Southwestern Turkey Chili

By Sally Cameron on December 01, 2014

Chicken & Turkey, Gluten-Free, Soups, Stews & Chilies, Thanksgiving, the daniel plan

My leftover Thanksgiving turkey needed to be finished up. I debated what to make with it. Tacos? Turkey enchiladas? Soup? On this gray and rainy day, the winner was turkey chili – a Southwestern-style with warm flavors of cumin, ancho chili pepper and  tomatillos. Healthy and easy to make in under 30 minutes, it will warm you up as we head into the busy-ness of the Christmas season.

Southwestern Turkey Chili |

Southwestern Turkey Chili

I am not sure why leftovers so often get a bad rap. Leftovers area a good thing. In fact, I plan for them. They save you time in the kitchen and are thrifty because you can turn them into other meals.

For this Southwestern turkey chili, I used leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and extra turkey broth, which I made ahead and froze. It’s good in soups, chili and risottos. You could also use leftover chicken and chicken broth.

Without Leftovers, Do This

No leftovers? No problem. Roast some turkey breast or chicken breast to make the chili. For chicken, buy bone-in breasts, season and roast at 375º for about 30 minutes or until they reach 165º. Cool, remove meat and dice. You can do the same thing with a turkey breast. Many meat counters sell split turkey breasts as a whole one is so big. You might even be able to find already roasted turkey breast at your market.

Maybe ground turkey is easier for you. If you want to use ground turkey, simply sauté the onion, carrot and celery unit soft, then add a pound of ground dark turkey and brown until it is no longer pink, then continue with the recipe.

Ingredient Notes and Options

  • Tomatillos (which look like little green tomatoes covered in a paper husk) are nice in this but if you can’t get them, use about 1/2 cup of diced green bell pepper or a fresh, mild green chili pepper.
  • Ancho chili pepper is the dried form of the poblano chili. The rich burgundy color offers a mild and sweet heat. Pure ancho chili is a great add to your spice pantry. It’s also the base for many chili pepper blends. so you can create your won blends with it too.
  • No pintos in the pantry? You can substitute black beans or even cannellini beans instead. Pintos add a definite Southwestern profile.
  • If you have the option, use dried Mexican oregano. Mexican oregano is stronger and less minty than Greek oregano.
  • If you can’t stand cilantro, substitute flat leaf parsley.
  • For garnishing, buttery Jack cheese is nice with a little extra cilantro or parsley. Non-dairy folks can skip the cheese. Try diced avocado instead.
  • On spices – For the paprika and black pepper, I use smoked versions. If you like smoky flavors, try them. They add great flavor to this chili and many other dishes. You can also use regular paprika and black pepper. If you like heat, sharp paprika will add it. Or use a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.

One last note – If you would rather make this a soup, just add more broth. I did that to stretch this for lunch today. It was terrific.

Southwestern Turkey Chili|

Serving – Garnishes, Salad and Vinaigrette

  • For garnishing, grated buttery Jack cheese is nice, unless you don’t eat dairy.
  • A little extra cilantro or parsley adds color and fresh flavor.
  • Serve a big green salad for balance. I like a spinach salad with avocado and tomatoes.
  • Skip the bottled dressing and make your own, fresh. For vinaigrette, here is a quick lesson. The ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar is a good place to start. If I am dressing a salad for just the two of us, I use 2 teaspoons of oil to 1 part vinegar as it’s a small amount. Whisk your vinaigrette in a bowl, add the greens and toss with your hands.
  • Use a good quality olive oil for your vinaigrette. My most recent discovery is artisan, family-made, California olive oil from Il Fiorello. It means the little flower in Italian. Check out their website, their oils, and their story. Good olive oil a welcome Christmas gift for the cook in your life (or yourself).

Southwestern Turkey Chili

With warm Southwestern flavors, this healthy turkey chili is quick to make with leftover turkey. Chicken works too. Use homemade broth for the best flavor. If you can’t get tomatillos, use a green bell pepper or mild green chili pepper, about 1/2 cup. For smoky flavors, use smoked spices.
Servings 3


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion 1/2 a medium
  • 1 cup chopped carrot 2 large
  • 1 cup chopped celery 2 ribs
  • 1 cup chopped tomatillo about 3
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano preferably Mexican
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper I use smoked pepper
  • 3 cups diced roast turkey (or chicken) 16 ounces
  • 1 1/2 cups  turkey broth or chicken broth preferably homemade
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated jack cheese optional


  • Add olive oil to a medium pot over medium low heat. When hot, add onion, carrot, celery and tomatillo. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, ancho chili powder, and paprika. Allow them to cook for a few minutes to allow the spices essential oils to release. Add salt and pepper.
  • Add turkey, beans, and broth. Heat until hot. Top with cilantro and cheese, optional.
  1. Ami@NaiveCookCooks - December 10th, 2014

    Love the addition of tomatillos in here!! Must try!

  2. Thalia @ butter and brioche - December 10th, 2014

    This turkey chili looks incredibly comforting, delicious and healthy too – definitely craving it right now!

  3. Bethany - September 13th, 2015

    We’re eating this right now and it’s a big hit with my family. I actually ran out of cumin, paprika, and oregano, and only had a little chipotle chili powder, but it’s still really good. I’m looking forward to trying it again with all the spices!

  4. Sally Cameron - September 13th, 2015

    Thanks Bethany! Love to hear that, especially for your whole family!

  5. B - January 8th, 2017

    Wow, this was so good. Made as written except for the carrots. LOVED It! Served with a quesadilla. The spices really made this so wonderful.

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