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White Turkey Chili

January 27, 2012

Standing over the stove, I picked up my wooden spoon for a tiny sample.  Pleasantly surprised by what I tasted, I put the spoon down, replaced the lid on the pot and walked away.  Two minutes later I found myself back in front of the stove.  Maybe it needs more spices, I reasoned.  I had to taste again.  No, no more spices.  I walked away…again.

This game continued for a while.  I wouldn’t let the chili simmer in peace.  With each visit to the stove I rewarded myself with another bite, each succeeding one bigger than the last.  Finally, I had to admit to myself that I was no longer “just tasting”–I had shamelessly begun to eat right out of the pot.

I couldn’t help it–this was my first time ever making chili and I have Liren at Kitchen Confidante to thank for it. When she posted this chicken chili on her blog I had to have some, too, but I couldn’t just invite myself over.  Besides, it was a cold, rainy day–perfect conditions to try to make my own.

But instead of following a traditional recipe, I decided to try a variation that has always intrigued me–white chili.  It gets its name from the absence of tomatoes in the dish.  White beans, clear stock, and/or poultry are the typical main ingredients, contributing to its paler color.  Admittedly, my version doesn’t look that light but it’s still paler than a traditional chili.

After comparing a few recipes online, I learned that other ingredients appear to be staples in white chili: ground cumin, diced green chiles, chili powder, etc.  I settled on this recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes, making some tweaks with preparation and ingredient proportions along the way to suit me.

I will share, though, that what interested me most about this particular recipe was the use of ground cloves.  I did not notice it in the others I consulted but I liked the sound of it.  In the end, the cloves are what made this a winner for me.  I had whole cloves which I ground for this so the spice added a vibrant finish to the chili.  Paired with the cumin, they added a richness without overpowering the other ingredients.  I even used very lean ground turkey breast meat and canned canellini beans but the chili was still quite flavorful.  The possibilities for toppings are endless but ultimately I chose cilantro, yogurt (I had no sour cream), jalapeños, chopped tomatoes and pepper jack cheese.  Next time, avocados and chopped onions will join the party.  I was very happy with my first chili attempt and I am glad that there is plenty left of winter to allow me to enjoy it again.

White Turkey Chili

* Adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey breast meat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (use the higher amount to suit your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the lesser amount did not add much heat)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (if you use freshly ground cloves like I did, the flavor will be more prominent)
  • 2 pinches dried tarragon
  • 3 cans cannellini beans (or other white bean)
  • 2 4-oz cans diced green chilies
  • 4 cups stock (I used chicken)
  • Olive oil

For garnish:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • sour cream (or yogurt)
  • monterey jack cheese
  • Chopped jalapeño peppers
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Diced avocado
  • Chopped onions
  1. In a large pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onions until they become translucent, about 2 minutes then add the ground turkey. Cook this mixture until the meat is no longer red then add the spices from the cumin to the tarragon in the list above.
  2. Add the diced green chilies, beans and stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer for about one hour.
  3. Ladle in bowls and garnish with preferred toppings.
35 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 10:03 AM

    Next time, come on over! But then again, you don’t need to with a beautiful chili of your own! Yours is the yin to my yang 🙂 Oh dear, that was corny.

    Seriously, though, I love the flavors here, and I love that it looks so light and healthy!

  2. January 27, 2012 10:19 AM

    Looks like a gorgeous bowl of comfort. Wish I was enjoying a big bowl of it right now!

  3. January 27, 2012 10:42 AM

    I definitely prefer white chili to red chili, and this looks like it would hit the spot!

  4. January 27, 2012 11:10 AM

    Great recipe and great pictures. Love ’em!

  5. January 27, 2012 11:23 AM

    I love chili anyway I can get it, as long as I have some Fritos to eat with it. The cloves sound delicious.

  6. January 27, 2012 1:43 PM

    My son hates red food and I have been meaning to make him white chili for a long time now. I love how you couldn’t help but to eat from the pot. This recipe sounds delicious!! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • January 29, 2012 11:17 AM

      Thanks, Sommer! Isn’t it funny how particular kids can be? My sister had similar challenges with one of her kids. If you try this, I hope your son likes it. 🙂

  7. January 27, 2012 3:26 PM

    this looks fantastic. I love chili in any form but for some reason, while I make a chicken chili, I’ve never had it with any sort of GROUND poultry. I NEED to try this 😀

    • January 29, 2012 11:19 AM

      Hi Janet, I’m such a novice with chili, I didn’t even realize that ground meat is not typically used? Honestly, it just seemed so much easier to go this route. Glad you like it, thanks! 🙂

  8. January 27, 2012 4:49 PM

    This looks so hearty and full of flavor. No wonder you kept going back to the pot!

