Hello, friends!! Wherever you are may still feel like summer but this right here…this.is.FALL. 3-Bean Slow Cooker Turkey Chili! This chili is a super hearty, mega cozy, real DEAL homemade meal. The kind that warms you from the inside out.
The season of ALL things comfort food is officially upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Lean ground turkey + three kinds of beans make this one hell-of-a nourishing and protein-packed dish. Celery, Carrots, Onions, Tomatoes, and Zucchini all come together to create a satisfying + substantial meal (without feeling too rich, greasy, or heavy).
This is not a crockpot chili that skimps on the veggies (it’s just one that makes you forget you’re eating lots of them in every single bite).
It’s one of my favorite ways to sneak a variety of vegetables into my meals. I don’t even have to think twice about whether I’m getting my daily servings in. When the ingredients span a spectrum of many colors, you can be sure that you’re getting a diverse array of nutrients along with it. And I don’t know about you, but eating-the-rainbow makes me pretty happy.
Plus it has the kind of taste that you can only get from slowly simmering veggies + spices together, hour-upon-hour until they have melded into a full on symphony of flavor.
Yes. I just used the word *symphony* to describe turkey chili. What can I say. Me and this chili, we go WAY back.
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This is the first (mostly) from-scratch recipe that my mom taught me how to make. I started with soups and stews, specifically of the crockpot // slow cooker variety. Why? Because when it comes to crockpot recipes you cannot lose. The fail rate is so low, you’re practically guaranteed to succeed.
That’s the beauty of this slow cooker turkey chili recipe. You really can’t mess it up.
This was the perfect starter recipe. I learned how to cut onions, celery, carrots, and zucchini. How to rinse + drain canned beans. How to brown raw ground meat on the stove top. How to use a slow cooker to make set-it-and-forget-it meals. And perhaps the most valuable of all – I learned that cooking really wasn’t as scary or as hard as I made it out to be in my head.
I remember being so afraid that I would utterly fudge the whole thing up. I would cut something wrong (or something off…), burn an ingredient, undercook the meat, or overspice the whole dish.
The kitchen was always my mom’s domain (and I mean that in the least sexist // least pigeonholed into a gender role way possible). Let me see if I can re-word that. She was a total boss of that space. She went into the kitchen and good food came out.
I grew up watching her cook everyday – wordlessly, seamlessly, confidently creating meals. Running back and forth from spice cabinet to stove top to pantry and back again. And as far as I was concerned, from the outside looking in, it might as well have happened by pure MAGIC. Pans came out of nowhere. Giant spoons. Sharp knives. Immersion blenders. Food processors. And then all disappeared again from whence they came.
My grandmothers both seemed to have a similar command of that central room of the house. Pretty much did NOT want to drop the ball on what seemed to be a *thing* that was in my blood.
Problem. I was terrified to even touch most of the appliances. Let alone raw meat. I maybe (okay, definitely) flinched the first time I lit the gas burner on the stove top. That *fwoof* sound. I was not ready.
And wait…what? I was going to be accountable for whether or not our family had chili // emergency frozen pizza for dinner that night??
I actually remember my mom having to lovingly (but firmly) coach me into using a spatula correctly “Lauren, stop being afraid of the pan. Don’t just push the vegetables around. Stir it like you mean it!”.
I didn’t know that there was a method to the madness. Up until that point, cooking seemed like something that you were either good at or you weren’t. You either had *it* or you didn’t. It seemed creative + spontaneous + challenging (and with the element of fire on the stove-top, felt a little dangerous. Okay, so I wasn’t the most daring child ever.)
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I never realized that it was a skill that could be taught + that I could learn it.
And then she finally showed me how to cook on my own and my life was forever changed. Now my curiosity around food + flavor knows no bounds. I cooked something and lived to tell the tale (and, just as importantly, so did every family member who ate it that evening). And that is why this recipe continues to be one of the nearest and dearest for me. Cause it’s the O.G. of the recipes. Steeped in all kinds of nostalgic memories.
Hence, why I saw fit to use the word *symphony* (full.circle.friends).
