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. It’s done in 15 minutes of pressure cook time.
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. 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! There wasn’t enough steam able to be created, so the Instant Pot couldn’t maintain pressure. I blame the crushed tomatoes, not enough liquid, and too much stirring before cooking as the culprits.
Since all of the ingredients were cooked beforehand, 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.
- Ground turkey: Leaner than ground beef, turkey is an ingredient swap that makes this Instant Pot turkey chili healthier than traditional beef chilis. Sometimes turkey-instead-of-beef recipes get a bad rap for lacking flavor, but that’s not an issue with sufficiently seasoned recipe. Same thing with my gold standard taco meat recipe. No flavor lost whatsoever by using turkey – promise!
- Broth: Beef broth is my pick for a “meatier” flavor, but chicken broth works just as well.
- Beans: Cannellini beans are neutral in flavor and blend in just right to chili, adding heft and a nutritious boost of fiber here. Instead of white beans you can use cooked pinto beans, red kidney beans, or whichever type you prefer.
- Cocoa powder: If you haven’t added unsweetened 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.
- Pumpkin puree: 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.
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. There’s no need to dirty up a separate pan to brown and saute things before cooking.
- Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the Instant Pot and set it to the “saute” function. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion and saute for two minutes, stirring the onion up a few times throughout.
- Then add the raw ground turkey and break it up into crumbles. Saute until fully cooked, stirring throughout. Then stir in the minced garlic and cook for another two minutes or so.
- Sprinkle the dried seasonings over top (chili powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper) and stir to coat the onion/turkey evenly.
- The next step is an important one: deglazing the Instant Pot. Pour about a half-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 with a sturdy spatula.
Not only does deglazing the Instant Pot add a great flavor to the chili, it’s essential in preventing any “burn” error messages that you might have heard about when it comes to Instant Pot cooking.
- Once deglazed, pour in the rest of the broth, along with the pumpkin puree, cannellini beans, and the Worcestershire sauce.
- Give everything a very good stir at this point, as this is the last time you’ll stir the chili before it pressure cooks.
- 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 all that’s needed for the flavors to meld and for everything to combine and thicken.
Once the 15 minutes of pressure cook time is up, let the pressure release manually, then stir before serving.
Prevent the Instant Pot “Burn” Message
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 sauteing 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.
For starters, cornbread is a classic! As is shredded cheese, sour cream, green onion/herbs, etc. This chili isn’t too spicy, so something like a jalapeno cornbread would probably make a great pairing.
On that note — cornbread croutons? Sign me up.
For a slightly different direction, these garlic and herb pumpkin dinner rolls would be a delicious continuation of the pumpkin theme. They use just over one-third cup of pumpkin puree, so if you’re opening a new can for this chili, you’ll have more than enough.
And as always, a simple side salad using whatever vegetables you have on hand is a winner. The juxtaposition between warm chili and a cool, fresh salad works especially well here.
- I’ve only made this chili with canned beans, though if you thoroughly pre-soak dried beans (use your preferred method), they should work just fine. Do not use dried red kidney beans as I am not sure if the cook time for this recipe is sufficient to eliminate the toxins.
- The amount of pumpkin can vary if you’re looking to use up an open can. From a half-cup to one 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.
- 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.
- This recipe was tested and made in a 6-quart Instant Pot.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Instant Pot Turkey Chili
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ¾ cup reduced-sodium beef broth
- 1 15.5-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon 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 with a sturdy spatula. Once deglazed, add the rest of the broth, the rinsed and drained beans, pumpkin, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine evenly.
- 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 (or "Pressure Cook" on newer IP models) 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.
- Don’t skip deglazing the pan. Besides integrating all of those browned flavorful bits into the chili, this step is important to avoid triggering an Instant Pot “burn” message.
- On that note, don’t stir in the crushed tomatoes. This would make the mixture too thick and could result in a “burn” message, too. They work into the chili as it cooks and easily stirs in just prior to serving.
- If you like very thick chili or find it’s thinner than you’d like after stirring once the pressure releases naturally, set the Instant Pot to “saute” and cook until it reaches your desired consistency.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.