My thick, hearty, and easy Turkey Chili is perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving turkey! This recipe has an incredible flavor (thanks to a sneaky key ingredient), cooks in one pot, and can be on your table in under an hour.
Leftover Turkey Chili
After spending Thanksgiving day chopping, roasting, baking, and simmering, you may find yourself avoiding the kitchen in the days after. Sure, leftovers are usually plentiful, but even those get old after a few days. If you’re looking to change things up from the typical Thanksgiving-leftover flavor profile, I think this turkey chili might be just the thing to spice up your dinner rotation.
Not only is this recipe extremely easy, but it also repurposes a lot of leftover turkey! I love recipes like this (you’ll also find me enjoying turkey pot pie and turkey chowder), because let’s be real, cold turkey sandwiches can only be enjoyed for so long…
Today’s turkey chili is similar to (and even easier than) my best chili recipe. There’s very minimal prep-work involved, and the hardest part is letting it simmer for 30 minutes.
The flavor is incredible too, with lots of spices (make it as hot or mild as you want), veggies, and beans. It’s a hearty dish that you’ll find yourself craving long after your Thanksgiving leftovers are gone!
What You Need
This turkey chili has a complex flavor, thanks in part to one important ingredient that may seem a bit unusual to you. Trust me though, it’s magical!
- Shredded turkey. Leftover Thanksgiving turkey works perfectly here! Just shred it up nicely like you would a rotisserie chicken. If you are making this outside of Thanksgiving, you could use 1 lb of cooked ground turkey instead.
- Fire roasted tomatoes. I love using these for a bit of extra flavor; they’re subtly smokey and just so good! If you can’t find them, regular diced canned tomatoes will work just fine.
- Chili powder. My preference is to use a combination of ancho chili powder and regular chili powder. Ancho chili powder is slightly sweet and smokey (if you’ve had my potato soup, you know it’s a key ingredient there!). It’s usually sold in the spice aisle of your grocery store. If you can’t find ancho or prefer to use all plain chili powder, that’s fine too.
- Cocoa powder. Yes, cocoa powder! This is our magical secret ingredient. Maybe you’ve seen it in chili before… It certainly isn’t my own invention (chocolate and chilis have been paired together for centuries), but it’s one I’ve grown very attached to. Either natural or dutch process cocoa will work here.
SAM’S TIP: You can make this chili as spicy or mild as you like; simply adjust the cayenne pepper to taste. I like to start out with just a pinch and go from there.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Turkey Chili
- Cook peppers and onions in melted butter over medium high heat until translucent, then add the garlic.
- Add the turkey and spices and stir until the turkey is well coated.
- Add the remaining ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve with desired toppings (sour cream and some crumbled corn chips are non-negotiable) and enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Don’t forget the toppings! I love topping my turkey chili with diced avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, and corn chips.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cocoa powder adds extra dimension to our chili and enhances the existing flavors. It adds body and a subtle depth of flavor. The bitterness of the cocoa also works to balance the acidity from the tomatoes.
What it doesn’t do is make your turkey chili taste like a pot of turkey brownies, I promise. While you will get an initial whiff of warm chocolate when you first add it to your pot, the distinct chocolate flavor will dissipate and there will be no lingering chocolate taste.
Yes! This chili can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.
While I certainly don’t promote this as a healthy turkey chili, it could be a bit more health conscious than a traditional beef chili. Turkey is lower in saturated fat than beef, so it’s a great substitute here. We’re also including two types of beans, which are high in fiber. So while this is comfort food, it does have some benefits too 😊
I like to serve my chili with a side of buttermilk cornbread, jalapeño cornbread, or biscuits. If you have any leftover homemade crescent rolls from Thanksgiving, those would work too!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 red pepper diced (about 1 heaping cup) (155g)
- 1 red onion diced (about 1 ½ cups) (180g)
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
- 2 Tablespoon chili powder*
- 2 teaspoons light or dark brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder**
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper***
- 4 cups/1 lb cooked shredded turkey meat ( 450g)
- 2 cups beef, chicken, or turkey stock my preference is beef (475ml)
- 28 oz canned fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained if you can’t find fire roasted, regular diced tomatoes will work instead (795g)
- ¼ cup tomato paste (66g)
- 1 14 oz can black beans rinsed and drained (397g)
- 1 14 oz can dark red kidney beans rinsed and drained (397g)
- 1 4 oz can fire roasted chilis (113g)
- Your favorite toppings: Sour cream, broken corn chips, diced avocado, shredded cheese, etc.
