Put Your Leftovers to Good Use With This White Bean Turkey Chili

Looking for a recipe with minimal prep that can be made with just a few ingredients? Or a way to use up those turkey leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast? Then this one’s for you!

Vertical image of a spoonful of turkey chili garnished with shredded cheese over a white bowl with more chili and avocado cubes on a wooden surface, with orange and white text on the top and bottom of the image.

For such a theoretically simple dish, there seems to be a never-ending debate over how to make the best chili.

Ground meat or pulled poultry, three types of beans or no beans, beer, chocolate, jalapenos, cumin, smoked or sweet paprika, diced tomatoes – the list of options and suitable alternatives goes on and on.

And just as the ingredient list can get complicated, so can the cooking methods.

While I’ll never turn down a bowl of Colorado-style hatch green chili, making it involves multiple steps, and getting the timing just right in order to hit just the right flavor notes.

Tasty? Yes. Easy to make on a weeknight? Absolutely not.

Vertical image of a white bowl filled with a chunky tomato stew topped with a mound of shredded cheese in front of a glass casserole dish with cornbread and a brown bowl on a wooden surface.

Instead, we’re putting all those fancy, contest-ready recipes away and making a super simple, classic chili for dinner tonight.

It may not be award-winning (though I’m sure busy moms and dads would disagree), but this recipe is everything chili really should be: packed with texture, slightly spicy and smoky, with minimal hands-on time required.

Plus, if you’re looking to eat healthier, but feel like it takes too much time and is too expensive, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this recipe.

Thanks to the turkey and hearty beans, this recipe is high in protein and fiber, while being low in fat and calories. However, if you want to make it a little more indulgent, feel free to sprinkle on some cheese and avocado slices.

And those tomatoes? Besides being the backbone of any good chili recipe, they also provide a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K.

Vertical top-down image of a white handled bowl filled with a tomato and poultry stew topped with shredded cheese and avocado with a spoon dipped into it on a wooden surface next to a casserole dish with cornbread.

Oh, and they happen to be one of the best dietary sources of an antioxidant called lycopene. Responsible for the tomato’s classic red color, lycopene has been shown to help improve cholesterol levels, protect against heart disease, and it may even help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

To add a little extra smoky flavor, I used fire-roasted diced tomatoes – but feel free to use regular diced tomatoes if that’s what you already have on hand!

Okay, so now that we have the nutrition piece covered, let’s talk about actually making this bowl of warm goodness.

As long as you can open a few cans, dice an onion, and pour some ingredients into a soup pot, you’re ready to go!

Sure, there’s also the step of sauteing the onion and garlic in oil to add extra depth of flavor. But as long as you don’t mind a little multitasking, the onion and garlic will become pleasantly fragrant while the broth comes to a boil.

Once everything is in the soup pot, you can step back, letting it bubble away while you get some other stuff done around the house. Or, sit and catch up on your latest binge-worthy show. I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Vertical image of a white bowl filled with a tomato, bean, and turkey stew garnished with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped avocado, with a spoon holding some of it, on a wooden surface.

Whether you’re a busy parent, an on-the-go professional, or trying to feed a crowd, this chili is your answer when you’re figuring out what you should make for dinner tonight, and there’s some leftover turkey in the fridge!

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Horizontal image of a hand holding a spoon with a cheesy stew mixture topped with avocados in a white handled bowl on a wooden surface.

White Bean Turkey Chili

  • Author: Kelli McGrane
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Made with leftover poultry and a handful of pantry ingredients, white bean turkey chili is a healthy, budget-friendly meal.


  • 2 cups homemade or low-sodium turkey or chicken stock
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 2 14.5-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked shredded turkey
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt, to taste (optional)
  • Toppings of choice, such as cheese, sour cream, or avocado slices


  1. Place stock, tomatoes, and beans in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil. 
  2. In a small saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer onion and garlic to soup pot. 
  3. Add turkey, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and black pepper to soup pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. 
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving. Ladle chili into bowls and serve with toppings of choice.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Chili
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Stew

Keywords: chili, turkey, white bean, tomato, spices

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients

Horizontal image of two cans each of cannellini beans and diced fire roasted tomatoes, a box of chicken broth, and bowls of shredded poultry, ground spices, chopped onions, and minced garlic.

Measure out all of your ingredients, and dice the yellow onion. Mince the garlic, or push it through your garlic press.

Note that shredded chicken can be substituted for the turkey. Got a rotisserie bird from the store, or a few extra grilled breasts from last night’s dinner? Leftovers are perfect for this recipe, or to use in our other poultry-based recipe for slow cooker white chicken chili.

For extra smoky flavor, I like to use fire roasted canned diced tomatoes. If you don’t have any, check your spice rack for smoked paprika for a flavorful addition!

Step 2 – Bring Stock to a Simmer

Horizontal image of white beans and fire-roasted tomatoes in a black pot.

Place the stock, tomatoes, and beans in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil.

Step 3 – Cook

Horizontal image of a hand about to pour a bowl of shredded poultry into a pot with simmering liquid.

In a small saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic.

Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer onion and garlic to the soup pot.

Horizontal image of a hand dumping a white dish with three assorted spices into a pan with a mound of cooked shredded poultry and liquids.

Add the turkey, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and black pepper to the soup pot and bring to a rapid boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Want another way to cook this recipe? Learn how to make chili like this one in the pressure cooker!

Step 4 – Adjust Seasonings and Serve

Horizontal image of a handled white ceramic bowl and a brown bowl filled with a chili dish next to a glass casserole with cornbread on a wooden surface.

Taste and adjust seasonings before serving. Add a little salt if you like, or feel free to omit it entirely.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve with toppings of your choice. Some of my favorites include sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, diced jalapenos, avocado slices, cilantro, or a squeeze of lime juice.

While leftovers will keep for 5 days in the fridge, I prefer to freeze this chili in single-serving portions for easy lunches or dinners when you don’t have the energy to run to the grocery store on a busy evening.

Leftovers will keep for up to 3-4 months in the freezer.

Don’t Forget the Cornbread!

Just like stew, chili is meant to have something dunked into it. While crackers, tortillas, or bakery-style bread slices will all do the job, I highly recommend making a pan of cornbread instead.

Horizontal image of a hand holding a spoon with a cheesy stew mixture topped with avocados in a white handled bowl on a wooden surface.

Crumbly and sweet, it’s the perfect complement to the slightly spicy broth and the savoriness of the beans and turkey.

Before you add cornbread mix to your shopping list, consider making your own at home. We’ve got a few recipes to get you started:

What are your go-to toppings and sides for chili? Share in the comments below, and be sure to rate this recipe after you try it!

Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 22, 2011. Last updated February 25, 2020.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD

Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.

2 thoughts on “Put Your Leftovers to Good Use With This White Bean Turkey Chili”

    • Thanks, Gordon! We don’t currently have an active newsletter but you can keep on top of our latest posts by accepting notifications (click the button at the top of the home page in the popup window) and/or follow us on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.