Recipe: Slow-Cooker Turkey Sweet Potato Chili

updated Jan 29, 2020
Slow-Cooker Turkey Sweet Potato Chili
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(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

When people get a slow cooker, chili is often the first thing they make with it. And why not? With minimal effort and several hours of hands-off cooking, you’re gifted with a robust meal that feeds a crowd. This version is especially winning with its delicious, healthful mix of ground turkey, sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, and chipotles.

(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Treat Your Ground Turkey Right

Ground turkey is a great choice when making chili because the hefty amount of spices and aromatics help “beef” up the lean meat’s flavor, plus there isn’t a preponderance of fat to skim off. But that leanness creates its own challenges, namely that the meat can become dry and grainy when cooked over long periods. A couple of tricks can really help your turkey chili take flight.

First, start with the right turkey — one with plenty of dark meat ground in with the white (avoid turkey labeled 99% lean, which will dry out quickly). Second, mixing a paste of bread and milk into the turkey helps keep things moist, just as it does when making meatballs or meatloaf.

I made this chili for the first time one morning while sipping my second cup of coffee, and decided to add some to the pot. Its dark bitterness added backbone, balancing out the sweetness of the tomatoes and sweet potatoes. If I was pulling this recipe together in the evening to cook overnight, I might have added a glug of beer, which would serve the same purpose.

This recipe does require some prep — you must brown the onions, garlic, and meat before adding them to the slow cooker — but that modest amount of work goes a long way to building depth of flavor. This version is rather mild, so feel free to add more chipotles if you like, although I prefer to serve it with a bottle of hot sauce at the table so everyone can season to their own liking. A sprinkle of chopped white onion and cilantro, along with some shredded cheddar, completes the meal. And don’t forget the cornbread!

The Wholesome Slow Cooker

We believe that the slow cooker is a tool that can help you eat well no matter your goals. With the start of the new year, we’re utilizing the slow cooker to create wholesome meals to nourish us from breakfast to dinner. In the series you’ll find recipes full of veggies and never short on flavor. It’s time to take advantage of all this workhorse appliance has to offer.

(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Slow-Cooker Turkey Sweet Potato Chili

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the chili:

  • 2 slices

    good-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed

  • 1/4 cup


  • 2 pounds

    ground turkey (not 99% lean)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2

    large white onions, chopped

  • 6 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup

    chili powder

  • 1 tablespoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 2

    large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and diced

  • 2

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

  • 1

    (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup

    canned chipotles in adobo, minced

  • 1 cup

    brewed coffee

  • 1 cup


For serving:

  • Shredded cheddar cheese

  • Chopped white onions

  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Tear the bread into pieces and place into a large bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and mash it together with a fork to make a paste. Add the turkey, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper and mix together gently but thoroughly with your hands; set aside.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder, oregano, and cumin and cook, stirring frequently to keep the spices from burning, until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Push the vegetables to the side and add the tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 2 minutes, then stir the tomato paste into the vegetables to combine.

  3. Add half of the turkey mixture and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining turkey mixture and cook until no longer pink. Transfer to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.

  4. Add the sweet potatoes, beans, diced tomatoes and their juices, chipotles, coffee, water, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 6 to 8 hours. Taste and season as needed with more salt and pepper. Serve with the shredded cheese, chopped onion, and cilantro.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 6 months.