Turkey Chili (Great for leftover Turkey!)

A thick & hearty Turkey Chili that’s perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving turkey! Today’s recipe is similar to (and even easier than) my best chili recipe. Made with leftover shredded turkey, this chili has an incredible flavor (special thanks to a key ingredient) and can be on your table in under an hour!

How to make Turkey Chili with leftover turkey

Each year after Thanksgiving I try to share a simple recipe that you can make to use up some of your leftover turkey. You know, something other than cold turkey sandwiches.

Last year I shared my  Turkey Pot Pie (if you haven’t tried that yet, you need to!) and the year before that was my Turkey chowder. This year I’m sharing something new: an easyTurkey Chili Recipe!

There’s minimal prep-work involved (dice your onion & pepper, mince your garlic) and the hardest part of this whole recipe is letting it simmer for 30 minutes. This turkey chili has an incredible, complex flavor, thanks in part to one important ingredient that may seem a bit unusual to you…

Cooking Turkey Chili in a Dutch oven

Why Add Cocoa Powder to Chili

I use a pinch of cocoa powder in my turkey chili. This isn’t my invention (chocolate and chilis have been paired together for centuries) but it’s one I’ve grown very attached to.

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.

Bowl of Turkey Chili topped with sour cream and avocado

What Goes With Chili?

Turkey chili works just fine as a complete stand-alone meal. However, I often like to serve mine with a side of Buttermilk Cornbread. If you have any leftover roasted sweet potatoes I think you’ll find that the flavors of the chili pair nicely with them, too!


More Hearty Recipes You Might Enjoy!

  • White Chicken Chili
  • Ultimate Potato Soup
  • Baked Mac & Cheese
  • Corn Chowder

Turkey Chili

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili, leftover turkey, turkey chili
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Time to Simmer: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 375kcal
Author: Sam


  • 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 brown sugar packed
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder**
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 11/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper***
  • 4 cups/1 lb cups 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 turkey to your pot and then add chili powder, brown sugar, cocoa powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • turn 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.


*My 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.**Please 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!)***This 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.


Serving: 1serving (1/8 of chili, does not include toppings) | Calories: 375kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 9465mg | Potassium: 664mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 19% | Vitamin C: 12% | Calcium: 10% | Iron: 27%
Tried this recipe?Mention @SugarSpun_Sam or tag #sugarspunrun!

Turkey Chili in a bowl on the table

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