turkey chili

onions instead of sour cream

Ever since I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” I’ve been rather preoccupied with eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from my diet, and trying to get my hands on grass fed meat and true free range chicken. Yes, I’ll eat whatever meat is being sold in Whole Foods from time to time, but when I can, I will try to get the stuff from small family farms, and by small, I mean small.

welcome, fall!

In general though, we’ve been trying to decrease the red meat consumption – for health reasons more than anything. And as temperatures suddenly dropped last week and we all felt a fall chill, my mind turned to chili. Everyone marks fall in their own way and for me, nothing signals the change of seasons more than crisp, fall apples (preferably Cortlands) and a steaming bowl of chili. And yes, chili con carne is the traditional way to go, but I’m making a few alterations.

dried poblanos
without planning and in a hurry, canned beans will do turkey for me, turkey for you

And if anything, seeing King Corn this afternoon with KS and his younger sister made me feel a lot more vindicated for abandoning the classic oldie-but-goodie and sticking with something slightly healthier (nevermind the whole Topps debacle). For the record, the film is great and I was (for the most part) engaged and entertained. I’ve learned little new as Michael Pollan has obliged in educating me in this matter, but it did drive the point home yet again – we are what we eat and for the most part, Americans are children of the corn.

oh the goodness!

I have to confess that eating this batch of chili made me realize that I actually prefer the turkey version to its original “con carne” one. I suppose that “chili con gobble” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as “chili con carne” does, but I’ll get used to it – my palate has already.

Since we’re decreasing/limiting dairy consumption in our household, we chose to top our chili off with some chopped onions and added some hot sauce (when do we not). But I think that the most preferred way is to give your generous bowl some sour cream, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and green onions and award yourself with a heaping spoonful!

3 tbp olive oil
2 dried poblano chiles, chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1 16 oz can of red beans (pinto)
1 32 oz can of black beans
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground Mexican hot chocolate (Ibarra)

1. In a large pot or a enameled iron pot, over medium heat, saute the chiles, onions and garlic for a few minutes. When onions are translucent, add the ground turkey and stir quickly to break up the meat into little chunks (otherwise it’ll stick together and that’s annoying). Cook the turkey with previous ingredients for 10 minutes or so until the turkey is nicely browned.

2. Lower the heat, add the beans (drained first), the tomatoes and spices (though not salt or sugar). Cover and let cook for 30 minutes.

3. Uncover the pot and taste – at this point you should add your salt and sugar and see how it tastes. If you think it’s really bland, add a bit more salt, otherwise, cover the pot again and let the flavors interact and develop for 20 more minutes.

4. Take the lid off and taste again – adjust your seasonings and cook over lowest heat possible for another 30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with chopped onions, or sour cream, cheddar cheese and chopped scallions.

Serves 6.


  • Skip

    Have you read The Ethics of What We Eat? I found the book shortly after finishing Omnivore’s Dilemma and found it equally fascinating (and alarming). The authors approach eating as an ethical dilemma and go much farther in depth about the impact of our common food choices (organic v conventional v local, etc). Where Omnivore’s Dilemma was something like “corn is the enemy, in pretty much all forms”, the Ethics says “Yes, corn is bad but it’s not that easy.” You should give it a read.

  • John Eddy

    We buy our meat from local farms too, but what really bugs me is the lack of boneless and ground poultry. I can cook whole chickens, but, I don’t feel like I’m actually good at it. Just never comes out as good as I’d like.

  • Lydia

    I’ve been doing more turkey and chicken chili also, because I prefer the lighter taste. Turkey and green chiles is my current favorite.

  • Jim

    My eldest brother, unquestionably a red meat lover, recently started cooking healthier due to dangerously high cholesterol, so he turned me on to turkey chili. I could barely tell the difference!
    Never been a sour cream guy, myself, though with the amount of shredded cheese and fritos that goes into every bowl I’d imagine I don’t benefit any from avoiding it.

  • radish

    Skip, thanks so much for the book recommendation. Will definitely check it out!
    John, I hear you, but truth be told, I prefer to cook poultry (and meat) with bones as they impart a flavor that I enjoy quite a bit. Roasting a chicken takes time to perfect, but I think if you are armed with a good recipe, you can get it right!
    Lydia – i’ll have to try the green chiles in it next time!
    Jim, I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes the turkey version :)

  • Dana

    I actually prefer turkey and chicken chili to beef chili (I think because it feels less heavy in what is already a very hearty dish). Ina Garten has an awesome and surprisingly healthy recipe for chicken chili that is worth checking out. This looks great, though!

  • ann

    I’m a Northern Spy girl myself, both for eating out of hand and baking in pies. I think it’s the name, it sounds so super secret international woman of mystery, no?
    We’ve got two smoked turkey legs in the fridge at the moment and I have no idea what to do with them. I’m not much of a turkey person…

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