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Big Batch Turkey Chili

Big Batch Turkey Chili is a great choice whether you’re gearing up for the big game and need to feed a crowd or just want to get a head start on some extra meals for the week. It’s chock full of ground turkey, tomatoes, 3 kinds of beans and a spice mixture that will appeal to a wide range of tastes. Cocoa powder adds an unexpected depth of flavor and richness.

A “Go To” Chili Recipe

My goal was to create my “go to” chili recipe. Nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary. It had to be a recipe that had mass appeal.

I used to make chili without a recipe and I would impatiently keep adjusting spices until I got just the right balance. But then, if I came out with a winner, I never had the measurements that got me there, so it was difficult to recreate.

I knew that once I got good base recipe down pat, I would have something reliable that I could reach for on a standard chili night at home or for a get together with family friends.

The great thing about any base recipe, is that it can become the foundation for so many variations. Why? Because you know you’re already starting with something good.

An overhead photo of a bowl of Big Batch Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

So, I started working on a spice balance that I could rely on and a recipe I could trust. I kept track of every change I made until I arrived at what has become my go to chili recipe.

And because it’s a solid recipe, I decided to make it a Big Batch recipe:)

A bowl of Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

The Benefits of Big Batch Recipes

It’s simple. I have 2 main reasons.

First, big batches are great when you’re feeding a crowd. I know. That’s obvious. However, not all recipes magically double or triple well.

I had a recipe for chili that I adored. It had red wine as one of the ingredients and it was layered with the most delicious flavors. I tripled the recipe for a party once, thinking I would be serving some really amazing chili to my guests.

a sliced avocado and sliced jalapeno on a square white plate.

But, the chili did not taste the same at all. The wine never quite cooked off as it had in the single recipe. And really, the whole flavor profile was off.

Either I needed to adjust the quantities or maybe even the cook times, but either way, it did not turn out as hoped.

Second, you KNOW I like to make big batches as an answer to meal prep. If I can cook once and get 2 or more meals out of a recipe, I am one happy girl. If you feel the same, check out these other big batch recipes:

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Various spices in small piles on parchment paper that will be used to make big batch turkey chili.

What spices are in Big Batch Turkey Chili?

  • dark chili powder
  • cumin
  • smoked paprika
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • dried oregano
  • cayenne-I only use 1/4 teaspoon of this which delivers a mild heat. Omit for no heat or increase for additional heat.

Good spices make a difference, but I wanted to make sure that this recipe tasted good with easy to access grocery store brands like McCormick.

Chili powder is the spice with the greatest quantity, so using different chili powders will definitely affect the flavor.

I’m using McCormick’s Dark Chili Powder {aff. link} for this recipe, but I often switch it up with specialty chili powders. It’s fun to experiment with different variations; each will deliver a different tasting chili.

A overhead photo of a bowl of Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro surrounded by nachos chips.

I’m not gonna lie, though. Good quality spices make a world of difference in many recipes.

I buy a bunch of different spices from Penzey’s, including smoked paprika. If you haven’t used smoked paprika, now’s as good as any time to start. Here are a couple of recipes that wouldn’t be the same without it:

Once you start buying good quality spices, you’ll see the amazing difference they can make to a standard recipe. If you want to start expanding your spice pantry, in addition to Penzey’s, check out Burlap and Barrel and Spicewalla just to name a few.

A bowl of Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

What kind of cocoa can I use in turkey chili?

You’ll need to use unsweetened cocoa powder. I have at least 6 kinds of natural and dutch processed cocoa in my baking pantry. But for this recipe, much like the spices, I kept it very simple and used Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder.

The recipe calls for one tablespoon of cocoa powder. Feel free to experiment with 1 1/2 or 2 tablespoons for an even richer flavor.

For those of you who worry that your chili will taste like chocolate, there’s no need. The cocoa simply adds another layer of rich flavor.

What kind of ground turkey is best for chili?

I prefer a mixture of white and dark meats. I find ground turkey breast to be too dry.

How to make Big Batch Turkey Chili

Once you have all of your ingredients ready, it’s simply a matter of following the process. This is not a dump everything into the pot all at once and cook recipe.

It all happens in one pot, but the order and timing are important.

An overhead photo of onions and peppers being suttee in a Dutch oven.

Saute the Vegetables

First, we’re going to saute the onion and green pepper until soft. Adding salt in at this stage helps the vegetables release their liquid. They need a head start on the garlic, which goes in last so that it doesn’t burn.

And yes, I do use both fresh and granulated garlic in this recipe. I like the additional hit of fresh garlic flavor. Same with the onion.

Mixed spices with onions and peppers being sauteed in a Dutch Oven.

Add the spice mixture and tomato paste

Add the spice mixture and let it cook for a minute to release their flavors. Follow that with the tomato paste and let that mixture cook briefly.

An overhead photo of Cocoa powder and spiced onions and peppers in Dutch Oven with raw ground turkey.

Add the cocoa powder and turkey

We’re going to add the cocoa powder last so that it doesn’t burn. Trust me. I’ve made the mistake before. While your chili might not be a total loss, you’ll wonder why it tastes a little “off.”

So, add the cocoa powder, give a quick stir then add the turkey right on top and start mixing.

An overhead photo of cooked ground turkey with spices, onions and peppers to make big batch turkey chili

Continue to cook the mixture, breaking up the turkey as you go.

