Instant Pot turkey chili is an easy, one pot chili recipe that's hearty and balanced with spice. Two unexpected ingredients help give this healthy turkey chili a ton of richness, with the flavors melding perfectly in just 15 minutes of pressure cook time.
The first time I made turkey chili in the Instant Pot, I heard the distinct sound of the float valve dropping two minutes into the pressure cook time. That's a bad sound to hear with thirteen minutes 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 in the Instant Pot.
Why This Recipe Works
- Rich flavor - Two easy-to-find but unexpected ingredients take the flavor of this Instant Pot turkey chili to the next level. You won't want to make chili without them.
- Speedy cook time - An electric pressure cooker brings out the best in chili. You'll enjoy that simmered-all-day flavor in a fraction of the time (15 minutes of pressure cooking).
- Detailed steps for success - Chili can be tricky to make in the Instant Pot as not balancing the amount of liquid and the thicker ingredients can impede success, whether it be from not being able to maintain pressure or triggering a "burn" message. This recipe is written in detail to avoid pitfalls.
Secret Ingredients for the Best Turkey Chili
Pumpkin puree and unsweetened cocoa powder.
Pumpkin puree doesn't change the flavor, rather it brings a silky, thick texture that makes this healthy turkey chili taste more luxe than it is.
Similarly, this chili won't taste like chocolate! The cocoa powder blends in seamlessly as a support ingredient that deepens its rich flavor. It's a staple in my homemade chili seasoning.
- 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. (I use bouillon paste so you just see the water in the picture above).
- Beans: Canned beans means there's no ahead-of-time prep needed. Pinto beans, red kidney beans, or white kidney beans (cannellini) all work great. I love pinto and cannellini beans as they add heft and a nutritious boost of fiber, and rinsing them before use eliminates much of the sodium.
- Cocoa Powder: Either natural or Dutch process is fine. Just make sure the kind you use is unsweetened.
- Spices: These include chili powder (a non-spicy blend of chilis and seasonings, not one single dried chili pepper), cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Worcestershire Sauce: One teaspoon brings a savory umami note.
- Pumpkin Puree: Choose 100% pure pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened and spiced. The cans look very similar to one another.
- Crushed Tomatoes: Plain or fire-roasted are my first choices, but I've even used Italian basil flavored ones here and it's all good.
The first step in making Instant Pot turkey chili utilizes the Instant Pot's Sauté 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 sauté things before cooking.
- Sauté the onion. Add olive oil to the Instant Pot and set it to the Sauté function. Once heated, add cook the onion for two minutes, stirring a few times throughout.
- Cook the turkey and garlic. Add turkey and break it up into crumbles. Sauté until fully cooked, stirring throughout. Add the minced garlic and cook for another two minutes.
- Season. Sprinkle the cocoa powder and all dry seasonings over the meat and and stir in.
- Deglaze the Instant Pot. Pour ½-cup of broth into the pot and use a sturdy spatula to scrape up all stuck-on burnt bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Shut off the Sauté function. Once fully deglazed, turn off the Instant Pot as you prepare the rest of the ingredients to prevent the bottom layer from starting to overly brown and stick once more.
- Add everything but the tomatoes. Pour in the rest of the broth, pumpkin puree, beans, and 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.
- Pour in crushed tomatoes. SLOWLY pour them into one area of the Instant Pot and do not stir in. Close and lock the lid, ensuring the steam release handle is set to "sealing".
- Pressure cook, then stir. Program the time to 15 minutes of manual high pressure cooking. Afterward let the pressure release naturally, open the lid when appropriate, and give it all a big stir before serving.
Prevent the Instant Pot Burn Warning
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 lots of soup-level liquid is a perfect storm for Instant Pot shenanigans.
While I haven't gotten a display "burn" message on my particular Instant Pot model, 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.
Here are 3 MUSTS to follow when making turkey chili in the Instant Pot:
- Use sufficient liquid. I've found the sweet spot for Instant Pot turkey chili to be 1 ¾ cups of broth so enough steam can be generated to pressurize and cook correctly.
- Deglaze the pot. The Instant Pot registers the temperature from the bottom of the pot, so leaving anything stuck to the bottom after sautéing and before pressure cooking risks triggering the "burn" message.
