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Chili is a seasonal staple that’s flavorful, healthy, and easy to put together. With hearty ingredients and flexible preparation, my healthy turkey chili is a great recipe to add warmth to your autumn and winter evenings.

One thing I love about this dish is its versatility. The ingredients are flexible and can be tailored to your preferences pretty easily.

There are also a variety of cooking methods for you to choose from. You can make it in a slow cooker, an instant pot, or on the stovetop. 

steaming bowl of turkey chili garnished with slices of avocado, cilantro and plain yogurt

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Chili is also a great game-day recipe. When you’re looking at feeding a whole party or a big family, it’s so easy to dump the ingredients into a slow cooker and let it simmer. 

We have several varieties we love to rotate through.  This award winning white chili is the easiest chili recipe you’ll ever make (it really did win an award), and if you like a more unique recipe for chili, you’ve got to check out this Turkey Chili with butternut squash

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Tried & True
  • Flexible
  • Comforting & good for you
  • Perfect for entertaining, or a weeknight meal

Key Ingredients and Substitutions

beans, bell peppers, ground turkey, garlic, chili peppers, cumin, oregano, and chili powder in a crockpot.
  • Ground turkey – To keep it light use 93% lean. This is a great alternative to red meat, but you can also use ground beef if you desire. You can even lower the fat content by rinsing the browned meat in really hot water. Or make it vegetarian by removing the meat completely, and add extra beans.
  • Beans – I like to use a variety of beans for color and texture, but you can use one kind, or change the combination that I have. Black beans are always good. I prefer to start with dried beans, prepare them, and then use in this recipe. If you opt for canned beans, I recommend a natural or organic brand that doesn’t have a lot of preservatives, then rinse them very well.
  • Vegetables – Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers make this a colorful comfort food. You can adjust the ratios of which peppers you like best. Mild green chilis add a traditional flavor, but you can spice it up with some cayenne if you like more heat.
  • Broth- Use turkey, chicken, or vegetable broth. To really increase the nutrition, use bone broth, it’s so good for your gut and your immune system.
  • Spices– Garlic, chili, cumin, and oregano. Just a few, but flavorful spices complete this dish to pure perfection!
  • Toppings – Add some sour cream or savory cheddar to your chili to garnish your meal. Greek yogurt is an exellent substitution for sour cream. Cilantro, jalapeno, and avocado are also stellar toppings.

Dried beans vs canned

I fell in love with dried beans when I learned a friend of mine’s parents owned a bean farm.

I love buying them from her because they are in their purest form. They’re very fresh and they keep a long time.

Canned beans work great in this recipe, but if you’re more of a purist and like to use dried, you want to prepare them in advance.

Because of the tomato sauce and the acidity in it, the beans will not soften if you try to slow cook them with everything else.

Preparing dried beans

Prefer watching to reading? Here’s a video.

It’s easiest to cook them ahead of time, but you can do it the same day as well. It just depends on how much time you have. I often cook big batches of beans and then freeze them.

Instant Pot

  1. Rinse beans in a strainer
  2. Optional: soak in 4-5 inches of water overnight. I have skipped this step many times and it’s fine. Better for your digestive system if you soak, but if you don’t, it’s okay.
  3. place beans in the pressure cooker with 6-8 cups of water. Seal and set manual pressure for 5-20 minutes depending on the type of beans and if you soaked them.
  4. You can either natural release or rapid release. Natural release is the best option. If the beans are not soft enough, just add a couple more minutes and pressure cook again.

Crockpot

  • Follow steps one and two above
  • Place in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. Add more water if necessary.

Stove top

  • After rinsing and optional soak, place in a heavy bottom pan and cover with a few inches of water.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
  • Continue to cook for 1-3 hours. The amount of time will depend on how fresh your beans are. No worries! They keep for a long time, but newer beans cook quicker.

How to Make Healthy Turkey Chili

STEP ONE | Saute’

  • Heat your skillet to medium on the stovetop.
  • Saute onions in olive oil until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and brown the ground turkey.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

STEP TWO | ADD TO SLOW COOKER

  • Transfer contents of skillet to the slow cooker.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.

STEP THREE | COOK & SERVE

  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve with preferred toppings.
ground turkey, beans, peppers, and spices in a crockpot chicken broth being poured in.
turkey chili in a crockpot after cooking.

Chef’s Tips and Variations

  • Use less beans for a low carb option. I limit it to 2 cups when going for low carb chili.
  • Time-saving tip— cut up the onions and peppers the day before.
  • To make it in the Instant Pot:
    • saute’ the onions and brown the meat on the Instant Pot’s saute function.
    • Then turn the saute off and add the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Add remaining chili ingredients (except for the toppings).
    • Cook on the manual pressure setting for 15 minutes. Natural release for 15 minutes. Serve.
  • To make it on the stovetop:
    • First, saute the onions, meat, and garlic as described in the steps above, then add the other ingredients and mix well.
    • Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least half an hour. A longer simmer will give you a fuller flavor.
    • Serve with your favorite toppings.

Faq’s

Can you put raw ground turkey in the slow cooker?

Yes! You can put the ground turkey in the slow cooker raw. You’ll just need to break it up a bit after it’s cooked. Ground turkey is quite lean, so you usually don’t need to drain it.

Can I skip sauteing the onions?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to do so. Sauteing them first adds a richer flavor with a touch of sweetness to balance the spices, but it is not necessary.

Serving Suggestions

  • This Fall Salad pairs perfectly and I love the fresh fruit in it, it rounds out the meal so well.  
  • You can also serve it over a big scoop of rice. Wild rice is especially tasty.
  • Chips, salsa,and guacamole (my weakness!).
  • Cornbread is absolutely delicious with it too.
3 bean turkey chili in a white bowl topped with cilantro, yogurt and avocado slices

Most of what you’ll need to make this delicious chili is likely already in your pantry. Add these simple ingredients to a chilly autumn evening, and you’ll have a recipe sure to please everyone at the table.

Storing

  • Cool and transfer to an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Chili can also be spooned into freezer bags and stored in the freezer for 4-6 months.

Time in the fridge or freezer allows the flavors to mingle more, often resulting in a richer, more complex dish the second time around.

Reheating is easy! Once it’s thawed, it can be done on the stovetop by gently warming it in a pan, or by placing it in the slow cooker on low.

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📋 Recipe

slow cooker turkey chili in a white bowl topped with cilantro, yogurt and avocado slices

Healthy Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Made with ground turkey, this healthy turkey chili still is a bowl full of comfort! Whether you need an easy weeknight meal, you're entertaining, or you need something for the big game, this slow cooker turkey chili is a show stopper. 
4.50 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate Save
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-mex
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 310kcal

Equipment

  • Slow Cooker
  • Skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 cup yellow pepper chopped
  • 1 cup orange pepper chopped
  • 1 cup red pepper chopped
  • 4 oz can mild chopped green chilis
  • 2 cups prepared navy beans
  • 2 cups prepared pinto beans
  • 2 cups prepared kidney beans
  • 2 cups Turkey broth can use chicken or vegetable
  • 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce all natural, no sugar
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano

Optional toppings

  • cheese, non fat plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado

Instructions

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • In a frying pan, saute onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. (Alternatively, you can just crumble the raw ground turkey in the bottom of the slow cooker, add the onions and garlic, stir, then go on to step 5.
  • Add ground turkey, and brown until cooked through.
  • Add garlic, stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer to slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.
  • Serve garnished with shredded cheese, cilantro, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, jalapeno, avocado.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Turn the instant pot on the saute' function. Heat teaspoon or so of olive oil and saute' the onions until translucent.
  • Add the ground turkey and cook until browned. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  • Turn the saute' function off
  • Add the peppers, chilis, beans, broth, tomato sauce and seasonings and stir to combine
  • Place the lid on the pot and turn the knob to the sealed position. Turn the instant pot on manual pressure for 15 minutes.
  • When it's finished cooking allow to natural release for at least 15 minutes.

Stovetop instructions

  • In a large pot heat a teaspoon of olive oil, add the onions and saute' until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up while you go, until browned.
  • Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds
  • Add the peppers, chilis, beans, broth, tomato sauce and seasonings. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer it simmers the more the flavor builds.

Notes

  • Use less beans for a low carb option. I limit it to 2 cups when going for low carb chili.
  • Time-saving tip– cut up the onions and peppers the day before.
  • you can replace the ground turkey with ground beef (you can even lower the fat content by rinsing the browned beef in really hot water, keeping it a bit more healthy).
  • Use turkey broth, chicken broth or beef broth, they all work great! The bone broth is super healthy and good for your gut.
  • I like to use a variety of beans for color and texture, but you can use one kind, or change the combination that I have. Black beans are always good.
  • non-fat plain Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream and much lower in fat, but either one works.

Nutrition

Calories: 310kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 298mg | Potassium: 819mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1281IU | Vitamin C: 75mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 4mg
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15 Comments

  1. Hi Sherri!
    Thanks for pointing this out, The recipe card was certainly supposed to say ‘prepared’ beans. I have made that correction.
    I just cooked and froze a few batches of beans today! Freezing is my favorite way to preserve things.

  2. Hi there, I jumped to the recipe to get a recipe quickly but now I see that you did tell us we could using dried beans but cook them before, so I would still clarify to use cooked beans. Great idea to cook and freeze the beans ahead. I cook large amount of food and freeze meals ahead with only 2 in the house it really is nice to have things on hand that take very little time to heat up. I cut up onions, celery, and carrots to freeze for soups and 3 colors of bell pepper also get cut up and frozen for later use. Costco has large bags of veggies so I have to freeze some for later. Thanks so much for the new idea to freeze the beans.

  3. Great question! Yes,a cup. However, we usually are pretty generous over here. But if it’s to figure out nutrition count on a cup. 🙂

  4. This looks wonderful! It’s both healthy and delicious. Yummy. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us at Funtastic Friday.

  5. This is perfect for fall. Thanks for sharing at the #InspirationSpotlight Party! Pinned & shared.

  6. This looks so good and I love all of the colors. I did not know you could cook the dried beans ahead of time and freeze them. I would love to do that instead of buying canned beans. Such a great idea.

  7. DELICIOUS! I love that it’s a healthier version of the classic. Pinning, stumbling and tweeting this one! <3

  8. 5 stars
    You know I love soup. And I love my crock pot! This recipe was made just for me, right? LOL I love that the soup is packed full of nutrients and vitamins, it’s so colorful in the crockpot, I love it! And buying your beans direct from the source, the absolute coolest!

  9. Thanks Michelle! I’m with you on the crock pot! The only time I use the stove now is if I’m in a hurry. 🙂 The ground turkey is a great substitute!

  10. 5 stars
    That looks really good! I love chili too! When I discovered several years ago that I could make it in the crock pot, I never used the stove to cook chili again! I am trying to eat healthier but I’ve never tried ground turkey. This is a great idea! Popping over from #waywow