright zing of flavor! If everyone loves lime, you can squeeze it right into the finished pot, or serve lime wedges as a topping on the side.
- Toppings - Serve your chili with a bar of toppings including lime wedges, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced scallions, sour cream or plain yogurt, avocado or guacamole, and tortilla chips. Slice jalapeños, fresh cilantro or corn bread would be good too!
See recipe card for quantities.
This chili is super easy and takes under 15 minutes to prep! Start by prepping all your ingredients, chop the veggies, measure the spices, open all the cans, and drain and rinse the beans.
Step 1 - Saute the onion and green pepper in oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until soft and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.
Step 2 - Add the spices and garlic, including the salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin and brown sugar. Continue to cook another 2 minutes. Be ready to add turkey stock or water if the spices start to burn!
Step 3 - Add everything else. Add the turkey stock to deglaze the pan. Add the cans of tomato, the rinsed beans, and the cooked turkey. Drain the whole peeled tomatoes into the pot, then chop the tomatoes on a cutting board. Keep them as chunky as you like. Simmer over low heat about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Step 4 - Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to the finished pot OR just serve lime wedges on the side as a topping. Serve the chili with plenty of toppings such as shredded cheddar cheese, more lime wedges, sliced scallions, sour cream or plain yogurt, and tortilla chips.
Variations and Additions
This recipe is perfect for using up Thanksgiving turkey, but you can make it any time of year by substituting your protein. You could use shredded cooked chicken or start the chili with a pound of ground turkey or beef before sautéing the onion and bell pepper. You can always make chili to your own liking:
- Spicy - If you like a spicy chili there are lots of ways to get there! You can add a spicier pepper with the beginning veggies like a poblano or a bit of jalapeño. You can add a bit of dried cayenne pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce.
- Veggies - You can add extras for more color and nutrition. Try a red bell pepper in addition to the green, a cup of fresh or frozen corn, or even a chopped sweet potato with the base of veggies.
- Stretching the Recipe - If you really want a bigger pot of chili to feed a crowd, just add an additional large can of crushed tomato. You could also do an extra can of beans. The amount of turkey also doesn't need to be exact, use more or less depending on how much you have and how meaty you like it!
- Kid Friendly - If you have kids who pick out every vegetable, you can blend your veggies in food processor before sautéing. Try these other recipes for hiding extra veggies!
Storage - Store chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Microwave or simmer on the stovetop to reheat.
Freezer - Chili freezes well for up to 6 months. I like to store chili in different sized containers depending on how much is leftover. Freeze it in one large, preferabbly glass container to thaw overnight in the fridge for another chili dinner. Or freeze it in pint size jars for individual servings for lunch.
When freezing in glass jars, only fill ¾'s of the way full to allow room for expansion and always cool completely in the fridge before transferring to the freezer. You can also use these small containers for chili dogs or chili topped baked potatoes! The best way to thaw is overnight in the fridge. You can also use the defrost setting on the microwave, but NEVER run a frozen glass jar under hot water, it will crack!
Make Ahead - Chili is an easy one-pot meal to make ahead. You can simmer it the full hour, then cool and refrigerate. Or put it all together and refrigerate, then simmer the full hour when you are reheating it to serve.
- Don't let your spices burn! Once your onions and peppers have sautéed, you add your spices and garlic to cook 2 more minutes. Letting them cook for these couple minutes really helps their flavors intensify. But, with the brown sugar they can burn quickly! Have your turkey stock (or water) measured and ready so that you can add it to slow down the cooking process.
- Remove any bones, fat, or pieces of skin from your turkey. The crispy skin is delicious on day one, but not the best simmered in a pot of chili.
- Both white and dark meat are fine to use in this chili. Even turkey that got a bit dry is easily saved in a pot of chili!
- Leftover Turkey meat can also be frozen and used within the next few months for this chili or other meals like Wild Rice Soup. If freezing, pick through the turkey first to remove any bones and skin, then chop and measure it so it's easy to just throw right into soup or chili.
- The lime - I absolutely love fresh lime juice and to me, it's the essential flavor in this healthy turkey chili! But, it's easy to leave it in wedges on the side if all your guests aren't super lime fans.
Yes, this basic chili is easily made in a crockpot. Just add all the ingredients (not the lime juice) and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours or on high heat for 2 hours. There aren't any raw ingredients in this chili so it doesn't need to cook very long. By using leftover cooked turkey, you don't need to worry about safely cooking raw poultry so this chili is fast and easy. Cook until bubbling and thickened.
Yes, most chili is gluten-free because it is naturally thickened with tomato instead of flour.
Yes, without the turkey and turkey stock, this chili is vegetarian and vegan. If you want to omit the meat, you may want to add a little more heartiness to the chili with an extra can of beans, lentils, or extra veggies such as a red bell pepper or sweet potato.
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Leftover Turkey Chili with Black Beans and Lime
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 grinds fresh black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cups turkey stock (or chicken or veggie stock, or water)
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
- 15 oz can pinto beans or kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 28 oz can crushed tomato
- 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes chopped including juice
- 2 cups cooked turkey chopped or shredded
- ½ lime squeezed into the finish pot or served in wedges as a topping
- Toppings - lime wedges, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced scallions, sour cream or plain yogurt, avocado, tortilla chips
- Prepare your ingredients, chop your veggies, drain and rinse your beans, open all cans and measure all spices into a bowl.
- Preheat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add oil and saute the onion and bell pepper until starting to caramelize and soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and all spices including the salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, chili powder and brown sugar. Saute 2 more minutes. Be ready with the turkey stock and make sure the spices don't burn!
- Add the turkey stock to deglaze the pan, then add everything else (not the lime juice). Simmer over low heat about 1 hour, stir occasionally.
- The chili is ready to serve. You can squeeze fresh lime juice into the entire pot, or serve lime wedges on the side as a topping. Serve with lots of toppings!
- To use leftover Thanksgiving turkey, make sure to pick through it removing any small bones and pieces of skin. Chop or shred it.
- If you don't have holiday turkey leftovers, you can also start this chili by browning 1 pound of ground turkey or ground beef before adding the onion and bell pepper. Or use cooked shredded chicken in place of the turkey. A rotisserie chicken works great too!