Recipes

skillet turkey chili

Right around the time quarantine cookies and tacos became a habit this spring, I also realized that that none of my existing chili recipes exactly fit the bill of what I wanted for dinner — namely, to focus on ground turkey, have a minimized ingredient list, and not take terribly long because it turns out that even with all day, every day at home, I just don’t have enough time to plan ahead for dinner and please don’t try to use reason or psychology to suggest there are other forces at play, okay?

what you'll need (cornbread optional, but not for us)


For fun — clearly I’m a party animal — I enjoy plucking random recipes from the archives, dusting them off, and seeing if a tune-up would be beneficial.* Sometimes I dig far enough back that I find photos so ghastly that I react as if a Dali-faced mask leapt out from my laptop screen (yes, I’m in deep). And this was the case with a 2007 Red Bean Chili which I’m not even linking to; it’s that bad. But as I began tuning it up, I ended up leaving almost nothing from the original recipe — it now has a more fitting yield for a weeknight, adds ingredients in what I consider a better order, only uses turkey and beans, the spices are more balanced, and by balanced, I mean, we no longer use 1/3 cup chili powder, thank heavens. I’m sorry to tease you with the inclusion of a pretty cornbread, my favorite thing to make with chili — it’s almost, but not quite ready. But I promise you’ll read about it here first when it is.

cook onions, garlic, spicesadd remaining ingredientsskillet turkey chiliskillet turkey chili

* Here are a few from recent months.

Two more chilis: Three-Bean Chili and Chicken Chili

Previously

6 months ago: Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Cabbage
1 year ago: Chicken Curry
2 year ago: Even More Perfect Apple Pie
3 years ago: Quick Pasta and Chickpeas and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
4 years ago: Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams, Baked Alaska, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup and Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses
5 years ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti and Cannoli Pound Cake
6 years ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies and Better Chocolate Babka
7 years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl and Purple Plum Torte
8 years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
9 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
10 years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
11 years ago: Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
12 years ago: Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah (Egg Bread), and Mom’s Apple Cake
13 years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels and Peanut Butter Brownies
14 years ago: Lemon Cake

Skillet Turkey Chili

  • Servings: 4
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

Always good to note: Chili powder is a spice blend for Tex-Mex chili. Chile powder is just made from ground chiles/dried hot peppers. I prefer the latter in chili, and then use the spice balance I want. Chile powders will range a lot in heat; use the level that you prefer. Alternately, or in addition, 1 tablespoon puree from a can of chipotles en adobo will provide a spicy, flavorful kick here. For the turkey, I prefer a blend of dark and light meat. To quick-pickled onions: Cut half of a small red onion into thin wedges. Toss with juice of half a lime, two good pinches of salt, one pinch of sugar, and set aside while you make the chili.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons ground chile powder (see Note; to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 15-ounce can black or small red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lime
  • To serve: Sour cream, pickled red onions, pickled jalapenos, grated cheddar, cornbread, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and/or thinly sliced scallions

Heat a large skillet — ideally 11 to 12 inches in diameter — over medium high heat. Once hot, add the oil and let it warm up. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until somewhat softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, your first teaspoon chile powder (and more to taste), oregano, and cumin and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add turkey and use your spatula to break it up and work the onion mixture through it. Cook until lightly browned at edges and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add beans and tomatoes and refill empty tomato can with water, setting it aside.

Bring chili mixture to a simmer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Add reserved can of water, 1/3 at a time, if mixture looks dry. Taste for salt and spice and adjust as needed. With a mild chile powder, I’ll add up to 2 teaspoons more, and did so here. If you can, let chili rest 5 minutes off heat before serving; I find that the texture sets up nicely. Finish with the juice of half the lime, and any fixings you like.

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59 comments on skillet turkey chili

  1. Kaitlin Flynn

    I made the 2007 red bean chili a few weeks ago (with ground turkey and the 1/3 cup of chili powder!) and thought it was great- don’t sell yourself short! Looking forward to trying this 2020 version soon :)

    1. Grace

      Also a big fan of the Red Bean Chili, it’s been my recipe go-to since you posted it! (Wow I’ve been reading this site for a long time.)

    2. Theresa

      The 2007 Red Bean Chili is a staple in my house! I didn’t think anything was wrong with it, but I look forward to trying this new version for comparison.

