This Slow Cooker Turkey Chili is made with lean ground turkey, kidney beans, pinto beans, tomatoes, and plenty of spice. It has all the traditional chili flavor you love, just made in the slow cooker for hands-free cooking.
When I need an easy meal to feed a crowd, it's always this Crockpot Turkey Chili. I am obsessed and there is nothing better on a busy night than a warm bowl of chili with all your favorite toppings.
First, let's talk about all the things that make this chili so good. It starts with a mix of sauteed onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and spices to build a strong flavor base. Then instead of reaching for ground beef for a traditional beef chili, I like to make this with lean ground turkey.
Everything is finished with beans, beef broth (to get that beefy chili flavor), and tomatoes. Cooking it in the slow cooker gives it a rich, deep flavor without needing to stand by the stove all day long to watch your simmering chili.
Now once you have made this amazing turkey chili, you will want to use it for everything! Start traditional and serve it with all your favorite toppings - diced onions, cilantro, shredded cheese, and avocado.
Then get creative with the leftovers. Make healthy chili dogs with lean turkey or vegetarian hot dogs, Serve it over whole wheat pasta for your own homemade chili macaroni. Scramble it with eggs, trust me, it's delicious. Stuff it into a baked sweet potato - magical.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Ground turkey: Any type of ground turkey can be used for this recipe including ground turkey breast, 93% plan ground turkey, and ground dark meat turkey. The higher the fat content of the turkey, the more flavorful and moist it will be.
- Beans: This recipe uses a combination of pinto beans and kidney beans. Use any beans you like including black beans, white beans, or even lentils or chickpeas.
- Aromatics: To build the flavors of the chili, you need lots of aromatics including onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Some people like to add bell peppers, poblano peppers, or jalapeno peppers as well.
- Spices: Chili needs a lot of spices and herbs to get that rich, chili flavor including chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano. Some people also like to add onion powder, paprika, cinnamon, or coriander.
- Tomatoes: Use diced tomatoes or tomato sauce to enhance the flavor of the broth. Rotel tomatoes will make it a bit spicer.
- Beef Broth: Any broth can be used in this recipe, but beef broth adds to the savory, beefy flavor of traditional chili.
How to Make Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Start by sautéing the onions, carrots, and celery in a skillet with a touch of olive oil until they are just tender. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and all the spices.
Cook for 3-4 minutes until nice and fragrant. Add this mixture to the slow cooker along with the diced tomatoes, beans, and beef broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Side Dish Ideas for Turkey Chili
Although chili can definitely be a meal on all its own, sometimes it's nice to have something on the side as well.
Here are some favorites:
- You could go the traditional route and make some cornbread or serve your chili over some Creamy Spinach Polenta for something unexpected.
- Since chili can be on the heavier side, I love serving it with something light like a simple green salad with some homemade healthy Ranch dressing. No one would blame you for drizzling some on your chili as well.
- Serve your chili on a bed of spaghetti squash for a healthier take on chili mac.
- Some people swear by chili and mashed potatoes but I like to keep things light and healthy with these Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.
Recipe Tips and Ideas
- Add corn: Although not traditional, many people love adding some fresh, canned, or frozen corn to their chili.
- Make it vegetarian: Leave out the ground turkey and add an extra can of beans for a vegetarian option. Consider black beans, or chickpeas, or go in a different direction with some sauteed butternut squash or sweet potato.
- Make it spicier: For a smokier chili that packs a little more punch, add some canned chipotle peppers in abobo. You can add just the adobo sauce for a hint of heat or add the diced pepper(s) for more heat.
- Add veggies: This chili will definitely work with extra veggies. We love it with diced butternut squash (like this chili recipe), cauliflower rice, kale, zucchini, and bell peppers.
- Make it beanless: If you aren't a big fan of beans in your chili, you can make this without the beans. Just double up on the ground turkey and use a little less beef broth.
- Thicken it up: If you like a really thick chili, you have two options. You can simply use less beef broth or add a can of fat-free refried beans. This creates a super thick, creamy chili.
The Best Turkey Chili Toppings
To me, it's not really a bowl of chili unless it has some toppings. Here are some of my favorite healthy toppings for chili.
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Chopped cilantro
- Diced onions green onions
- Shredded cheese: sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or mozzarella
- Fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers.
- Tortilla chips or tostadas
- Pico de gallo
Stovetop Turkey Chili
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pan. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring as needed until onions are tender.
- Add the ground turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5-7 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and all the spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes until very fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, and pinto beans. Stir together. Add the tomato sauce and beef broth. Stir together and bring to a simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes, ideally about 45 minutes.
Storage and Leftovers
Chili typically lasts 4-5 days in the fridge as long as it is stored in an airtight container.
In the freezer, chili will last 3-4 months. Reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop.
What's the secret to the best chili?
Let it sit overnight in the fridge! Trust me when I say the secret to the most delicious chili is actually making it the day before you want to eat it. The flavors deepen, everything melds, and you will end up with the most delicious chili this way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this crockpot chili.
It is perfectly safe to put raw ground turkey in the slow cooker as long as it is defrosted.
With that said, the turkey will have a better flavor and texture if you it browned beforehand, which is why most recipes recommend that.
Although technically you can cook chili for too long in the slow cooker. However for that to happen, it would need to be cooked for more than 8-10 hours on low.
When the chili is overcooked, the meat can become dry and the vegetables or beans can disintegrate.
Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
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- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced (optional)
- 1 cup celery, diced (optional)
- 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2.5 tbsp chili powder (more to taste)
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 14 oz canned diced fire roasted tomatoes (with juice)
- 14 oz canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 oz canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup canned tomato sauce (no sugar added)
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- Nutritional Information
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onions are tender. Add the turkey and brown for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, and beef broth. Simmer for 35-45 minutes.
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