Comfort food chili cravings never tasted so healthy, until now. This easy slow cooker chili is protein-packed with lean ground turkey, light and dark kidney beans, plus quinoa for an extra safety-net protein source that will keep you filled and full all day long and into the night.
It’s 5:30 p.m. and the sun has set behind the mountains and the sky has already settled into dark. There’s a chill is in the air and comfort food is what we’re all craving now. Turkey Pot Pie? Mac and Cheese? Sausage Lasagna? All delicious in their own right, but not exactly the lightest of fare.
And now that the fall season is here, the wrangling and jostling for the T.V. remote has begun. The World Series? (go Dodgers!). The Voice? (I’m with J-Hud Productions). More tears and tissues while crying with This Is Us? (I mean, seriously!) Or finally, a new Walking Dead? (My Smudge and I are convinced our Big Daddy should be Negan for Halloween.)
Our television viewing habits are as hotly debated as what sounds best for dinner.
But tonight, there’s one less argument to make because Big Mama (that’s me) thought ahead (for once) and put dinner in the slow cooker. And just like that, a healthy dinner is served. And surprise, AliSmudge and Big Daddy don’t even complain that it’s oh-so good for them. But why would they? This homemade turkey chili is delish! And better yet, it’s so simple to make.
How to Make Homemade Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Chili is one of those recipes that is nearly as easy to make on the stove top as the slow cooker or Crockpot. It all depends on time. Your time. This is a go-to recipe to prep ahead and make in the slow cooker while you’re away all day and arrive home to all the delicious, homemade chili smells with dinner just a ladle away.
I make this chili in my Instant Pot, starting with cooking the turkey and veggies on the sauté function. It’s my number one selling point when telling everyone I know and even those I don’t why I’m an Instant Pot devotee. It means I have one less dish to wash, and in my world, that means a lot.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, get one. And if you still aren’t convinced you need one, simply use a skillet or dutch oven to get the turkey, veg and spices cooked and ready to combine in your slow cooker or Crockpot with the beans, sweet potato, crushed tomatoes and quinoa.
Add the chili powder and cumin to the turkey and veggie mixture as it sautés. Why? Because while cooking with the veg, these flavor of the spices deepens and melds into the veg and ground turkey mixture.
How Long Do You Cook Chili in the Slow Cooker?
Thanks to canned beans and the fact that the ground turkey and veg have now been cooked, the beauty of preparing chili in the slow cooker, Instant Pot, or Crockpot is thatif slow-cooking on high, the chili will be ready to eat in 2-3 hours, or, let it go low and slow for up to 8 hours on low. The real reason for making chili with the slow cooker method is simply for the flavors to meld rather than ingredients to cook.
Be sure to add enough liquid so your chili doesn’t stick to the bottom of the cooker and begin to burn. I add quinoa to to the chili for extra protein, but quinoa also thickens the sauce as it absorbs more of the liquid. If you choose not to add quinoa to the recipe, add just 2 cups instead of 3 cups of water or broth to the mixture before slow cooking. And if the chili is too thick for your taste once the cooking time is done, don’t be afraid to loosen it up by adding a 1/2 cup more water or broth at a time until you reach your favorite consistency.
Condiments for Turkey Chili
There’s plenty of ways to dress up your chili, and here’s just a few of them:
- Lime wedges (my fave: always adds the best bright flavor!)
- Chopped green onion, red onion, white onion or even chives
- Chopped cilantro
- Fresh jalapeño or pickled jalapeño
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- Tortilla chips
Turkey Chili: The Stovetop Version
If you didn’t think ahead to make this in the slow cooker, that’s no reason not to make this chili.
Simply use a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot and follow through step 2. Then, instead of adding to a slow cooker or Instant Pot, simply add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 40 minutes or until the chili is thickened and the flavors have come together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.
Slow Cooker Healthy Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili with Quinoa
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small yellow onion diced (about 1 to 1 1/4 cup)
- 1 red bell pepper seeded and diced (about 1 to 1 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup diced sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño pepper plus more for garnish
- 1 15- ounce can light kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 15- ounce can dark kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- Chopped cilantro lime wedges, green onion, sour cream, cheese, or diced avocado for garnish
Set the Instant Pot to the Sauté function or heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the canola oil and heat until it shimmers then add the ground turkey. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned, breaking up the turkey into smaller pieces.
Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the onion, red bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper and cook until the vegetables soften and the spices become fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If cooking in a slow cooker, now is the time to transfer the ingredients to the slow cooker insert, or continue to cook on Sauté in the Instant Pot. Add the sweet potato, jalapeño, beans, crushed tomato, water, quinoa, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
If cooking in a slow cooker, cover and set the time for 3 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. If cooking in the Instant Pot, bring to a boil on the Sauté function, then switch to the Slow Cooker function and set the time for 2 to 3 hours.
Stir and add more water or chicken broth if the broth is too thick.
Garnish with cilantro, a squeeze of lime or green onion or whatever your chili-lovin' heart desires.
What to Serve With Homemade Chili to Make a Meal
- Cheddar and Jalapeño Skillet Corn Bread
- Favorite Green Salad
- Caesar Salad
- Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad
- Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread
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