The BEST ever healthy turkey chili recipe! Perfect for those who like it spicy or more mellow, can be made in the instant pot or slow cooker! Smells wonderful and feeds a crowd!
First, the significance of today is not lost on me. We still mourn the victims and heroes of 9/11. Never forget. <3
You guys went nuts for this one when I shared it on my Instastories! I made the same recipe in the Instant Pot and the Slow Cookerat the same time so that I could test both and then freeze one batch for when Hungry Baby comes. I received a ton of messages telling me how delicious it looked and how you all wanted to dive right in through the phone!
It’s still close to 100 degrees here in Phoenix, so I wasn’t quite expecting that response. I didn’t think the world was ready for chili yet, but apparently, I was wrong. My bad. You guys either live somewhere cold or are trying to will colder weather with hearty chilis and soups like I am!
This is the first time I’ve tested the exact same recipe using both the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker at the same time. So, I’ll share the process for both and the differences (pros and cons I found.)
Cook This Turkey Chili In The Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker
With the Instant Pot, the clear advantage is the ability to saute the ground meat and onions in the same pot you are going to cook with. I totally cheated here because I used the IP to saute the ground meat for the slow cooker version and then again for the Instant Pot version. If you want to make two batches and freeze one like I did, you can do the same thing.
With the IP version, I sauteed the ground turkey with onions in avocado oil and then added 1 tablespoon of chili powder directly on to the meat. I didn’t do this in the slow cooker version and I definitely wish I had. It adds WAY more flavor to the meat and final product.
Once the meat is done, you can dump on the remaining veggies and beans. I chose to use unsalted beans and diced tomato so that I could control the amount of salt in the recipe. Nothing worse than a recipe that is too salty, ugh, gross. You can always add salt, but you can’t take it away.
Then you dump in the sauce, broth, and seasonings and stir it all up. You can give it a couple of taste tests now if you want since the meat it’s fully cooked it’s technically safe, but probably best to wait till after because your taste test won’t be a true representative of the final product.
I cooked mine on high pressure for 5 minutes then I let it naturally release for 20 minutes. Here is the thing, that sounds nice but you should keep in mind you will have a FULL POT so it probably took 20-25 minutes for it to come to pressure in the first place. So for the total cooking time in the Instant Pot, we are talking more like 45 minutes to an hour.
I expected the Instant Pot method to produce a chili that had less flavor than the slow cooker version, but I was totally wrong. In fact, I even planned to freeze the Instant Pot version because I thought that it would benefit from the additional time of letting flavors “meld together.”
If anything, because I browned the meat with the extra seasoning I found the Instant Pot to be as flavorful as the slow cooker version, if not more so. Now I kept the basic recipe on the mild side, so it was husband and child-friendly, but I provided notes in the recipe card on how to spice things up if you want!
Cook this Turkey Chili In the Slow Cooker
With the slow cooker, you, unfortunately, have to brown your meat in some other pot or pan then transfer it to the slow cooker. So, you can start by adding all your veggies and beans to the slow cooker first.
You may notice I chose not to cook my onions with the meat. You can if you want, but you don’t’ have to. Once your meat is browned, you can add it to the slow cooker along.
Do you have to brown your meat? No, but you really really should. Technically you can throw in raw ground meat into the slow cooker and let it cook up that way. You will add extra moisture to the final product and have less flavorful meat (browning it locks in the juices and natural flavors). Plus you may never fully get it to break up the way you want it.
So the reason that most recipes have you brown the meat first is that the final product is better that way (taste and texture), not because it’s unsafe to put it in raw. If you do put it in raw though you better be darn sure it’s fully cooked, and the whole thing reaches a temperature of 165F minimum, so no one gets sick.
Then you add your sauces, broth, and spices and let the slow cooker do its thing on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours. The HUGE benefit here? You can start this in the morning and have dinner waiting for you! (If it cooks for a few more hours that’s okay, your veggies will just be extra tender.) Or, if you have a fancy slow cooker with a timer, it will switch to warm mode for you automatically!
Which Version Is Better?
Honestly, after both versions were fully cooked I adjusted the flavor by adding more chili powder and salt, so I thought they both tasted great! I think it really comes down to the time you have and what machine you want to use. That’s just my experience though!
How To Freeze Healthy Turkey & Butternut Squash Chili
I did freeze the Instant Pot batch I made for when Hungry Baby comes. To do this, I let it cool in glass containers in the fridge for about 4 hours. Then I dumped into labeled plastic bags and frozen it.
You could also freeze all the ingredients together without cooking most if first. For this version, you would still need to prepare your meat but everything else you could chop and add to the bag. I added directions on how to do this in the recipe card below!
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Healthy Butternut Squash & Turkey Chili
- 1.5 lbs 99% lean ground turkey
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 can no salt added red kidney beans, rinsed 15 ounces
- 1 can no salt added black beans, rinsed 15 ounces
- 1 green bell pepper deseeded, deveined, chopped
- 1 jalapeno OPTIONAL - see notes
- 15 ounces cubed butternut squash
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can no salt added diced roma tomatoes 15 ounces
- 2 cans tomato sauce 15 ounces each
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2-4 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt more as needed
- shredded cheese
- sour cream
- green onion
Slow Cooker Directions:
Sautee onions for 1 minute in avocado oil until they are translucent and tender. (You can skip this step and just add the onions to the slow cooker if you want, that's what I did.) Then add the ground turkey and brown it until fully cooked. When the turkey is almost done the cooking, add 1 tbsp of the chili powder to it and finish cooking it.
Once the turkey is done cooking it can be added to the slow cooker with all the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Mix it well and let it cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6 hours.
Season it with more chili powder and salt to taste!
Optional toppings: cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and green onions.
Instant Pot Directions:
Sautee onions for 1 minute in avocado oil until they are translucent and tender. Then add the ground turkey and brown it until fully cooked. When the turkey is almost done the cooking, add 1 tbsp of the chili powder to it and finish cooking it.
Once the turkey is fully cooked, turn off the instant pot and add the rest of the ingredients into the instant pot.
Place the lid on the Instant Pot and turn the valve to seal. Cook on high for five minutes and then let the pressure naturally release at least 20 minutes. Make sure to follow the manual for safety settings and procedures when operating.
- Season it with more chili powder and salt to taste!
- Optional toppings: cheese, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and green onions.
Option 1: Cook in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker following directions above. Let cool in the fridge for 4 hours then transfer to a freezer container or bag and store for up to 3 months. Defrost and then reheat in the microwave.
Option 2: Fully cook the ground meat. Then add the ground meat, onion, beans, pepper, squash, diced tomatoes, chili powder, salt, and chicken broth in a freezer friendly bag. Before cooking, add two cans of tomato sauce. Cook from frozen in the IP by pressuring cooking 10 minutes and letting it naturally release. Cook from frozen in the slow cooker by cooking on high for 6-8 hours. (I have not tested this method.)
To make it spicier, you can do one of two things:
- Add 1 chopped jalapeno to cooking. Add it at the same time you add the beans and green pepper.
- If you need to keep it mild for others but want a spicy version for yourself here is what I did: I added sprinkles of cayenne pepper the first night I ate it. But, when I went to store it I split the leftovers into TWO containers. In my container, I placed jalapeno slices on top. The next day when I went to eat it I removed the jalapeno slices but the chili was PLENTY spicy and delicious!
You may also like:
- Instant Pot Recipe Round-Up
- Instant Pot Freezer Friendly Meal Prep Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Slow Cooker or Stove Top Minestrone
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