Turkey Chili with Lentils – packed with protein, fiber, and all kinds of delicious warm chili flavors! It’s so filling and satisfying… perfect for those chilly nights when you want something comforting to stick with you and warm you up. This Turkey Chili Recipe will soon be your family's favorite chili!
And bonus, it’s a one-pot meal ready in less than one hour!
This Turkey Chili is a unique and delicious twist on traditional beef chili. The lentils replace the beans, and ground turkey is swapped for ground beef. (This amazing combo pairs perfectly with some of our other lentil recipes, like these Moroccan Lentils with Turkey Meatballs!)
Plus, it’s loaded with lots of veggies like onions, red peppers, canned tomatoes, garlic, and even pureed squash (or pumpkin puree) for a creamy thick base - making this one hearty and healthy pot of goodness.
I love this lentil and turkey chili recipe! It’s such a great way to incorporate more plant-based ingredients into chili while going undetected. Yep – you know I like my stealthy healthy meals!
Gimme all the veggies - just hide them so the kiddos eat them too!
Speaking of vegetables, can we talk about the lentils in this recipe??
What are lentils?
Lentils are legumes. They are actually related to beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts.
The name "lentil" comes from the Latin word for "lens" because of its shape. The most common lentils are brown, green, or red.
(I should also mention that lentils are very affordable! You can buy a 16-ounce bag of brown lentils for under 2 dollars.)
Are lentils good for you?
Lentils are great for you! They are considered part of the vegetable group AND the protein food group. So that means you can count lentils as a veggie or a protein… or both.
They are high in fiber and protein. In fact, lentils are the #2 in protein when stacked up against other beans (soybeans are #1). One cup of cooked lentils offers 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber.
Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
How to cook lentils
Cooking lentils is quick, and there’s no need to soak them! Just give them a very thorough rinsing in a strainer, then cook in boiling water (or in stock, or in a sauce, or in a stew/soup like this recipe), for about 15-20 minutes.
Brown lentils cook in about 30 minutes, other varieties like red lentils take 20 minutes, and green lentils around 40 minutes.
Another bonus to this recipe is that it has a thick stew-like texture and is loaded with smoky chili flavors that make it hearty and satisfying.
Let’s talk about how this Turkey Chili with Lentils comes together…
One pot chili recipe
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot over medium heat and let it heat up. Add the ground turkey and saute until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks.
Stir in all the seasonings and saute for another 1 minute.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed, then the onion, red pepper and jalapeños and fold the mixture all together. Saute for 3-4 minutes then add the garlic and saute one more minute.
Stir in the tomato paste, then add the diced tomatoes, squash or pumpkin puree (you can cook your own squash or pumpkin for this recipe or purchase it already cooked and prepared.
I recommend using canned pumpkin or cooked squash (that is frozen) from the freezer area where the veggies are located.
Continue to add the chicken stock, bay leaves, and lentils. Then bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low to achieve a gentle simmer for 30-35 minutes (stirring occasionally), or until the lentils are cooked to your preferred doneness.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed… For example, add a little sugar for a hint of sweetness that will balance the heat, or a bit more salt to increase the salty flavor, cayenne for more heat, or smoked paprika for a smoky flavor.
Now serve it up with your favorite toppings… chopped jalapeños, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onion or diced red onion, avocado, shredded cheese or sour cream.
It’s so flavorful and filling, I know you’re gonna love it as much as we do.
This Turkey Chili recipe makes 10 servings so it’s perfect for feeding a crowd or enjoying for several dinners and lunches throughout the week. It freezes great as well, so you could eat some now and save some for later.
Enjoy my friend!
- 2 tablespoons oil, divided
- 2 pounds ground turkey * See Note
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large red pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
- 2 jalapeños, diced with seeds left in (for less heat, remove the seeds and membranes or simply omit the peppers)
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon hot paprika (or more smoked paprika for less heat)
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 30 ounces canned diced tomatoes (Two 15oz cans)
- 2 cups or 16 ounces squash (butternut/acorn) puree, or pumpkin puree *See Note
- 40 ounces chicken stock *See Note
- 8 ounces dry brown lentils thoroughly rinsed in cold water and drained, debris and any dirt removed *See Note
- Garnish options: rough chopped cilantro, diced or sliced jalapenos, chopped tomatoes, red or green onion diced or sliced, avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot over medium heat and let it heat up. Add the ground turkey and sauté until no longer pink (about 5-6 minutes), breaking up the meat as it cooks.
- Next, stir in all the seasonings and saute for another 1 minute.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed, then the onion, red pepper and jalapenos and fold the mixture all together. Saute for 3-4 minutes then add the garlic and saute one more minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste, then add the diced tomatoes, squash or pumpkin puree, chicken stock, bay leaves, lentils and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then turn the heat down to medium or medium low to achieve a gentle simmer for 30-35 minutes (stirring occasionally), or until the lentils are cooked to your preferred doneness. Cook the chili with the lid on, tilted so it’s partially uncovered.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed… For example: add a little sugar for a hint of sweetness and to balance the heat, salt for a saltier flavor, cayenne for more heat, or more smoked paprika for a stronger smoky flavor.
- Garnish with chopped jalapenos, chopped tomatoes, red or green onion diced onion, avocado, shredded cheese or sour cream.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or the microwave and be sure to add more chicken stock or even water since the lentils will continue to absorb the liquid in the chili as it sits. You can also freeze this chili for up to 1 month.
I used 2 pounds of ground turkey for this recipe because we’re all about the protein over here. You can reduce the amount to 1 pound if you prefer.
You can purchase cooked butternut squash in the frozen veggies area at your grocery store. Canned pumpkin is usually located in the baking isle. Or you can make your own pumpkin puree in the Instant Pot or oven.
For a thinner consistency add more chicken stock - or even water - as desired.
We used brown lentils for this recipe. They are the most common, least expensive and they require about 30 minutes to cook. If using other lentils for this recipe the cook time will vary as some varieties cook-time is different. Red lentils cook in about 20 minutes and green lentils cook in 40 minutes.
Amount Per Serving Calories 441Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 103mgSodium 849mgCarbohydrates 25gNet Carbohydrates 16gFiber 9gSugar 9gProtein 32g
This nutrition card uses an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. This estimate is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice!
And if you’re looking for more chili recipes, we’ve got you covered! Try our Instant Pot Smoky Chicken Chili, Stout Beer Chili, White Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans, or this Smoky Vegetarian Chili!