Cranberry Bean & Turkey Chili

chiliStrangely enough, I’ve never made a traditional, American, ground-meat-and-beans chili.  I’ve made authentic Mexican chile verde, plenty of bean and meat stews, and certainly do my fair share of cooking with fresh and dried chile peppers, but somehow I’ve never made the standard Sunday-afternoon-football, serve-an-army chili. (I guess I still haven’t when you consider the heirloom Vermont cranberry beans and Kosher ground turkey; “Kaela Tries to Cook American Food and Fails Miserably – Film at 11!”).  It may be because I almost never go shopping for food with a recipe in mind; I shop farmer’s markets, cheese shops, and whole food markets looking for whatever is seasonal, fresh, and delicious – then I come home and decide what to do with it.  Since I don’t eat beef, and ground turkey is not something you usually see at farmer’s markets, I almost never buy ground meat.  But, I had some ground turkey from Trader Joe’s in the fridge, originally destined to be turkey burgers during Christina’s visit last weekend, but I never got around to making them, et voila!  Sunday chili dinner.

This recipe takes a long time – many hours of simmering and bubbling to produce the best flavors in beans, meat and vegetables – but much of it is non-active time. You might need to stir it every now and then, but other than that, you can make this recipe while doing other things; tending to the garden, doing laundry, paying bills, or just reading a good book.  This makes it ideally suited to a weekend, when you have time to enjoy the process, or even a rainy, chilly Thursday afternoon.

Adapted from Black Bean & Turkey Chili at The Kitchen Sink


Cranberry Bean & Turkey Chili


  • 1/2 lb dried Vermont cranberry beans
  • 1 small carrot and 6 stalks parsley, with leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium; I used 1 large red onion and 3 small white onions)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced to 1/4-inch (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 stalks fresh garlic, scapes, stalks and green leaves included (do not include heads), thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 small, green habanero peppers, seeded, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp chile powder (1 guajillo, 5 cascabel, 3 Ryder Farm green chiles, dried & ground with seeds, see Options)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 and 1/2 cups organic red wine
  • 2 (28-oz) cans organic chopped tomatoes (I used 1 can Muir Glen fire-roasted and 1 can Trader Joe’s plum tomatoes with basil)
  • scallions, grated cheese, sour cream or creme fraiche, tortilla chips, and/or fresh lime wedges as garnish


  1. Soak beans in cool, filtered water, covered by 2 inches, overnight or for as long as you have; (I only soaked for 4 hours and the beans still cooked in less than 1 and 1/2 hours).  Drain beans and rinse well.  Add beans, 1 small, scrubbed carrot and parsley stalks to a medium saucepan and cover by 1 inch with cool, filtered water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Add 1 tsp sea salt.  Simmer for an additional 30-45 minutes, until beans are tender. (I held back about 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked beans from the chili, as there seemed to be too many to add the entire 1/2 lb cooked; be your own judge as to how ‘beany’ you want your chili).
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add turkey in batches, stirring to crumble and brown meat (do not overcrowd the pan, or the turkey will steam instead of brown). Add the onion, fresh garlic stalks, carrot and 1 habanero pepper; saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 tbsp chile powder, cumin, oregano and salt; stir and cook for 1 minute or until very fragrant. 
  4. Add tomato paste; stir and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add wine; stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings, including fresh habanero pepper and/or chile powder (I added the remaining minced habanero and 1 tsp chile powder here). Uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve and enjoy!

Yields 8-10 servings.


  1. I used fresh garlic stalks, scapes & leaves instead of fresh or dried garlic cloves because it is Spring, and that is what I had on hand.  If making this chili in the summer, substitute fresh tomatoes for canned, use 8-12 fresh or dried garlic cloves, and add fresh summer corn cut off the cob.  If making in winter, use canned tomatoes, dried garlic and 1 cup frozen green bell pepper.
  2. “Chile” powder is usually pure, powdered dried chile pepper (type of pepper should be listed in the ingredients).  “Chili” powder is often chile powder with added spices or herbs (again, refer to ingredients).  Hence chile powder will pack much more heat than chili powder. I made chile poweder using some dried Mexican chiles from Penzey’s and some random dried green chiles from last summer’s CSA; I broke up the larger chiles, discarded the stems but kept all of the seeds and ground them up in a coffee grinder that I keep for that purpose. The two fresh habaneros and 1 tbsp + 1 tsp chile powder in this version made a chili with a nice kick but it was not overly spicy; I would serve it to a crowd.  Next time I would probably up the chile powder to 2 tbsp.spicegrinder
  3. This dish could be completely local with dried beans from Cayuga Organics, chile powder made with local, dried chile peppers and by eliminating cumin (or growing your own! We’ll see how my cumin experiment turns out). And also, of course, it would be much more local if I had not run out of my homegrown & canned tomatoes back in January.


For up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Like all chilis, this will be even better on the second day!  Freeze for up to 3 months.


This particular version is definitely Spring with the fresh garlic stalks & scapes; but the recipe can be adapted to make all year round.

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