Turkey Cincinnati Chili

Turkey Cincinnati chili is a light variation on the classic Cincinnati chili that tops spaghetti with chili and cheese and onions and beans. Healthier, easier, and quicker than most. You’re welcome.

A white bowl of turkey Cincinnati chili with a fork and spoon resting beside it.

This turkey Cincinnati chili heats things up with heaping bowls of chili with additions such as warm spices like cinnamon, cocoa powder, allspice, and cloves, and a touch of sweet molasses. Served over spaghetti and topped with hearty beans, cheese, and onion, is like no chili you have had before, but definitely one you’ll make over and over again.–Ellie Krieger

How To Serve Cincinnati Chili

Are we all familiar with Cincinnati-style chili? This unique and saucy take on chili is traditionally and ubiquitously plopped atop spaghetti and, if you please, glopped with Cheddar cheese, red onions, and/or beans. Mind you, there’s proper Cincinnati chili terminology to describe exactly how you like yours…

Two Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti

Three Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese

Four Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese and diced red onions or beans

Five Way: Chili plopped on spaghetti and smothered with cheese, diced red onions, and beans

One last thing. This rendition is made with ground turkey, which is hardly traditional, although you can’t really tell the difference. Honestly. That said, we’re not going to try to stop you from making it with ground beef. As if we could stop you.

Turkey Cincinnati Chili

  • Quick Glance
  • (7)
  • 30 M
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4
4.6/5 - 7 reviews
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Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces, until just cooked through and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add the bell peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, cocoa, paprika, cumin, oregano (if using), cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes with their juice, water, molasses, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, until the mixture has thickened considerably but is still somewhat soupy, about 2 hours.

Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve the chili over the spaghetti, topped with the kidney beans, cheese, and diced red onion. Originally published January 4, 2012.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This is a rich and meaty chili recipe, with a really deep flavor from all the spices. I gave it an extra half hour of cooking time and made it the day before, so by the time we came to eat it, it was deliciously thick. You might want to make your own decision on how much pasta, cheese and red onion you want to serve — once you have a forkful, you might realize that you want a bigger bowl!

I’ve never made a turkey chili with cocoa before, but I really enjoyed the warm notes it added to the flavor.

I did simmer the pot with the lid half on, just to keep the liquid from evaporating too quickly, which worked. With all the spices, I didn’t even miss the ground beef. thought the cumin came out a little strong, but all the other spices seemed to blend in just fine.

I enjoyed it over spaghetti, but also on its own, with a baguette, over salad, and mixed in with spaghetti squash. As with most chilis, the flavors deepened the next day, but it was delicious hot out of the pot.

Definitely a winner, and I am going to mix up a batch of the spices to keep in a jar so I don’t have to measure so much next time.


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  1. Different chili than normal, so nice for a change. Not my favourite chili, though. Didn’t put beans on top, only red onion and cheese. The raw red onion was lovely in it, nice taste and bite. Served it with cornbread.

  2. This dish has turned into a monthly staple in our house. My whole life I had never even heard of Cincinnati chili. So many spices add so much flavor to this recipe and there is NOTHING I have ever changed. I go 5-way with this every time and recommend you do the same. Honestly, I could eat this dish every day for the rest of my life and be forever happy! Very good recipe, thank you!

  3. Back in the days before so much airport security I used to deliberately schedule flights through Cincinnati, giving myself a 2- to 3-hour layover. The plan was land, grab cab, rush to Dixie Chili Parlor, stuff down 4 or 5 chili dawgs or a 4-way, then hotfoot it back to the airport to catch my flight out. I always wondered what my outbound seatmates thought of this brilliant plan…so thanks, I’ll make a batch this week.

  4. This recipe looks delicious and healthy, however, as an ex-Cincinnatian, I can assure you that green peppers never make it into the iconic Cincinnati Chili Parlor dish, let alone ground turkey!

    1. We sort of danced around the heresy of the turkey in the note above the recipe, Christine, although you caught us. And veeeerrrrrrry good to know about the bell peppers. We’ve seen various recipes alternatively rely on them or ignore them, so we’re glad to have the info straight from the source! Many thanks.

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