Chili from Scratch

Chili from Scratch Photo: Romulo Yanes


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound turkey or lean ground beef (but not a combination)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (diced canned are fine; don't bother to drain)
  • 1 or 2 fresh or dried hot chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 pound dried pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and picked over, and soaked, if you like
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the ground meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat so it sizzles steadily, and cook, stirring occasionally to break it up, until the meat browns all over (5-10 minutes).

  2. Add the onion, and cook, stirring once in a while, until it softens and turns golden (3-5 minutes). Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes fragrant (another minute).

  3. Add the tomatoes, chili, and beans to the pot, along with enough water to cover everything by 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily, but not furiously, and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. After that, stir the chili every 20 minutes or so and adjust the heat so it continues to bubble gently; add more water, 1/2 cup at a time, if the chili starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.

  4. When the beans begin to soften (30-60 minutes, depending on the type of bean and whether or not you soaked them), sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if the pot looks too dry, until the beans are quite tender but still intact--this will take about the same amount of time as it took for them to soften. When the beans are very tender, taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve, garnished with the cilantro.

  5. Change It Up!

  6. Chili with Canned Beans: Using canned beans instead of dried cuts the cooking time down to about 35 minutes: Drain and rinse about 4 cups, or 2 (15-ounce) cans, of canned beans; add them instead of the dried beans in Step Don't add any water. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubble, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything thickens (20 minutes or so). Then continue with Step

  7. Chili with All Sorts of Dried Beans: Try black beans, white beans, chickpeas, or lentils (lentils will be ready 30 minutes after you add them to the pot).

  • Total Time:

  • Power up: There's nearly half a day's protein in one serving of this low-fat chili.
  • Yield: Makes 6-8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup of turkey chili)

Nutritional Information

Calories per serving: 341
Fat per serving: 10.6g
Saturated fat per serving: 1.8g
Monounsaturated fat per serving: 2.9g
Polyunsaturated fat per serving: 5g
Protein per serving: 24g
Carbohydrate per serving: 39g
Fiber per serving: 13g
Cholesterol per serving: 39mg
Iron per serving: 4mg
Sodium per serving: 194mg
Calcium per serving: 90mg

Good to Know

Get nearly half a day’s worth of protein in just one serving of this hearty chili. Top it with cilantro for a boost of vitamins A and K.