  2. Patty

    Timing is everything. Had a pound of ground chicken that either needed to be used or frozen so I subbed for the turkey. Everything else according to the recipe. Used a deeper skillet because I HATE CLEANING MY STOVE. Fantastic and so quick. My tomatoes were fire roasted because that is what I had. I am a bit of a spicy food baby but did1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder and that was perfect for me. I also like my chili thick so did not add additional water. I’m not a huge dinner eater during the workweek, so this will be work lunches for me and hubby. And chili always better the next day. Deb comes thru again. Make this!

  3. Meghan O

    I’m guessing this could be perfect timing for Canadians with leftover thanksgiving turkey still sitting around? Do you think shredded turkey would work?

    1. Sarah

      It tends to be British although, unfortunately, I’ve never seen free range anywhere. You could try making friends with your local butcher. My old one would mince it to order for me, so long as I gave him a little notice and ordered in bulk (nothing crazy – just a few pounds at a time to make it worth their while!)

    2. Virginia

      I have made other chili recipes with leftover shredded Thanksgiving turkey recipes and they were great, so I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work here! I like smoky flavors with turkey, so I might use a bit of chipotle purée and maybe add a touch of smoked paprika, or a half teaspoon of high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder for a bit of a mole effect.

  4. Cara

    While people are waiting for the corn bread recipe, I followed your lead and bought Chicano Eats this summer. I now have an amazing corn muffin recipe that is remarkably adaptable. Last week I tossed in frozen cherries, and my kids had breakfast for the week. Tonight, I cut way back the sugar and had corn muffins my Southern family are happily with ribs, sweet potatoes and collard greens. And since I have leftover muffins, this turkey chili may be our next rainy night food.

  5. Hazel

    One day, we will be reliably be able to get turkey mince in the UK. Very occasionally I can get chicken mince online, but turkey mince is only around Christmas and only if I search hard. Such a shame because poultry mince is so much more healthy and better for the environment than red meat mince! I bet it’s easier for us to get lamb mince than for you folks though? Available here in any supermarket in varying degrees of quality…

    I will be doing this or something like it with pork mince, handy in my freezer :)

    1. Sarah

      I also live in the UK and can get it reliably in my local Aldi, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons! Keep looking – you almost certainly have a source near you. Good luck!

      1. Haze

        Oh really? Good to know and I’ll check it out. Do you know where it tends to come from? I suppose I’m a bit fussier than I implied and I’m looking for UK grown higher welfare, for environmental reasons :).

  6. LJG

    This looks tasty and is very similar to my go-to weeknight chili, from Food Network: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/30-minute-turkey-chili-recipe-2009060. I frequently don’t have chipotle en adobo (or, realistically, am too lazy to dig it out of the freezer and chip a piece off), so increase the amount of tomato paste and add ground chipotle. Delicious topped with pickled jalapenos (https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/221961/quick-pickled-jalapeno-rings/) and plantain chips.

  7. Theresa

    Hi Deb! Your 2007 Red Bean chili is a staple in my house! That one uses cocoa powder, but this new version does not. Any reason why you didn’t add it here?

    1. Ellen

      Love your Instagram stories of new recipes. Makes it inviting to try a new one.
      Question: is it important to hear the pan first, then add and heat the oil?
      Thanks!

      1. deb

        Yes — I try to write this into all of my recipes. This is an important technique so that things stick less. I hear from people who are switching from nonstick to metal pans that they have trouble with sticking but if you first heat the pan fully, add the oil or fat, heat that too, and then add your ingredients, you’ll find a lot less stickiness.

  8. LJ

    Just wanted to say, I’ve been reading since the early days of this site, when I was fresh out of college. I now have three little kids and am still cooking all of your recipes with great admiration. Thanks for being my constant cooking companion for more than a decade. I’m always excited for new recipes and can’t wait to cook this one.

  9. Carla Hanson

    I like to make turkey chili from a recipe off the WeightWatchers website. It is similar to this recipe except I add fresh or canned corn, a little Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce and some beer. I use black and pinto beans in my version. It’s that time of year to make a pot of chili.

  10. TinaD

    Nice. Chili has been on regular rotation as a fridge staple (because we run 24 hour ops around here), and I’m getting a bit bored with the house recipe. Looking forward to try this.

  11. Brianne

    This looks delicious! Have you tried Cincinnati Chili? Tiny bits of meat with cinnamon, cloves, chile powder, chocolate, vinegar — so yummy and addictive.

  12. Emily

    I know the old chili recipe you’re talking about, and I’ve made it many times and loved it! My previous job had an annual Halloween party with a soup and chili potluck menu, and I brought it about four years in a row and it was a favorite as the vegetarian option. So…I look forward to trying the new recipe, but the old one definitely has a place in my heart. :)

  13. Katy

    This looks delicious but Deb would you be so kind to link to the cornbread recipe you have used! It looks like an amazing Sunday evening dinner but I cannot find it (this could well be due to my terrible search inputs….)

