Here I present to you my very favorite chili. It’s true. Is it a traditional chili? Not in the slightest. Do I care? No, no I do not. Because what it is, is delicious through and through, thanks to a balance of sweet butternut squash, hearty black beans, amenable ground turkey, and smoky chili flavor. It’s rich enough that it doesn’t scream “turkey” whatsoever and a little secret ingredient provides a depth of flavor that usually takes a long stretch of simmering to achieve. (Spoiler alert: this doesn’t.) It’s quick, it’s healthy, it’s hearty, but most importantly it’s soooo good.
Like I mentioned, ground turkey is the base here, but this doesn’t really taste like turkey chili. It’s much richer, and tastes meaty in a way that the usual turkey chili doesn’t. So just brown some up in some oil…
… and then add in some onion and garlic.
Like with most any chili, your seasoning mix is probably the most important factor here and here’s what you’ve got going on:
Chili powder. Three tablespoons. It seems like a lot, but please, just go for it. Cumin. One tablespoon. And my secret weapon: cocoa powder. No, it doesn’t make it taste sweet (but make sure to use unsweetened, obviously). It adds a depth of flavor, a certain je ne sais quoi and I use it in every chili I make. Don’t knock it until you try it and please try it at least once. Once you do, I doubt you’ll be going back.
Stir in some tomato paste and cook everything long enough for the flavors of the spices to bloom, and then stir in your cubed butternut squash, crushed tomatoes, black beans, and broth.
Can you use pre-peeled and cut butternut squash? Of course you can. That makes life even easier! Don’t like or don’t have butternut squash? Sweet potatoes are a great substitute here and give you the same balance of flavors, more or less.
Simmer that all for just twenty minutes or so until the liquid has reduced to your liking and dig in. This is ground turkey, after all, so you don’t need a long simmering session to tenderize any tougher cuts of meat.
It’s turkey, it’s winter squash, it’s black beans, sure, but it still tastes great with all your usual favorite toppings like tortilla chips, sour cream, cilantro, or green onion. In other words, not traditional, but it still satisfies any chili craving.
When the weather starts to cool, I make this all the time on a lazy Sunday and then eat it for lunch throughout the week. Sometimes I switch out the beans, sometimes I sub in a different winter squash or a sweet potato, but I always stay true to that hearty dose of chili powder and a touch of cocoa powder too. It’s a magic combination and I hope you love it too!
Black Bean Butternut Turkey Chili
10m prep time
30m cook time
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 (15 oz) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 cups chicken broth
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Your favorite toppings for serving
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add turkey, season with salt and pepper, and brown until cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Add onion and cook until starting to soften, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Stir in chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, and bay leaves. Stir in tomato paste and let cook 1 minute.
- Add butternut squash, tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until squash is tender, 20-25 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning as needed, serve with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!