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  • David Skarin

Turkey Chili

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

**This is an update to a previous post for beef chili. This has a couple modifications, highlighted below as well. Original post: Smoked Chili**

It’s almost that time of year! Chili season!!! Here in Arizona it’s been an absolute brutal summer breaking all sorts of records that shouldn’t be broken. However, the weather is just starting to cool and it’s time to start working on that perfect chili recipe just in time for Fall.

Not sure how many of you have watched the show The Big Bang Theory, but to quote Sheldon Cooper, "Then it's not chili. Real chili has no beans in it, but...your ignorance is forgiven."

Not my ignorance! No beans in this chili!

This was my first attempt at chili on the grill and I was extremely pleased. The slow cook allows the flavors to marry together nicely. I didn’t add much heat as my son tends to shy away from anything spicy. Even if I say spicy when something has no heat it becomes an uphill battle to get him to eat it. For those that don’t have that concern, I definitely suggest a touch of heat noted below.

I also suggest making more than needed and use the leftovers for Chili Cheese Dogs. I take that back, I don't suggest, I demand you do so.


Fast Facts

Category: Meat, Stew, Chili

Cut: 85/15 Ground Turkey

Weight: 2 Pounds

Grill: Traeger

Heat Source: Wood pellet

Estimated Cook Time: 3 Hours (can be done in less…or more)

Actual Cook Time: 3.5 Hours

Estimated Cooking Temperature: 450 for first portion of cook and then 185 for remainder

Actual Cooking Temperature: 450 for first portion of cook and then 185 for remainder

Location of Purchase: Local grocery store

Cook Date: August 28, 2020


Ingredient List

  • 2 pounds 85/15 ground turkey

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 cup or 8 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons garlic (about 6 cloves)

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (reduce to 2 ½ or 2 if sensitive to heat. I did not have any heat register with 2 tablespoons) **update, used 3 tablespoons, no real heat registered**

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons cumin

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • ½ teaspoon allspice

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (reduce to a ¼ teaspoon or eliminate if you desire no heat)

  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounce can) **added an 8 ounce can as well. My thought was since I'll let it smoke on the smoker uncovered for a few hours, I'd have some reduction. This was the right move if slow cooking with an open lid**

  • 1 cup water **added 1/4 cup water...see above**

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • Optional toppings: Avocado, cheddar cheese, diced onion, etc.

Supply List



Step 1: Preheat your grill to 400-450 degrees, place your cast-iron Dutch oven on the grill.

Note: This recipe can be done on any grill type: Pellet smoker such as a Traeger, a gas grill such as this Dyna-Glo, or a charcoal grill like this Weber. This cook was done on my Traeger as I wanted to get some smokiness infused in the chili. Should you not want that, or not have a pellet smoker/grill, you can easily do this on any grill.

Step 2: Add the oil and allow it to heat up about 15 seconds, the oil should start to glisten.

Step 3: Add your chopped onions, stirring periodically, and cook until soft. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add in your garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

Step 5: Add your ground turkey and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Be sure to break up the beef be stirring regularly.

Step 6: Add remaining dry ingredients: chili powder, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa powder, allspice and cayenne. Continue to stir constantly and integrate the spice throughout, about 1 minute.

Step 7: Add tomato sauce, water and red wine vinegar, mix thoroughly and allow the mixture to come to a simmer.

Step 8: Start reducing your temperature to 185 degrees. See note below on whether to cover the chili or not.

Note: If you are cooking this on a normal gas or charcoal grill with no “smoke” element such as wood chips, I suggest covering and let cook a minimum of an hour, stirring occasional (about every 15 minutes). This can simmer at 185 for a few hours if you want to continue marrying the flavors together.

If you are cooking with a “smoke” element, cook it uncovered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally (about every 30 minutes). Due to the Dutch oven being uncovered, you will have some evaporation and therefore a thicker chili. The longer you cook uncovered, the thicker it will get. **for this recipe, I added additional liquid to accommodate the evaporation factor...definitely recommend this approach**

Step 9: After an hour or more on the grill, start cooking to preference. You can uncover the Dutch oven for a thicker chili or take it off immediately and serve. Chili always tastes before the longer the flavors have time to integrate.

Top your chili with whatever your heart desires! I personally love diced yellow sweet onion and sharp cheddar cheese. Delish!



Be sure to check out some of our other recipes that use this chili:


Lessons Learned (Note: I will update this section to include your lessons learned from the comment section)


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