Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crockpot turkey chili with butternut squash & apples ... and best-evah cornbread!

Easy crockpot turkey chili with black beans, butternut squash and apples -- plus the best-evah cornbread muffins!

Easy slow cooker turkey chili with butternut squash and apples
Turkey chili and cornbread
Cold, rainy days just scream out for a big pot of chili.

What makes that pot of chili even better is when it's cooked in a crockpot all day long so you can go off and do other things.


Speaking of winners, I made this chili a few years ago for an employee chili cookoff when I was working at a large security software firm (they called it the "Super Bowl of Chili" -- yeah, that's what passed for funny and clever to software developers). I did not win (so I guess the "speaking of winners" segue was a bit misleading -- sorry) but believe me when I tell you that I taught that group of geeks a thing or two about food presentation.

I like this chili recipe because it is loaded with veggies and the rest of the ingredients lean a bit to the lighter side; it has plenty of spice and flavor without promising to give you heartburn ... or worse.

I also love that this is a very roundabout recipe: I got it from Dinner with Julie, who in turn got it from FoodThought, and I'm sure we've all added our own little tweaks along the way.

Additionally, this recipe could easily morph into a vegetarian version if you leave out the turkey (add more black beans and squash to compensate) and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. And, as with many of the recipes I share with you, feel free to adjust the spices based on what you particularly like or don't like.

Crockpot turkey chili with butternut squash and apples

See? I'm looking out for everyone, so each of you can have a pot of chili cooking away on a cold winter day.

Bonus: I've also included a great (and super easy) recipe for cornbread, because, good lord, what the hell is chili without cornbread, right? The recipe comes from Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry (which I highly recommend). I'm supposed to be cooking along on a chapter by chapter basis from Alana's book for the From Scratch Club's virtual book club, but I jumped ahead. The cornbread received seriously high praise from Mr. Ninj: he ate way more than his fair share and said, "This is the best cornbread I have ever eaten."

Best-ever cornbread muffins

Evah! Now that's some cornbread!

Crockpot Turkey Chili with Butternut Squash and Apples (adapted from Dinner with Julie)

1 medium onion, diced
1-2 carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey, cooked
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10 ounces chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
(cilantro and sour cream, for serving)

Directions (oh man, this is the best part):
Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with cilantro and sour cream ... and cornbread.

(Note: I've entered this recipe in Miz Helen's Texas Star Chili Cookoff 2012 -- fun stuff!)

Best-Evah Cornbread Muffins (from Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry)
(I made mini loaves because I have a cute mini loaf pan but the directions are the same for muffins)

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add the butter, buttermilk and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until combined (don't overstir). Pour the batter into a prepared muffin tin and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Serve warm with chili!


  1. Girlfriend! Getting ready to try both for a leaf peeping picnic on Monday....Thank you!

  2. I'm trying this tomorrow! Looks awesome!

  3. This looks sooooo good. I cant wait to try it!

  4. Had this tonite!! I LOVED it! It still had great chili flavor, but a uniqueness to it with the squash and apples. I liked the mix of the chili spice with a little sweetness from the apples. YUM! The whole family liked it. Thanks for a great recipe. We'll definitely be having this again.

    1. Awesome! Glad to hear that you liked it -- thanks so much for the feedback.

  5. This chili sound delicious made with turkey, and your cornbread loaves are so cute! I have a mini loaf pan, gonna have to make up some of these!

  6. This looks like a very flavorful Pot of Chili and the cornbread is perfect to go with it. Pinned your post and Thank You so much for sharing your great Chili with The Texas Star Chili Cook Off 2012.
    Good Luck!
    Miz Helen

  7. I made the chili and the cornbread this weekend and both were really excellent. I loved the addition of maple sryup to the corn bread, it added a nice hint of sweetness to it. Very yummy, I'll be making both again, that's for sure!

    1. Thanks for the feedback -- I'm so glad you liked both!

  8. So I made this over the weekend and it was a HUGE hit!! My pregnancy has turned me off to chicken so I used vegetable broth instead still really great!! I have already been asked by 2 different people for the recipe, hopefully they will become followers of your blog!!

    Thanks Ninj!!

    1. I am so glad you liked it and found your own way to make it work for you. And I love that the recipe is making its way around -- thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Hello,

    Wow! This looks great. I was searching for recipes I could make and freeze for my in laws to throw in the crockpot.

    I do have a question.... If I were to split the recipe in half, would I still cook it for the 7 or 8 hours? Thanks for any help you can give! I'm clueless when it comes to crockpots (I bought one for my in laws, after seeing this recipe, I might have to buy one for myself. Cheers and thanks! Jenn

    1. The recipe isn't as large as you might think -- when I make it, we eat it for dinner and then get about 3 extra lunch servings (which can be frozen). But if you really wanted to cut it in half, I would check it after about 6 hours to see if the meat was thoroughly cooked and the veg tender. Good luck! Crockpot recipes are definitely your friend!

  10. Hi Ninj! Snowed in? I have a question for you. I've made this turkey chili recipe several times already (including for Book Club in your honor!), what I'm wondering is...can I make this on the stove top instead of the crock pot? If so, any idea how long I'd need to cook it?
    Lorrie in NC

  11. Entering this in a work chili contest - hopefully it'll do well.

    thanks for the recipe

    1. Awesome, Scott! Let me know how the contest goes -- maybe we can refer to it as "award-winning chili"!!!

  12. hi!i dont have any buttermilk, would regular milk still work for the cornbread? do you suggest using something different, maybe yogurt?

    1. Devon, you can easily make your own buttermilk (soured milk) by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk -- let it stand for a few minutes then mix it up and use however much you need. This is a GREAT trick to keep in mind, since most people don't have buttermilk sitting around. Let me know if you try the cornbread!

  13. I found this recipe after I searched to see if anyone else was paring meat with Gala apples. I'm a home cook and don't follow, trends. I just shoot from the hip with whatever we have left around. Today I put 1lb of pork in a crock pot with 2 cans of tomato sauce, a finely dice onion, a finely diced Gala apple, some garlic and very nice local dried Italian seasoning blend. It blew my mind and now I can't wait to try other recipes using Gala apples, I will be trying this one this weekend.

  14. I love this fun twist on chili! It is delicious and my young kids even devour it, thanks to the unexpected sweetness of the apples. I'm also a sucker for anything with a can of coconut milk in it...