Turkey and White Bean Chili

Technically, this turkey and white bean chili isn’t chili, as it doesn’t contain chiles or chili powder. It’s really more of a Mediterranean bean stew with turkey sausage and cannellini beans. But what can I say, nicknames stick.

Turkey chili in a yellow bowl with a spoon

The One and I have been making and enjoying this dish for years—in fact, it’s been in our arsenal for about a decade. What’s great about it is it’s a cinch to make—it takes all of a half-hour—and it’s surprisingly light. When we have weekend guests and don’t want to get bogged down with making six big, heavy meals, we turn to this for a satisfying lunch or a light supper with a salad on the side.

Customarily, chilis and stews are made by first browning the meat and then transferring it to a bowl while cooking the vegetables. Because there’s so little fat in the turkey sausage (and, admit it, they just don’t have that same flavor punch as beef), I like to keep the turkey in the skillet while cooking the vegetables. This does two things: 1.) it really gives the turkey a good browning, which adds flavor, and 2.) it ensures you don’t overcook the red pepper. Oh, and whatever you do, resist the urge to muck this up by adding chili powder (yes, even though it’s called a “chili”). It would ruin the flavor.–David Leite

A Chili By Any Other Name

Chili is chili is chili is chili…except when it’s not. Or something like that. Yes, we’re up to our antics and naming conventions again, calling something chili when technically it’s not really chili. But one taste and you’ll be glad you made it anyways. (Oh, c’mon, just humor us. Or rather, humor David and let him call this “chili.” Look at how excited he is to make it in the below video! We appreciate your understanding and support.)

Turkey and White Bean Chili

A yellow bowl filled with turkey and white bean chili with a silver spoon resting inside the bowl.
This turkey and white bean chili recipe takes its flavor from turkey sausage, Italian seasoning, onions, red bell pepper, canned tomatoes, and beans.

Prep 10 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 45 minutes
4 servings
414 kcal
5 / 4 votes


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil more if needed
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage casings removed
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • One (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans well-drained
  • One (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes undrained, tomatoes chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Swirl 2 tablespoons of the oil into the pan and then add the turkey. Cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat with the edge of a wooden spoon, until the turkey is chunky and nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the turkey. Dump in the onion and pepper, sprinkle with the oregano, basil, and thyme, and sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are just softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. The bottom of the pan may develop a brown coating—that’s good. It gives a lot of flavor. If it threatens to burn, drizzle in a few tablespoons of water and scrape it up.
  • Turn the heat to low and stir in the beans and half of the tomatoes and half their liquid. (Reserve the remaining tomatoes and liquid for a meal stretcher, see Note.) Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.


Meal Stretcher Note

Unexpected company? No problem. Add a second can of drained cannellini beans and the remaining chopped tomatoes and their liquid. Simmer the chili until heated through. Serves six, easily.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 414kcal (21%)Carbohydrates: 36g (12%)Protein: 26g (52%)Fat: 21g (32%)Saturated Fat: 5g (31%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 60mg (20%)Sodium: 1302mg (57%)Potassium: 831mg (24%)Fiber: 11g (46%)Sugar: 11g (12%)Vitamin A: 2779IU (56%)Vitamin C: 102mg (124%)Calcium: 153mg (15%)Iron: 15mg (83%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Originally published March 06, 2010


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    I’m trying to use items from my freezer and pantry. I had everything listed here, but my meat was simply ground turkey, not Italian turkey sausage. Why call for the large can of San Marzano tomatoes, then just use half? Nope, I know if I put it into the fridge it will be there until it starts growing white fur! I guess I did the meal stretcher because I used the entire can of tomatoes, one can of cannellini beans, and an extra can of small white beans. I followed everything as is, I did have a red pepper too! But, because I was afraid my dish might not have enough flavor since I was using the ground turkey instead of sausage, I added a couple of teaspoons of Pimenta moida into my mixture for a little heat. I kept it Mediterranean!

    It was much better than I ever expected! Very tasty and my English/German husband, who usually says, “Oh No” when this Portuguese girl brings out that Pimenta moida, instead, he said it was really really good, and he enjoyed it very much! It was tasty and did almost have the consistency of a stew, which is why I would suggest that if you really needed to stretch this meal, serve it over some hot white rice.

    I served it as is and made some biscuits to go with it. Whenever we have a soup, chili, or a chowder, we always like some sort of hot rolls, biscuits or a crusty artisan bread with butter!

    The leftovers were also great. And I added some shredded cheese to top off the bowl before serving. As I placed the bowls on the table, the cheese was just starting to melt nicely into the warm chili! I would definitely make this again. And it’s a delicious result of my pantry clean out! Thank You, David, my go-to guy for whatever I need to make.

    1. Lorna, another winner, it seems! And I love how you freelance and make so many dishes here Portuguese inflected! The ability to be free and loose in the kitchen is the sign of a great cook.

  2. 5 stars
    I found this recipe on your site and decided to try it about 3 weeks ago. I have made it three times since then and passed it on to many people! I love it! I, too, add the whole 28 oz. can of tomatoes but otherwise follow the recipe to a T. This will be a regular meal in my home. Many thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    Today is October 29th and it is snowing! A perfect day to make chili. I found your recipe and decided to try it. I did use the whole 28 oz. of tomatoes but otherwise, followed the recipe to a T. It is fabulous! I just love it. Many thanks for a hearty and healthy chili recipe.

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