- Melt butter over medium/high heat in a large pot (I like to use a Dutch oven) until melted.
- Add onion and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent (about 5 minutes)
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the turkey to your pot and then add chili powder, brown sugar, cocoa powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
- Stir ingredients well until turkey is covered with spices.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to fully develop.
- Serve, topped with sour cream, crushed corn chips, or your favorite toppings.
*Chili powderMy personal preference is to use ancho chili powder, or a blend of the two, but regular chili powder will work. I prefer ancho chili powder which lends itself to a smokier, slightly sweeter turkey chili, but Zach thinks it’s too sweet and prefers regular chili powder.
**Cocoa powderPlease see my post for more information on why we add cocoa powder (it’s not going to make your chili taste like chocolate, I promise!)
***Cayenne pepperThis amount of cayenne pepper adds a very subtle heat to the chili. Feel free to increase this amount at your own discretion to suit your tastebuds.
StoringStore in an airtight container in the refrigerator. How long this will keep depends on the age of your turkey, fresher turkey will keep for 5 days, if your turkey is several days left over I wouldn’t keep for longer than 3 days. This recipe also freezes well.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Great recipe – all my family and friends loved the turkey chili.
I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it so much, Karen! 🙂
I overcooked my turkey 😕 so I decided to turn it into chili. This recipie turned out great! I absolutely loved all the spices & actually a day or two in the fridge, it actually made my turkey alot more tender!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Misty! 🙂
What is considered a serving size?
Hi Michelle! It would be probably be about a cup. 🙂
Just made this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, and it was a hit. Served it with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, green onions, cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges to suit individual tastes. It will definitely be a yearly tradition from now on – EVERYONE loved it, even the picky eaters and the littlest one.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy everyone loved the chili, Deborah! It really is a great way to use up leftovers. Thanks so much for commenting 😊
So delicious and easy! Probably the best chili I have made, the flavors were so delicious. Am going to try making it with beef next time since we have that on hand more than turkey. But this was just what I needed for Thanksgiving leftovers!
This is absolutely delicious! I followed the recipe exactly and it’s perfect! I loved being able to use leftover turkey and stock. I’ve been looking for another r
Idea to use my leftover Turkey and homemade Turkey stock from the holidays. Thanks for an awesome recipe!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Rosemary! 🙂
This looks delicious..making is as I type…can’t wait to taste the done product!!
I hope you loved it! 🙂
This chili. Add with left over turkey was so delicious. I think the addition of cocoa and brown sugar added that extra dimension. Also I didn’t have fire roasted tomatoes so I added some salsa. Hubby and I couldn’t stop eating it. I think this will be our once-a-week, maybe with chicken next time. Thank you.
I doubled this and it taste so yummy
Going to freeze for a cold night
Used 4 14.5 ozs fire roasted cans of tomatoes
Spicy 🌶 love with sour cream and cilantro and Fritos
I am so glad you enjoyed it so much, Shelia! 🙂
Made this today, it was really good! I made it a bit spicy because my boys like everything hot! They loved it. I liked the hearty rich texture. Sometimes I find most chilis are too thin and lack a smokiness. This was perfect!!
I’m so happy to hear everyone enjoyed, Michelle!! Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know how it turned out, I appreciate it! 🙂
I have made this twice, now, and we love it! It is a nice change from Beef Chili and the flavor is great. A great way to use up that extra turkey!
I’m so glad you enjoy it so much, Sharon! 🙂
I would like to make this chilly but I’m not sure on what you mean by one can of fire roasted chiles. Is it green chiles?
Sugar Spun Run
Hi, Corina! Yes, you want a can of green chiles. On the can it will say “fire-roasted green chiles.” I hope that you enjoy the turkey chili! 🙂
wow its my favorite dish
Sugar Spun Run
Thank you, Samiya! I am glad that you enjoyed it! 🙂
Hi Sam! I don’t have leftover turkey, so I’m wondering if ground turkey would work well for this? I am really looking forward to making one of your chili recipes and this one seems a bit healthier than the traditional beef chili 🙂
Hi Kristen! I’m sorry I’m just now seeing this comment. Yes, ground turkey would work great, add it as you would the leftover turkey, just make sure to cook until browned and crumbled. I hope you love it! 🙂
I made this tonight. Seconds all around. This is the recipe I’ve been looking for, really really good. Complex, just spicy enough, very satisfying. I’m so glad I came upon it! Thanks, deee lish!
I’m so happy to hear this!! Thanks for commenting, Jean!