    1. deb

      It’s not ready yet. :) Here’s what I said above:

      I’m sorry to tease you with the inclusion of a pretty cornbread, my favorite thing to make with chili — it’s almost, but not quite ready. But I promise you’ll read about it here first when it is.

      1. Katy

        Don’t you hate it when morons don’t read what you specifically spelled out to them… sorry Deb! I was way too keen. I live in anticipation!

  14. Elizabeth Black

    I LOVE the red bean chili but also love a good turkey chili. Looking forward to trying this new one. Trader Joe’s has a great selection of ground turkey. Who knew? Thanks!

  15. Sue

    Just made this yummy soup. Just as expected delish and easy. Misread the instructions and used 2 T instead of 2 t of chile powder-didn’t matter a bit. Cleaned out the refrigerator for toppings, spooned the soup over a pile of rice and dinner is served! Looking forward to CORNBREAD recipe!
    Thanks for the great dinner!

  16. Melba KC

    We made this tonight and it was great. Doubled everything except the turkey and added a cubed red pepper and zucchini to replace the missing pound. Served on creamy polenta. Will make again

  17. Laura Jane

    Just made this for dinner, and it was so good! My husband and I both loved it. I misread the recipe and used two cans of beans, but was glad I did. (I used one can of kidney and one can of great northern because that’s what I had, and it worked well without taking it too much in a “white chili” direction, which is not my jam.) I also added all the water (and a little extra) up front but it reduced really nicely while the chili bubbled away– this is not to offer changes to the recipe but to say that if you, like I, cook this while distracted, it is super forgiving. I hate to treat food as binary “healthy” and “not healthy”, but I’ll say that my historically favorite chili recipe is one my dad makes, but I always feel like I might die (or at least nap for a LONG time) after I eat it— it’s just so heavy. This is a really tasty option that we can make more often, and I’m so glad to have found it!

  18. Kathy

    I’m looking forward to trying this chili. So nice and simple with pantry staples. For me, you must have cornbread with chili. Just need to share my most favorite cornbread recipe. It is the one in this great cookbook.
    Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread: a Country Inn Cookbook
    By Crescent Dragonwagon

  19. Jeanne

    This is really good! I sound surprised because it is so easy, and so simple!

    By the way, I didn’t look at the weight of my package of ground turkey until afterwards, but it was 1.7 lb. instead of just 1, and it was perfectly satisfactory that way as well. I used black beans, and the full amount of ground dried chile, in my case pasilla — though like Sue in the comments above, I think I misread the amount and used tablespoons instead of teaspoons!

  20. Kristen

    In the photos it looks like you have both red and black beans prepped, but the recipe calls for just one can of beans. Were you doubling the recipe or were we meant to use two cans of beans?
    Lookin forward to trying this recipe (and if you’re looking for more cornbread inspiration as you tweak, I love the recipe from The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbok by Diane St. Clair!)

  21. Ryan

    I don’t understand. This recipe has turkey, tomatoes, and beans. Chili doesn’t have any of those things. Not sure how or why you call this dish chili.

  22. Danielle

    This was so delicious, quick and easy! I did add a bit more chile powder since mine was mildly hot but robust in flavor (thanks for the tip on chili/chile), and added 1/4 cup tomato sauce instead of extra water so it would stay moist. Will definitely make this again.

  23. heather tompkins

    Not gonna lie, Deb. I love that Red Bean Chili. I do look forward to trying this and comparing. Thanks for all the work you do to keep us well fed!

  24. Jill

    Like many of the previous comments, I too love the original red bean chili recipe (I’ve made all the chili recipes from your site over the years) and the only one that we found lacking was the three bean chili. I’m excited to make this one and compare the flavor with the original.

  25. Hannah

    thanks for the suggestion to add (or sub) puree from chipotles in adobo! I ended up adding three smashed chipotles in adobo in addition to the 3 (we used 5) tsp of chile powder, though I used ancho powder so it wouldn’t be as hot as guajillo? It turned out to be a nice spice level with the turkey.

  26. Erin

    I made this Saturday while screaming at frustrating college football teams and it was easy and awesome!

    I made a couple of small modifications:
    – Added a good dollop of tomato paste with the garlic and spices
    – When the beans were added, I also added a small can of tomato sauce and some dark Mexican lager.
    – I didn’t add any water at the end because of the above additions.

    Thanks for a great new addition to my chili repertoire!