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Post Thanksgiving Soup - Turkey Chili

I am so pleased with this recipe. Yes, we truly can use the leftover ingredients from Thanksgiving. It is also warm and filling, rich-seeming as a dish in winter should be (or, for those of us suffering through Arizona’s pretend winters, what we’d eat on a day that we could maybe turn off the air conditioning), but, it has very little fat! Yay! Perfect, considering how much we consume during the next couple of months! This Thanksgiving’s leftovers, in partnership with me, proudly present: Turkey Chili! Huzzah! I had envisioned a lovely white chili, but the color turns out a lovely orangey-coral. Not truly a chili, but more of an homage to Southwester flavors--a thick bean stew—the hint of chili spices a nice big belt buckle. This dish is savory, sweet, smoky, and spicy, incorporating an interesting blend of winter flavors that won’t clash with the turkey’s Thanksgiving seasonings. I opted for this flavor profile because around my house, Thanksgiving flavors seem to become seasonas non grata by black Friday. (Not my doing; you could feed me on the unadulterated leftovers for a good two weeks, but there is no reasoning with those who share my home and kitchen, and, oh yeah, my heart too.)

So I began with the premise that most of our turkeys are treated with some version of Scarborough “Fare” (you know, parsley, sage, rosemary, & thyme?) Your turkeys will likely not be swimming in these flavors, so their subtle background provides a base. I always include citrus in my turkey’s cavity, so the splash of lime juice at the end of this recipe is a no-brainer. Do not be afraid of the cinnamon and allspice. The amounts provide only a hint, lending what to most of us will be unexpected flavors. If you don’t trust me totally, just begin by adding the merest pinch and go from there. As far as the sweetness goes, I usually add a smidge of brown sugar or molasses to my regular chilis. This recipe is naturally sweet enough, so it should not need any extra sweetener. I also chose the core ingredients in order to allow for the possibility that the other items added –yams that have been candied, green beans cooked in some sort of glaze—wouldn’t throw off the balance of savory and sweet.

I really believe that the best soups come out of what we have in our pantries. Please don’t go out and purchase all of these ingredients if you don’t have them (unless you really want to.) Substitute what you need to. Add other veggies you have that seem to “go”. This chili should provide a fun way of using up Thanksgiving staples while offering our families the chance to try something new. As odd as this ingredient list might sound, just think of how well each item pairs with the others, and give it a try. Oh, and please, if you do try it drop me a note and let me know what you think!


  1. Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with vegetable oil and heat. Sauté the onions and grated carrot with a pinch of red pepper flakes until veggies are soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook about a minute.

  2. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, broth, oregano, cilantro. These next amounts are approximate and are the minimum recommended: ½ Tblsp chili powder, ½ Tblsp cumin, ½ tsp chipotle chili pepper, ½ tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, a good twist of black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook an hour to an hour and a half. The beans should be almost soft enough to serve when you move on to step 3. (Again, the spices here are the minimum amounts. I added significantly more than this to suit my own family’s taste. I encourage you to begin here and check every 20 minutes or so to get a feel for how it’s coming together. Close your eyes, taste the broth slowly and ask yourself if more of something is needed.)

  3. Add the sweet potato and apple. Check your flavors, add more of whatever is needed, and cook another 30 minutes.

  4. Take a pastry cutter, immersion blender, or potato masher and mash around the pot several times. The goal of this is to, well, mush some of the beans, yams, and apples but not all of them.

  5. Add the bell pepper, more liquid, if needed, and cook another 20 minutes.

  6. Check your flavors one last time. Remove from heat. Stir in the turkey and a splash of lime. Garnish with Pepper Jack or Cheddar Cheese and/or Sour Cream, snip in some fresh cilantro and serve!

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