Here is a recipe for classic homemade healthy turkey chili made with pinto beans and fresh vegetables. It tastes just like classic chili, with less saturated fat and makes a cozy 40-minute meal.

turkey chili in a black bowl from overhead with garnishes and avocado on top

I originally shared this recipe on february 28th, 2011, I have updated the text and photos today. 

Why We Love This Recipe For Healthy Turkey Chili

This chili with pinto beans is packed with flavor from lime juice, chili seasonings, tons of vegetables, and oregano (for a fun Southwest flare). It definitely wins a spot on the best of healthy seasonal recipes list, that’s for sure.

It’s moderately spicy, but not in an overpowering way. You as the chef really have control over how spicy you want it to be. Do you love spicy food but have family members that don’t necessarily agree? Not to worry! Just serve extra hot sauce on the side.

This healthy turkey chili recipe is great for serving for football or game night, or a weeknight dinner because it is ready in only 40 minutes. Plus it reheats beautifully and can even be frozen.

It is lower in fat and calories than traditional beef chili, but it doesn’t lack delicious hearty chili flavor!

Key Ingredients For This Recipe

the ingredients on a white table with text overlay

Ground Turkey

You can use ground turkey or ground chicken for this recipe. If you like low-fat turkey, look for 99% lean.

Lime Juice

As you know, I have a thing for sour stuff, and I think adding a bit of vinegar or acid to a recipe is the culinary equivalent to Harry Potter Defeating the Dark Lord in the wizarding world. What I mean by that is that acid helps to balance salt, and it wakes up all the other flavors in a dish, neutralizes bitter but adds only negligible calories. That’s why I chose to add lime juice to this recipe.

Fresh Vegetables: Peppers, Onion, Scallions and Jalapeño

This chili has tons of veggies in it: namely peppers, onions and scallions. These serve to add flavor and low-calorie volume to the chili. And did you know that peppers are really high in vitamin C?

Feel free to use whichever type of green pepper you like depending on your taste preference. For mild chili use Anaheim or bell pepper, for a spicier chili use poblano.

You can also control the heat in the chili by choosing to include the seeds from the jalapeno.

Canned Whole Tomatoes

If you have been reading here for a while, then you know how much I love to use whole canned tomatoes that are hand broken up. This makes the texture of the chili so much better. I used this technique in my Minestrone and Ribollita to name a couple of other places I did this.

Cornmeal

A sprinkle of cornmeal is added to help thicken the chili up. This reduces the amount of cook time you’ll have to wait for it to thicken on its own.

Canned Pinto Beans

To make this recipe speedy fast, I used canned pinto beans instead of cooking dried beans. If you do not have pinto beans or prefer another bean, you can use kidney beans or another of your choice.

Just make sure to drain and rinse the beans before adding them to the chili.

Oregano

The chili has oregano in it for a Southwest flair, which I love because in New Mexico, you’ll find this in traditional cuisine, and though a bit unexpected to most palates, it really does taste awesome in the chili.

Spices

To season this chili I use a blend of chili powder, cumin and salt in addition to the fresh garlic and jalapeno. If you like to have spicier chili you could also add a dash of ground chipotle chili or cayanne.

Other Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Garnishes: diced avocado, toasted pine nuts or pepitas, minced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro

Step By Step Instructions To Make This Turkey Chili with Beans

browning the turkey and cooking the veggies

Step 1: Brown The Turkey

Begin by heating the oil in a large heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Crumble in the ground turkey or chicken and cook, stirring and breaking up into smaller pieces, until it’s no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.

Step 2: Add Fresh Vegetables

Stir in the minced garlic, peppers, onions, scallion whites and jalapeño. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are cooked down and mostly softened, about 10 minutes.

blooming the spices and adding in the liquid ingredients and beans

Step 3: Bloom Spices

Stir in the chili powder, cumin and salt, and cook until the spices are fragrant, 30 seconds to 2 minutes.  Sprinkle cornmeal over the vegetable and meat mixture and stir to coat. 

Step 4: Simmer with Broth, Tomatoes & Pinto Beans

Stir in the tomatoes, beans and broth, then bring to a simmer, stirring often.

Reduce the heat slightly to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili is thick and the onions and peppers are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. 

add in the lime, scallion greens and fresh oregano

Step 5: To Finish and Serve

Stir in lime juice, oregano and the remaining scallion greens. Serve the chili garnished with diced avocado, toasted pine nuts or pipits, minced onion, or chopped cilantro, as desired.

a bowl of chili on a table with bowls of toppings

FAQs and Expert Tips

What is the most important ingredient in chili?

The most important ingredient when making a tasty chili are spices. Cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion are some of my favorites. It is also important to balance the acidity of the tomatoes with salt.

Can you freeze chili with meat and beans?

Chili can be frozen for 4 to 6 months as long as it’s stored in an airtight container.

What other toppings are good on chili?

Although healthier options were listed as suggested toppings, you can also top with shredded cheddar, sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Additional Healthy Chili Recipes To Try

side view of turkey chili in a black bowl

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

Print
turkey chili with pinto beans in a black bowl with avocado on top

Healthy Turkey Chili with Pintos Beans

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Here’s the best way to make Turkey Chili from scratch with lean ground turkey (or chicken if you prefer), lots of fresh vegetables (including bell peppers), onions, scallions and jalapeno and a little cornmeal to thicken it! Serve topped with avocado and toasted pepitas for a healthy winter meal.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small green bell peppers or anaheim peppers, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 
1 bunch scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced, seeds to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 
2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 
1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes
, crushed by hand or cut into chunks
  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Garnishes: diced avocado, toasted pine nuts or pepitas, minced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottom soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Crumble in turkey or chicken and cook, breaking up large pieces until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic, peppers, onion, scallion whites and jalapeño and cook, stirring often until the vegetables are cooked down and mostly softened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in chili powder, cumin and salt and cook until the spices are fragrant 30 seconds to 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the cornmeal over the vegetable mixture and stir to coat. 
  4. Stir in tomatoes, beans and broth and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the chili is thick and the onions and peppers are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. 
  5. Stir in lime juice, oregano and the remaining scallion greens.  Serve with garnishes if desired.

Notes

This recipe can be made up to three days in advance. Rewarm over medium low heat, stirring often.

Freeze this recipe up to three months. Thaw in refrigerator or microwave. Warm until piping hot before serving.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups each
  • Calories: 330
  • Sugar: 5.5 g
  • Sodium: 850 mg
  • Fat: 12.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 34 g
  • Fiber: 10 g
  • Protein: 23 g