You’ll end up with a richly colored and fragrant mixture.

An overhead photo of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and green chilis added to ground turkey mixture.

Add tomatoes and chilis

Add the UNDRAINED diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and canned green chilis. Stir to combine.

How to Reduce Acidity in Chili

I’ve found that baking soda works best in this recipe. Just a teaspoon neutralizes enough acid for me.

When you add the baking soda, you’ll see the chili mixture foam up. Stir the mixture to distribute the baking soda throughout. Keep stirring until the foam subsides.

If you like a sweeter sauce, you can also add a teaspoon or so of sugar. That will also help with the acidity. I haven’t found it necessary though.

An overhead photo of kidney beans, dark kidney beans and pinto bean rinsed.

Can I use different beans in chili?

Yes! Please! Use your favorites. I went with black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans because I like a mix. You can go with just one kind of bean or many.

For ease, I went with canned beans that I rinsed and drained.

Add the beans and allow to simmer

Beans are the final ingredient. Simply add them and stir to combine.

I like to let the chili simmer for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

An overhead photo of  Turkey Chili in a large stock pot

This gives the chili a little time to allow flavors to meld and for the mixture to thicken. You can see the difference between when I added the beans and after the chili had time to simmer.

The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools. And, of course, like most chilis, the flavor gets even better on days 2 and 3.

Pouring Turkey Chili into bowl from ladle.

How to increase the heat for a spicier chili

  • Increase cayenne
  • Add hot canned diced green chili instead of mild. I’ve roasted my own slightly hotter peppers like jalapenos, serranos and poblanos and diced them myself, but you could certainly add more aggressive varieties. If it were up to my son, we’d be adding habaneros or ghost peppers. Good thing it’s up to me ;)
  • Add the sauce and/or the peppers from a can of chilis in adobo sauce. {aff. link} Start with adding a spoonful of the sauce and then adjust to taste. The peppers pack more heat, so start with sauce and then chopped up peppers as desired. This addition won’t be just adding heat, but also flavor and smokiness. You might have to adjust the other spices or it might just be exactly what you want.
  • We have different spice level preferences, so we leave the heat up to the individual and have a variety of hot sauces, fresh jalapenos and crushed red pepper flakes available for whomever wants that option.

And there you have it…the recipe that’s on rotation in our house as soon as the weather turns cool. It’s delicious, hearty and satisfying.

And for me, making a big batch also means that dinner is already done for tomorrow. Winner, winner chili dinner :)

Squeezing a lime onto a bowl of Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado.

Topping Ideas for Big Batch Turkey Chili

  • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • shredded cheese
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • fresh lime
  • avocado
  • jalapeno slices
  • hot sauce
An overhead photo of a bowl of Turkey Chili topped with slices of avocado, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Side Dish Ideas for Big Batch Turkey Chili

Pouring Turkey Chili into bowl from ladle.

Big Batch Turkey Chili

Yield: 10-12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Big Batch Turkey Chili is chock full of tomatoes, 3 beans and is seasoned with a rich cocoa-spiced mixture. Perfect for feeding a crowd or meal prepping for the week.


Spice Mixture:

  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I used dark chili powder)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional see note


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, see note for table salt
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 4 (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 ounce) can mild green chilis, undrained
  • 3 (15 ounce) cans of beans (I used pinto, black and red kidney)

Topping ideas:

  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • fresh lime
  • slice jalepeno peppers
  • avocado


  1. In a small bowl, mix spices together and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, green peppers and salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until onions are translucent and green peppers are tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic, cooking and stirring briefly until fragrant. Your mixture should be wet from wilting the vegetables.
  3. Lower heat to medium. Add spice mixture and stir constantly until combined with vegetable mixture and spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and continue to stir and combine.
  4. Add cocoa powder. Stir only briefly to combine. You want to avoid burning it. Add ground turkey, mixing it in with all of the cooked spices and vegetables, breaking it up as it cooks. Continue stirring and breaking up the turkey until it is brown and crumbled. Do not drain or you'll lose all of the flavor that was just developed.
  5. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and mild green chilis. Stir to combine.
  6. Stir in 1 teaspoon baking soda. This will help reduce acidity from the tomatoes. The mixture will foam a little while you're stirring. This just means the baking soda is doing it's job.
  7. When the foam subsides, add the drained and rinsed beans. Stir to combine.
  8. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 15-30 minutes. This will allow flavors to meld and the mixture to thicken.
  9. Serve with desired toppings.


*1/4 teaspoon of cayenne will give you mild heat. You can leave it out or add more based on your preference. I think this small amount gives a nice background warmth of spice without being overwhelming.

*If using table salt, reduce amount to 2 teaspoons.

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Sunday 12th of February 2023

Wow!!! I have made a lot of chili. Like you, I rarely use a recipe. Let me tell you,this chili is outstanding! I made it exactly as written, except added a fresh minced jalapeno, and 1/2 tsp cayenne. Incredibly delicious! Thanks for posting. I have missed you!


Monday 13th of February 2023

Cyndi! It's so wonderful to hear from you! I am truly thrilled that two winters' worth of chili testing have paid off :) Thank you for such an amazing review. I trust your opinion, so your feedback means a lot. It really made my day :)

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