- Don't stir in the tomatoes. Slowly pour the crushed tomatoes on top of the other ingredients in one general area and let them rest on top. Stirring them in thickens the liquid too much, which can lead to issues maintaining pressure. During cooking they mix into the rest of the chili without issue.
What to Serve with Turkey Chili
- Cornbread is a classic (honey cornbread is our go-to). And if you have leftover? Cornbread croutons!
- Shredded cheddar, colby or pepper jack, smoked gouda, or crumbly cotija
- Sour cream
- Crushed up tortilla chips - a favorite on white chicken chili
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- A simple side salad using whatever greens and vegetables you have on hand. The juxtaposition between warm chili and a cool, fresh salad works for me any time of year.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Instant Pot Size - This recipe is pictured and was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot. The ingredients will likely need to be halved if cooking in the 3-quart Mini.
- Want thicker chili? If after cooking and natural pressure release this Instant Pot turkey chili is still too liquid-y for your liking, set the Instant Pot to "Sauté" and cook until it thickens.
- Freezing Instructions - Chili freezes great. Pour leftover chili into the air-tight, freezer-safe containers of your choice, refrigerate until cool, then pop them in the freezer. They'll be just fine for 5-6 months at the proper conditions, probably even longer.
- Reheating Instructions - Thaw frozen chili in the fridge (do not thaw on the countertop), then heat on low on the stovetop or in the microwave until thoroughly warmed.
Frequently Asked Questions
I only use canned beans for Instant Pot turkey chili so I couldn't say for sure. At the very minimum you will need to thoroughly pre-soak dried beans (use your preferred method) before cooking, using caution regarding dried cannellini and red kidney beans as they contain a toxin that requires sufficient boiling time to mitigate. My hesitation is that I don't think 15 minutes of high pressure cooking time will be sufficient to tenderize dried beans, even when pre-soaked.
I wouldn't. The Bean/Chili button on the Instant Pot is a pre-programmed setting assuming the usage of dried beans. As this recipe calls for canned beans, the Bean/Chili setting will likely run too long for what we need. Choose the "Manual" button (or "Pressure Cook" on newer Instant Pot models) instead.
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 to deglaze, 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.
More Instant Pot Recipes
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Instant Pot Turkey Chili
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 pound (454g) ground turkey
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon (5g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ¾ cup (420 ml) reduced-sodium beef or chicken broth
- 1 15.5-ounce (439g) can pinto, red kidney, or white beans rinsed and drained
- ¾ cup (183g) pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 28-ounce (794g) can crushed tomatoes
- Set the Instant Pot to "Sauté" and add the olive oil. Once heated, add the 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 the turkey with chili powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to coat evenly.
- Pour in roughly ½-cup of the broth and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot with a sturdy spatula. Once fully deglazed, press the "Keep Warm/Cancel" button to shut off the Sauté function.
- Add the rest of the broth, rinsed and drained beans, pumpkin puree, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine evenly.
- Gently/slowly pour the crushed tomatoes into one side of the Instant Pot and do not stir. Stirring would make the mixture too thick and risks triggering a "burn" error message.
- Close and lock the lid and ensure the steam release handle is set to "sealing". Press the "Manual" button (or "Pressure Cook" on newer Instant Pot 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. When the float valve goes down and the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid and give everything a stir. If you'd like a thicker chili, set the Instant Pot back to "Sauté" until it reaches your desired consistency, stirring up from the bottom often.
- Serve with your favorite chili toppings, such as shredded cheese, cilantro, green onion, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc.
- Prevent Burn Message - Use enough liquid (do not add less), make sure you deglaze the pan fully, and do not stir in the crushed tomatoes.
- Inactive Time - This is an estimate for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and for the natural pressure release.
- Storage Instructions - Leftover chili can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. It can be frozen in air-tight, freezer-safe containers for 5-6 months when kept at the proper conditions. Thaw in the fridge (not on the countertop) when ready to reheat.
- Nutritional Estimate - The nutritional information is an estimate. It takes into account rinsing and draining the beans and reduced-sodium beef broth. It does not include any toppings or what you might serve alongside this chili.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer