Healthy Spicy Turkey Chili

If there is one takeaway I have from years of making chili, it's that you really have to try to mess it up. Cooking chili is more of an art than a science. Everyone has their preference of bean to meat ratio, the type of onions used, whether to go with red bell peppers or yellow, etc. But in the end, after a good long simmer, it's all tasty.

I do have three basic criteria for excellent chili - it must include ground turkey (in an attempt to be healthy), lots of spice and most importantly, chocolate. Not the super sweet, my teeth kinda hurt after eating type, but the deep dark flavor of something like Baker's unsweetened chocolate. 

There is only one other rule to making excellent chili - cook it low and slow. I've cooked it for 20 minutes, I've cooked it for 35 minutes, but when you let it simmer for 60+ minutes that is when the magic happens. The flavors get deeper, the ingredients melt together and you have on your hands a tasty batch of chili. Turkey chili is one of my favorite things to freeze for rainy (but mostly lazy) days. 

Healthy Spicy Turkey Chili 

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

  • 1 pound ground turkey 
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped leeks
    • Feel free to only use onion, I had leeks on hand and thought it would add an interesting new flavor. 
  • 1 1/2 cup bell pepper - any color your heart desires
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 28oz can of crushed San Marzano tomato 
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomato
  • 1 16oz can black beans (drained + rinsed)
  • 1 16oz can kidney beans (undrained - the liquid can help thicken)
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
  • 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate (ex. Baker brand)
  • 1 packet spicy chili seasoning
    • Spicy is not a requirement, just my personal preference. Use whichever mix you prefer.
  • 1/3 teaspoon cumin


1. Dice the red onion, leeks and bell pepper to approximately the same size so they cook evenly. The exact size depends on your personal preference! You like to really taste the onion? Chop it a bit larger. I prefer my veggies in a medium dice. Lastly, mince the garlic.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola/olive oil in your 5qt cast iron pot. Place the red onion, leeks, bell pepper and garlic in the pot and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until cooked through and starting to caramelize. Remove from the pot when you're done.

3. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to the pot and add your ground turkey. Cook until no longer pink (5-7 mins). Drain fat out of the pot and add the red onion and bell pepper back in.  

** My turkey doesn't give off much fat sometimes in which case I leave it be. If you're working with meat that has a high fat ratio, you'll want to scoop the fat out. A little bit leftover never hurt anyone! **

4. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, beans (one drained, one undrained), tomato paste, chili seasoning packet, and cumin/cayenne (optional) and stir to combine.

5. Depending on consistency you like, add 1-2 cups of chicken stock. Beer is another option to thin our your chili.

5. Bring up to a boil then turn heat down to a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes covered. Stir occasionally so that the chili doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

6. DO NOT SKIP THIS! At about the 30 minute mark add the chocolate to the chili. Let it cook for another 30 - 40 minutes (depending on how hungry you are). My chili has never been the same since I started doing this. Also add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar (Thomas Keller says so - no questions asked). 

** Another interesting flavor that you could incorporate into your chili is molasses. I haven't tried it yet, but I have a feeling that a tablespoon or two would give your chili a little something extra special. ** 

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste at the end - most chili seasonings have a lot of s&p so I like to let the flavors develop before I add more. 

8. Scoop yourself a nice little helping into a bowl, top with diced avocado and shredded cheese. Enjoy your tasty chili with a chunk of crusty bread, tortilla chips or a classic grilled cheese.

Bon Appetit!