Recipe: Easy Turkey Chili with Kale

updated Jan 29, 2020
Easy Turkey Chili with Kale
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

This turkey chili is one of my favorite recipes, and not just because I’ve made it a hundred times (at least). It was one of the first things I created on my own, starting with a version I made in my first minuscule apartment in New York City ten years ago. It has evolved over the years, but this is the recipe I’ve stuck with for quite some time — I just wanted to wait for the perfect winter day to share it.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I know chili is a very sacred dish to some people, especially those from Texas. And I know this one may not look too authentic, given the inclusion of ground turkey and the lack of kidney beans. But just trust me — it’s a great weeknight meal.

Here are a few notes on this chili’s many incarnations:

  • It used to have kidney beans, but I have a family member who doesn’t like them, and since I’m married to said family member, I switched to black beans. Now I prefer the way their smaller size allows me to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful.
  • Black beans and corn are such nice playmates, and frozen corn is so good, I made that a staple.
  • I went from white meat turkey to the darker 93% lean kind. It not only adds more flavor but also crumbles much, much better.
  • This is the first time I’ve ever actually written down the spice measurements, even though I get a consistent taste every time. My mix is equal sweet and spicy (I add a pretty healthy scoop of brown sugar) but you can adjust yours and make it your own.
  • The kale is new — I like having something green for color. In the summer, I add diced green pepper. In the winter, I’ve started adding kale or spinach towards the end of cooking. Healthy!
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Tester’s Notes

This recipe re-appeared on my radar just when I needed it. I was in the mood for chili, but wanted something that I could pull off on a weeknight. I’ve also had my fill of heavy, rich stews for this particular winter and really wanted something lighter and healthier, but still warming on a cold day.

Enter Elizabeth’s recipe for Turkey Chili with Kale! It was really perfect. Chewy bits of turkey in a spicy broth along with sweet corn, soft black beans, and silky tomatoes. I was skeptical of the kale at first — me and cooked kale have a bit of an adversarial history — but I was surprised by how much I liked it here. The ribbons add a hearty texture that I think this quick-cooking chili would otherwise lack.

I changed Elizabeth’s original recipe very little: a little more broth, some tweaking to the spices. It might not be the kind of chili that’s going to win a Texas cook off, but it certainly satisfies all my requirements.

Emma, February 2014

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Easy Turkey Chili with Kale

Makes 2 quarts

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds

    93% lean ground turkey

  • 2 teaspoons


  • 1 teaspoon


  • 1

    medium yellow onion, diced

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon

    brown sugar, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon

    chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1

    (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 2 cups

    chicken broth, plus more to taste

  • 1/2 bunch

    (4-5 ounces) dino or Tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves chopped into ribbons

  • 1

    (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup

    frozen corn kernels


  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the turkey, season with some of the salt and pepper. Cook, breaking the turkey apart into crumbles with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

  2. If you have some fat left in the pan, drain off all but 1 tablespoon; if you don't have any fat left, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, season with some of the salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  3. Add the tomato paste, sugar, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and remaining salt and pepper to the onions and garlic. Cook for about a minute, stirring to combine the paste with the spices. Add the diced tomatoes and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

  4. Add the meat and 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once simmering, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.

  5. Add the kale, beans, and corn and continue cooking until the kale has softened and tastes tender, but is still bright green, about 10 more minutes. Taste the chili — add more broth for a soupier chili and add more sugar or spices to taste.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months.

This recipe has been updated. Originally published February 3, 2009.