The history I have with THIS dish, is how I can confidently say that you can handle making this too. Because I could barely handle cooking at all when I first made it. You’ve absolutely got this one in the bag.
Sauté some veggies + brown and season the meat + load up the rest of the ingredient list straight into the crockpot. And let that bad boy go to work for you. Set the timer on the slow cooker and walk AWAY. Come back to a house that smells like dinner. That’s all there is to it.
A few notes before I leave you to the recipe card…
You can cook this in half the time if you set the slow cooker to high. However, I’m a staunch supporter of the low-and-slow technique (particularly when it comes to soups + stews).
Cooking the chili on a lower heat for a longer period of time gives the flavors more time to build + lets the ingredients cozy up to one another.
That’s why I prefer to make use of the full 8 hours set on low so that the chili feels more like one cohesive dish, instead of lots of separate ingredients combined together in one pot. The spices blossom, the flavors mesh. That being said, I have totally made this in just 4 hours (on high) when I’m in a bit of a pinch and it still comes out splendidly. Entirely up to you and what suits your schedule best.
It’s very well-suited for leftovers or for your weekly meal-prep. This is one of those recipes that tastes better each day that it sits in the fridge. The flavors really get a chance to marry + intensify. We’ve been making two batches of this each week (once on Sunday mornings and once again on Thursday evenings) for heat-and-eat meals on busy weeknights.
As I dive head first back into blog life, I’m leanin’ HEAVY on my meal prep to get me from Monday to Friday. Can’t tell you enough how nice it is to just open the fridge door and know that dinner is ready.
A sprinkle of cheese on top + some fresh herbs (if I’m feelin’ fancy) + a big ole hunk of toasted crusty bread. So simple + so classic + so good. Excuse me while I go microwave myself a big bowl and settle in with Netflix for the night. Let the cozy-on-the-couch fall vibes begin…
Healthy recipe for 3-Bean Slow Cooker Turkey Chili! Using fresh vegetables, canned beans, lean ground turkey, and savory spices. Gluten free & high-protein!
- 1 can pinto beans (15 oz)
- 1 can black beans (15 oz)
- 1 can kidney beans (15 oz)
- 1.5 lbs ground turkey
- 2 tbs water
- 3 tbs chili powder
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- 1.5 tbs garlic powder
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 medium zucchinis (or about 3 cups)
- 2 cans diced tomatoes (14 oz – each)*
- 8 stalks of celery (or about 2 cups)
- 6 carrots (or about 2 cups)**
- 1 tbs avocado oil (for cooking)
- 1 tsp salt
- Monterey jack cheese
- PREP VEGGIES: Trim off the ends of the zucchini + cut it down the center lengthwise before chopping into half-moons (about ½” thick). Cut the celery and carrots into thick ½” pieces as well. If your carrots are rather large (ie: if they are closer to the circumference of the zucchini), cut those into bite-sized half-moons instead of rounds so they are easier to eat.
- COOK VEGGIES: Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add ½ tbs cooking oil to the pan. Add onion and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté onion for a few minutes, until almost translucent. Then add celery and carrots and cook for a few minutes (or until slightly softened). While you wait for the veggies to cook through, open all the canned ingredients (the tomatoes + beans). Pour the diced tomatoes (liquid included) straight into the slow cooker, liquid and all. For the beans, drain the liquid from the can first and rinse them well before adding them to the bottom of the crockpot too. When the veggies are done cooking, add them to the crockpot as well.
- BROWN THE TURKEY: Add the remaining ½ tbs of oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and begin browning the turkey. After a minute or two, add the chili powder + oregano + garlic powder + 2 tbs of water and stir until well coated. The water will help rehydrate the dried spices so the flavors can really adhere to the meat. Turn off heat and add entire contents of pan to the crockpot.
- TURN ON THE SLOW COOKER: Add 1 tsp of salt to the crockpot. Stir. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or on high for 4 hours).
*I used canned tomatoes WITH salt. If you use the kind without, adjust seasoning to taste.
**I used an equivalent amount of baby carrots because that’s what we had on hand in the fridge AND because they fit really well on a spoon. Use whatever you prefer or have available.