Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 28, 2010

Aftermath: Lurking Turkey Chili Recipe

Is there a turkey lurking in your refrigerator … or at least several pounds of what was an entire turkey back at the beginning of Thanksgiving? Yes, here we go: turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey lasagna and, of course, TURKEY CHILI. After all, it’s National Chili Month. Celebrate.

This is our opportunity to give thanks for our blessings a SECOND time after, first, on Thanksgiving itself, cooking up a feast featuring that native bird, the turkey, emblematic of the friendship extended to the first European settlers on the eastern coast of North America by the indigent population (which kindness we repaid by displacing them to Oklahoma and South Dakota and Alberta). Today’s followup recipe acknowledges the debt we owe the natives of the American west and southwest, with their traditional foods of chiles, maize and beans: turkey chili! (Don’t worry, we also sent those pikers packing onto various reservations, though with less success, since they still hold large expanses of land replete with valuable ore and energy resources.) Our regular readers in the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia are excused from this bit of cultural self-castigation. Well, maybe not the Australians.

Normally, chilis at Rancho Retro are of the vegetarian variety, but, man, there is a LOT of turkey here, and since The Counselor will eat limited amounts of fowl, we’re going to cook some of what’s left into a chili for which we’d normally use (this is California, you know) tofu or seitan.

Chili is an excellent way to use those pieces and chunks of turkey that came off the carcass in not-so-neat slices, unfit for tidy sandwiches or lasagna layers (unless your carver is more expert than I, and never misses a single slice.)

Let us gather our ingrediments:

2 TBSP olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves (more, if you like), 2 Serrano chiles (jalapenos if you want to raise the heat bar), 3 Anaheim green chiles, 1-1/2 TBSP chili powder, 1 TSP ground cumin, 1 TSP ground mexican oregano, 1 8 oz. can tomato paste, 1 28 oz. can chopped or diced tomatoes (containing no spices), 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (I use unsalted), 1 cup vegetable stock, 8-16 oz. frozen (or canned) corn kernels, ground black pepper, salt (see “Salt,” below), 1 14 oz. can pinto or kidney beans (see “Beans,” below). The final ingredient is the turkey.

I probably used about a pound of turkey which I diced ( we gotta get a scale some day). That provided a moderate amount of turkey in this recipe which would easily serve 6. (If you serve the chili with rice, cornbread or another carb, it probably serves 8-10.) If you want a more meat-intensive recipe, add more turkey, especially if you have more leftover turkey than you know what to do with, or double the recipe so you can neatly dispose of all that turkey. I cooked a batch this large so that we’d have some to freeze and eat later, which is always a good idea if you have a household small enough to do that.


Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions reach that mysterious “translucent” state, or nearly. Then add the green chiles and the spices along with a splash of the broth until they’re all cooked pretty well. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, the rest of the broth, the tomato sauce and some amount of ground black pepper that you think you’ll like (you can always add more later).

Bring everything to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the turkey and the beans. Taste. Adjust. Be careful. Late in the process, add the frozen or canned corn kernels if you’re using them, so that they don’t overcook. Cooking for 30 minutes after adding the last ingredients should be more than enough time.

Serve by with a nice salad of fresh greens, or, if you want a really hearty meal, serve over rice, quinoa or polenta or with CORNBREAD. The Counselor fixed up a salad of fresh greens with apples, raisins and cashews as a fruity counterpoint to the spicy chili. Yum.


I judge this recipe to have moderate heat (especially if you add the corn). If you like less heat, scale the ingredients back to 1 TBSP of chili powder, 2 Anaheims and 1 Serrano chile. If you don’t like any heat at all, maybe you should go looking for a turkey lasagna recipe. If you like MORE heat, well, go for it: I suggest adding an extra 1/2 TBSP of chili powder at a time, tasting as you go (the recipe I started with  had 4 TBSP of chili powder!). Remember as you taste for spice and heat that you want to take a taste and then wait: the heat won’t be evident immediately; give it a minute or so after you’ve tasted to judge the level of spice.


I like beans in chili, but not everyone does. This recipe is large enough to use 2 14 oz. cans of beans for those who like a beany chili, although I used just one. Or, you can leave them out entirely. I liked the lighter pinto beans, since the chili was a very red one, but you can use another kind of bean. It’s your choice.


The original recipe from which I improvised adds salt. Because this recipe gets many of its ingredients (canned tomatoes, tomato paste, canned beans and vegetable broth) from processed foods, there’s already a fair amount of sodium in it. I added no salt and it wasn’t missed, but this is up to you. Taste and decide. Remember your heart, and that we want you here with us for many years to come.

Admittedly, this is a very RED chili. If you like more color, you can garnish it with some chopped parsley or sprinkle some cheese on it, or decorate it with cute little slices of jalapenos (hot) or zucchini (cool) or any little cookery tricks you may have up your sleeve.

Finally, as we enjoy our various leftover turkey creations, let us give thanks for the fruits of the land and for those who labor to bring them to our tables. I have never been truly hungry, and as I write, many millions are hungry. This is a good season to do what we may to help them.

For one other chili recipe, Holiday Party Chili, posted during October, National Chili Month, CLICK HERE. (It’s a vegetarian one, though you could add turkey!)

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