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Turkey Chili

By Madalaine McDaniel,

Transform your white bean turkey chili into something extraordinary with 2 key ingredients: pumpkin and sage. By adding these 2 flavors your chili pot will explode with fall harvest flavors! This chili is total comfort food and is a great recipe that uses a lot of leftover turkey after the holidays. You can make it in a pot on the stove or bring it together in a slow cooker. If you are proficient with your instant pot, give that a go!


  • Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottom soup pot over medium flame. 
  • After the oil starts to shimmer, saute 2 large onions (diced) for 3-5 minutes. The onions should be soft and transparent.
  • Then stir in 5 garlic cloves, chopped. Cook the onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
  • Add a bay leaf, 1 tablespoon cumin, ½ tablespoon minced oregano, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 lbs diced cooked turkey, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 cans of 100% pumpkin purée. Stir to thoroughly combine.
  • Take 15 sage leaves and tie them together in a bundle with kitchen twine and add them to the chili mixture.
  • Stir in 4 cans of cannellini beans (white kidney beans) and 12 cups of broth (chicken, turkey, or vegetable).
  • Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, bringing the chili to a low boil. Then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer chili for 45 minutes.
  • Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  • Stir in ½ cup of sour cream.
  • Serve with a garnish of fresh sage leaves, a dollop of sour cream, green onions, and/or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

*Note: Many people like green bell peppers in their chili. I prefer not to add them
because they can cause heartburn in so many people. If you’re not one of us, lucky
you! Add 1½ cups of diced green peppers and enjoy!


Most of the time, I don’t have trouble finding sliced raw turkey breasts. This makes a great alternative to leftover Thanksgiving turkey. When that’s not available, use turkey sausage or lean ground turkey.

Of course, you can use chicken in a pinch, but the combination of turkey, pumpkin, and sage is so fantastic it’s worth seeking out the big bird. Definitely add 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning if you are making these substitutions; roasted turkey has so much more flavor than ground turkey or turkey sausage.

You can also sub out the chicken broth for turkey broth or vegetable broth in a pinch. If you like your chili with a bit more kick, add a can of green chiles or Rotel diced tomatoes.


My husband Jerry came up with “It’s gettin’ chilly, so let’s have chili” and when it was met with major eye rolls and “UGHHH!!!” from the kids, we had to use it!

I thought about making the white bean pumpkin chili in a pumpkin. As much fun as that is, for a large crowd it’s not practical. It looks great but doesn’t hold enough chili. The first time I made it this way, I didn’t allow for any ventilation with the pumpkin lid and that created a lot of pressure.

When the lid came off there was a “mild” explosion of pumpkin chili soup. I say mild because none of it hit the ceiling.


Having a chili party is really easy if you keep the menu simple. Plus, just about all the major food prep can be done days or weeks ahead and frozen. Check out our menu below.

Traditional Red Bean Chili Soup

White Bean Pumpkin Chili

Baked Potato Bar

Chocolate Chip Cookies


Just about any chili can be frozen and chocolate chip cookies freeze great too. I like to freeze most things, (especially soups) in gallon freezer bags flat. That way when they’re frozen solid, they stack up like books on a shelf and they’re easy to pull out of the freezer.

STORAGE TIP: Make sure you label the bag or container before you fill them. You also want to make sure the label is the first thing you see. Label it in several places if you’re not sure how it’s going to go in the freezer. Medium-width black Sharpies are best for this. 

The trick to having a great party is keeping it as simple as possible. You can see I kept the menu really easy. When going to a food-themed gathering, why have a bunch of other stuff?

The main focus of the Chili Fest was to enjoy a warm bowl of chili by the fire, listen to good music, and make some wonderful memories with really great friends or family.


A delicious low-fat pumpkin white bean turkey chili recipe made with pumpkin puree and sage.  This can be made on the stove or in a crock pot. Makes great leftovers and tastes even better the next day for lunch! |

Prep Time 45 minutes | Cook Time 45 minutes | Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes | 12 servings


  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3 lbs cooked turkey (not ground) chopped
    into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cans of 100% pumpkin
  • 4 cans of cannellini beans (16-ounce cans)
    rinsed and drained
  • 15 leaves fresh sage* tied with kitchen twine
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • extra salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: fresh chopped sage, red onion, white cheddar cheese, sour cream


  1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. When hot, spray with oil.
  2. Add onions, and garlic, and sauté for about 5 min.
  3. Add turkey, pumpkin, salt, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, and fresh sage, and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add beans, and broth, and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.
  5. Lower heat and cover, simmer for about 45 minutes mixing occasionally.
  6. Add sour cream and cook for 5 more minutes. Adjust seasoning and salt to taste.
  7. Top with chopped red onion, chopped fresh sage, sour cream, and cheddar if desired.

Recipe Notes

*In place of fresh sage you can use 2 drops of Sage Essential Oil.  Be careful; EOs are extremely potent!  A little goes a very long way.

Edited by the GNL Editorial Staff