Leftover turkey chili

When life gives you leftover turkey, make chili!

Contributed by Preston Maring, MD

Leftover turkey chili

A Thanksgiving turkey can be a gift that keeps on giving. In addition to great sandwiches and, for some, stuffing for breakfast, leftovers have a lot of potential. 

A big pot of something hot sounded good so I modified an old recipe for white chicken chili adding some farro for an extra whole grain in the day’s diet. Pearl barley would be good also.

This recipe results in a rich, spicy red, green, and white chili loaded with good things.

Using dried beans lengthens the cooking time to about three hours from about the one hour of simmering if you use canned beans.

Chili is usually better in the days after it’s made so it’s one of those recipes to make on a weekend day which makes dinner very easy for a couple of nights during the week.

Servings: 8


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin (I “toasted” cumin seeds in a small skillet until they were fragrant then ground them up with a mortar and pestle)
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 pounds leftover turkey, cut into pieces (for nutritional analysis purposes, I used 1 pound white meat and ½ pound dark meat)
  • 4 cups turkey stock you or someone in your family made from the carcass, or chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup farro or pearl barley
  • 2 14- to 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups dried white beans soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large soup pot over a low flame, heat the oil. 
  2. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapeños and cook them until the onions soften, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and oregano. 
  4. Stir in the leftover turkey (you could also use ground turkey and sauté it so it is no longer pink). 
  5. Add the stock or broth, tomatoes, farro, and beans. 
  6. Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered for about an hour. 
  7. Stir in the chopped cilantro near the end of the cooking time. 
  8. Season with salt to taste.

Leftovers made with original leftovers can be frozen.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 344
  • Total fat: 8 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 62 mg
  • Sodium: 282 m
  • Total carbohydrate: 35 g
  • Dietary fiber: 8 g
  • Protein: 36 g