  9. January 27, 2012 5:26 PM

    Funny story. We’ve all been guilty of several ‘tastes’. It’s worse when you cook while you’re hungry! If a meal is good though, sometimes you can’t control your spoon.

  10. January 27, 2012 7:32 PM

    I love white bean chili – so hearty & delicious. BTW, beautiful yellow Le Creuset!

    • January 29, 2012 11:22 AM

      Thanks, Laura! I’ve had the yellow Le Creuset for a few years and I love it, too. It’s sunny color makes cooking more fun in winter. 🙂

  11. January 27, 2012 7:37 PM

    Sounds like a delicious recipe, and let’s face it tasting leads to eating most of the time! Beautiful pictures, love your yellow pot.

  12. January 28, 2012 7:15 AM

    Such a beautiful chili! So glad you’ve perfected it for us, Jean…it’s soup weather here again!!!

  13. January 28, 2012 9:55 AM

    Delish!!! What a healthy and tasty looking chili. With the chilly nights this is a perfect dish to make. Love your photos!!!!! (BTW – love the boards – you have inspired me to run to home depot and start experimenting) Enjoy your weekend.

    • January 29, 2012 11:24 AM

      I’m so glad, Lisa. After working on so many the last few months I’m starting to use them in my posts finally. It’s been a fun project–but equally as addicting as collecting props, I’m afraid!

  14. January 28, 2012 11:29 AM

    Usually I find chili to be too heavy and greasy but this one is perfect and got me thinking of the day of the week I am going to be fixin’ it!

  15. January 28, 2012 11:56 AM

    I do find the addition of cloves and tarragon interesting in this white chili. I haven’t made a lot of white chilies, but I’m pinning this on my chili board to try!

    • January 29, 2012 11:25 AM

      Hi, Jeanette. I really like the cloves in this and the tarragon was just a spur of the moment addition but I think it worked. 🙂

      Thanks so much!

  16. January 28, 2012 1:12 PM

    This looks & sounds wonderful!

    I’m awarding you the “Inspirational Blog” award! Please stop by my blog to “pick it up” and share with other deserving bloggers:

    Have a great weekend!

  17. January 28, 2012 2:50 PM

    This looks great! I love using ground cloves just for the smell!

  18. January 29, 2012 11:05 AM

    The pictures are stunning! The dish is tempting! Gimme 🙂

  19. January 29, 2012 11:10 AM

    Happy Sunday Jean! I’ve had chili on my to make list for a while. I like the turkey and white beans. I love your yellow pot, I need a new one, I’m just not getting anymore kitchen stuff till we get moved. We are trying to relocate soon and I will be closer to you guys.

    • January 29, 2012 11:28 AM

      Gina, I’m short on space now, too. I stopped at three Le Creuset pots once I got the colors/shapes I wanted: red, yellow, blue. Can’t justify getting more. 😦

      Hey, I’m excited that you’ll be living closer to us–that’s great!

  20. January 29, 2012 12:17 PM

    Beautiful photos. Looks divine. I love cannellini beans in chile, thanks for sharing.

  21. January 29, 2012 10:17 PM

    What a great chili recipe! I love the combination of ingredients. And yes, the ground clove as well as the pinch of tarragon is unusual, but does sound quite good in this chili.

  22. January 30, 2012 11:03 AM

    Looks wonderful! I love turkey chili and I think white chili are severely under rated!

  23. February 2, 2012 11:05 AM

    Hi Jean! I recently completed my first attempt at white chili, a recipe I found, of all places, a Costco cookbook (long story). LOL. I wish I had made it after your post so that I could have tried yours. Next time, I’m making this one. I hope all is well!

  24. February 5, 2012 12:25 PM

    Your white turkey chili recipe looks fantastic! Thank you for sharing the recipe!


  1. Chili Recipe Roundup 2011 - Jeanette's Healthy Living

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