Turkey Chili in the Slow Cooker is the first in a series of chili recipes and slow cooker meals that will be featured over the next several weeks. Let me tell you, this is a great “kickoff” recipe. The spices in this chili add classic deep-roasted flavor. Hearty bites of plump kidney beans and chunky tomatoes add the perfect compliment of textures.
Since turkey is much leaner than classic beef, it can sometimes taste dry with an “off” texture – not very appealing in a chili dish. So, I looked to the experts in my quest for a really good turkey chili – America’s Test Kitchen. To alleviate the dryness sometimes found in turkey chili, ATK adds a paste to the turkey before cooking, made with bread and milk, which they claim helps to add back moisture and texture that is necessary for a successful, meaty chili. And, as almost always, they were right. So, let’s get started:
After the turkey is mixed with the bread and milk, it rests for a few minutes. In the meantime, a bit of prep-work is necessary before everything is dumped into a slow cooker:
Start out in a deep skillet or pot (I like to use a dutch oven). Onions are softened and then mixed with aromatics, tomato paste and a good dose of fresh minced garlic.
The mixture of turkey, bread and milk is then folded into the onions and aromatics. Cook this, folding gently so the turkey doesn’t break up too much:
Heat through until the turkey is no longer pink. The bottom of your pan might have a dark crust by now. No worries. Place the turkey mixture into the crock pot and then dump the tomato sauce onto the crust-coated skillet or pot. Stir this continually until the sauce breaks up the layer of crust. Now add the sauce to your slow cooker.
The remaining ingredients are added in with the turkey mixture and then cooked on low for 4 to 6 hours.
This is classic chili flavor with all the hearty taste and texture you want. We loved it served with cheddar cheese, jalapeno slices, green onions, AND…
… you MUST try this recipe for Cornbread Muffins with Cheddar, Scallions and Jalapenos. Because what’s chili without cornbread and mix-ins?
Well, it’s actually pretty darn good…
- For the chili:
- 2 slices high-quality white or wheat sandwich bread, torn into quarters
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 pounds ground turkey (I recommend 93% lean)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 onions, diced (about 3 generous cups)
- ¼ cup chili powder
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or ¼ teaspoon for milder heat)
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 (15-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or 3¾ cups dried beans, soaked and cooked until softened)
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I use fire-roasted for a slight charred flavor)
- 1½ cups beef broth (you can use chicken broth if you prefer)
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (optional, I usually just add 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce)
- Toppings- Optional, but not limited to:
- Shredded or cubed cheddar cheese
- Sliced jalapenos
- Diced green onions, including green parts
- Sour cream
- Black olives
- Mash bread and mild into paste in large bowl using a fork. Mix in ground turkey, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon using hands.
- Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet or pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until onions are softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook until vegetables are lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in turkey mixture, 1 pound at a time, and cook, breaking up any large pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes per pound (break up gently as ground turkey is usually pretty soft, so it doesn't become a "mash").
- The bottom of your pan may develop a hard crust about now. Don't worry, just keep cooking everything until the turkey is not longer pink.
- Transfer the turkey mixture to your slow cooker.
- In the same skillet you cooked the turkey, turn off the heat and add the 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. Stir , scraping up any browned bits or crust. The crust will soften and mix into the tomato sauce. Pour this sauce into the slow cooker.
- Stir beans, diced tomatoes with juice, broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chipotles, if using, into slow cooker. Cover and cook until turkey is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.
- Let chili settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with toppings, if desired.
Method adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution.