Instant Pot turkey chili is an easy, one pot chili recipe that’s hearty and perfectly balanced with spice. Two unexpected ingredients help give this healthy turkey chili a ton of richness.
Most of the time when I make something in the Instant Pot I start washing the dishes right after I set whatever it is on pressure cook. That way I know I have at least twentyish minutes of hands-off coming-up-to-pressure and cooking time to clean up and/or prep whatever else it is we’re eating for dinner.
The first time I experimented with making my turkey chili in the Instant Pot, it was two minutes into the pressure cook time when I heard the distinct sound of the float valve dropping. My head whipped around from the sink to eye up the IP because that’s a bad sound to hear with thirteen minutes of cooking to go.
The issue I hadn’t taken into account when adapting my usual chili recipe was that the mixture pre-cook was very thick. Too thick! Not enough steam able to be created! I blame the crushed tomatoes, not enough liquid, and my maniacal stirring together of everything before cooking as the culprits.
Since all of the ingredients were cooked, I added some water and abbreviated the cook time and my Instant Pot turkey chili hobbled along. Wouldn’t you know it resulted in the best tasting turkey chili I think I’ve ever made??
Clearly my recipe needed structural help before being ready for the big time, which I was glad to do. And here it is! With the added bonus of the Instant Pot functioning correctly this time. <–Read on to see what tips are *super* important when cooking with tomato-based liquids and thick mixtures!
How to make Instant Pot turkey chili
The first step in making Instant Pot turkey chili utilizes the Instant Pot’s “Saute” function. Besides the whole time thing, this feature is a huge benefit to the Instant Pot when you compare it to a slow cooker. No need to dirty up a separate pan to brown and saute things before cooking.
So! Onion, ground turkey, and garlic are sauteed until the vegetables have softened and the turkey is broken up into crumbles and fully cooked. Easy enough.
Next everything in there is seasoned with the spice blend. Of course there’s a bunch of wiggle room when it comes to seasoning chili, but my preferred blend features chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt, pepper…and unsweetened cocoa powder.
If you haven’t added cocoa powder to your chili before, don’t panic. One tablespoon blends in seamlessly as a support ingredient and deepens the flavor without adding any chocolate notes whatsoever.
The next step is an important one: deglazing the Instant Pot. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth into the pot while it’s on “Saute” mode and scrape up all of the burnt bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Not only does this add a great flavor to the chili, it’s essential in preventing any “burn” error messages that you might have heard about with the Instant Pot.
Once it’s all deglazed, pour in the rest of the broth, the beans, the pumpkin puree, and the Worcestershire sauce and stir it all up. Pumpkin is the second sort-of unusual ingredient here. Just like with the cocoa powder, it doesn’t add any pumpkin flavor to this chili, rather it brings a silky texture that makes this healthy turkey chili taste more luxe than it is.
All that’s left is to pour in the crushed tomatoes (see the trick to this in the section below), lock the lid, and cook. Since all of the ingredients are cooked already, just 15 minutes of manual high pressure cook time are that’s needed for the flavors to meld and everything to combine and thicken.
Help! I got the Instant Pot burn message when making chili
Getting the “burn” error isn’t unheard of when making chili in the Instant Pot. The combination of chunky ingredients and thick crushed tomatoes without a ton of soup-level liquid is a perfect storm for Instant Pot shenanigans.
While I haven’t gotten a display “burn” message on my Instant Pot, the float valve dropping during cook time is another mechanism that signals there’s not enough liquid (to provide steam) to maintain pressure. Basically it gives up before the food along the bottom of the pot scorches beyond belief.
Some Instant Pot models can be touchier than others with the “burn” message, but there are three things you can do to help prevent any trouble while cooking this Instant Pot turkey chili.
- Use sufficient liquid. I’ve found the sweet spot for this chili to be 1 3/4 cups of broth. The time my float valve went down I used 1 cup, which *should* be enough for cooking in a 6-quart Instant Pot in general, but not with a thick chili recipe.
- Deglaze the pot. This step is a MUST. Leaving anything stuck to the bottom of the pot after sauteeing and before pressure cooking is just too risky. The Instant Pot registers the temperature on the bottom of the pot, so that would be a surefire way to trigger a “burn” message.
- Don’t stir in the crushed tomatoes. Pour them on top of the other ingredients in one general area and let them stay there. Stirring them in thickens the liquid too much, which can lead to issues maintaining pressure like my float valve situation. During cooking they integrate into the rest of the chili no problem. I carefully removed the spatula from the Instant Pot in the picture above and closed/locked the lid.
Sometimes things happen despite our best efforts. If you still get a burn message or the Instant Pot has trouble maintaining pressure, carefully release the rest of the pressure (if there is any), scrape up the bottom, and add additional broth or water to thin the liquid. Replace the lid, seal it up, and cook it again. All the ingredients here are cooked prior to pressure cooking, so there isn’t a worry of things not being cooked through.
What to serve with turkey chili
- Cornbread is a classic! As is shredded cheese, sour cream, green onion/herbs, etc. I don’t have a go-to homemade cornbread recipe (yet) so real talk: usually I use a mix.
- On that note — cornbread croutons? Sign me up.
- These garlic and herb pumpkin dinner rolls would be a delicious continuation of the pumpkin theme.
Can you freeze leftover turkey chili?
Sure can. Chili freezes beautifully! Pour leftover chili into the air-tight, freezer-safe containers of your choice and pop them in the freezer. They’ll be just fine for 5-6 months at the proper conditions, probably even longer.
- I use cannellini beans here just as a personal preference. Instead of white beans you can use pinto beans, red kidney beans, or whichever type you like.
- I’ve only made this chili with canned beans, though if you pre-soak dried beans (use your preferred method), they should work just fine.
- Chicken broth will work instead of the beef broth.
- The amount of pumpkin can vary if you’re looking to use up an open can. From 1/2 cup to 1 cup of pumpkin puree should be fine.
- If after cooking and natural pressure release this Instant Pot chili is still too liquid-y for your liking, set the Instant Pot to “Saute” and cook until it thickens up.
- This recipe was tested and made in a 6-quart Instant Pot (affiliate link).
Instant Pot Turkey Chili
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
- 1 15.5-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- Set the Instant Pot on "Saute" and add the olive oil. Once heated, add the diced onion and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the ground turkey and break it up into crumbles. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the turkey is fully cooked and no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Season turkey with chili powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to coat evenly.
- Pour in about 1/2 cup of the beef broth and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once deglazed, add the rest of the broth, the rinsed and drained beans, pumpkin, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
- Pour the crushed tomatoes into one side of the Instant Pot and do not stir. Stirring would make the mixture too thick and would risk triggering a "burn" error message.
- Press the "Keep Warm/Cancel" button to shut off the Saute function. Close and lock the lid. Press the "Manual" button and using the "+" or "-"buttons, adjust the time to 15 minutes of high pressure cooking.
- Once the 15 minutes are up, let the Instant Pot release the pressure naturally. Once the float valve goes down and the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid and give everything a stir. Serve with your favorite chili toppings, such as shredded cheese, parsley, green onion, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc.