Three Bean Turkey Chili

Lisa Chodosh

I developed this recipe for a Manhattan brewery/restaurant, where we made gallons of it each day. The addition of the cocoa powder was suggested by one of my wonderful Mexican line cooks, since unsweetened chocolate is a common ingredient in the wonderful chili-based sauces of his homeland. The gentle flavors of this chili work best with poultry, and you could substitute ground chicken if you prefer. 

Food Editor's Note: This chili is good! I am a red meat kind of person, so I hesitated to try a chili made with turkey, but it was truly just as flavorful as one made with ground beef. The chili looks good too, with the light-colored beans and the red and green peppers, along with the fresh garnishes. This is a low-fat, one-bowl meal that should be made in advance, so it is perfect for entertaining a hungry group. I'd say the spiciness factor is moderate, so increase the amounts of chili powder, cumin, jalapeno, and black pepper to add more zip. I used garbanzo, great northern, and organic red beans, but Lisa says that you can "use any combination that provides some contrast in color and texture...Chick peas, pigeon peas, red or white kidney beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, and cannellini are all great - even black beans would be yummy." 

2 2/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 lbs. ground turkey
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup cumin
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 15-oz. can pink beans, drained
1 15-oz. can great northern beans, drained
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Red onion, scallions, red and green peppers for garnish (optional)


1. In a stockpot, sauté onions in olive oil. Stir to coat onions in oil, cover pan, reduce heat to low and sweat until onions are soft. Uncover pan and add the garlic, cook for one minute, stirring.

2. Add the turkey, cook over moderate heat, stirring to break up the lumps. {Food editor's note: I use a large wooden fork.] Cook until no longer pink. Add chili powder, cumin, cocoa, paprika, oregano, jalapeno and bay leaves. Cook, stirring for one minute. Add the tomato sauce, chicken stock and vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the drained canned beans, bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 30 minutes uncovered or until bell peppers are tender and liquid has boiled off to desired thickness. Discard the bay leaves.

4. Chili should be cooled to room temperature, then covered and refrigerated. Chili is much better if used the next day so that flavors have time to develop. To serve, reheat chili. Garnish with chopped red onion, scallion and a mix of chopped colored bell peppers.
Yield: 8-10 servings

Lisa Chodosh grew up in Wayland and is now a Manhattan-based restaurant consultant who regularly cooks for crowds. She can be reached at

Three Bean Turkey Chili