By contributing writer Mary Cressler
It’s definitely that time of year. Fall flavors, comfort food, and anything that pairs with football, like this turkey chili recipe. Now I’m not the world’s biggest football fan (shhh, don’t tell my friends), but I sure am happy to attend any kind of gathering or party where fun festive food is at the centerpiece and I can yell at the TV for reasons I don’t understand (really, I’m there for the food!).
Chili seems to be a universal favorite, whether you’re eating it on a chilly (no pun intended) weeknight or while tailgating for your favorite team. You can make it in a huge pot, and it serves many.
While most people can agree that chili is one of the ultimate fall comfort foods, not everyone can agree on its compatibility with wine. I guess it’s easy to assume chili is super spicy, rich and concentrated, and filled with hearty red meat. That is definitely not always the case!
Chili can range from a deep rich meaty and spicy style to a vegetarian light and brothy style. One of my favorite chili recipes and one that is definitely a winner with wine is a recipe I’ve been cooking since college based on ground turkey and layers of beans. Since turkey is pretty much a blank canvass for cooking, all the flavors come in the form of dry seasonings and added ingredients. You can easily make this spicy if you wish. See the recipe notes.
But I love it just the way it’s written here. It’s not too spicy and not too sweet. It’s hearty enough for a cold fall evening, and it’s full of great lean proteins from the turkey and beans. I’m not a nutritionist, but I’d argue that this is a pretty darn healthy version of chili as well. It’s one I’m proud to eat regularly and serve to my family. And because it’s not very spicy, it’s quite kid-friendly. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It’s likely you have most of them already in your pantry. And the best part is that there are tons of wine options that pair well with this chili, so don’t be afraid to pop some corks!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the pan)
- 1 ¼ pounds ground turkey
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 onion, chopped (reserve half for topping)
- 1 large garlic clove, smashed and finely diced (or 2 small cloves)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup beer, light to medium bodied
- ¼ cup coffee (leftover from morning pot works well)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn, (I usually use frozen. If using canned, make sure to drain and rinse.)
- reserved chopped onion
- shredded cheese
- diced avocado
- sour cream
- diced tomatoes
- chopped cilantro
- In a large pot set to medium heat, add extra virgin olive oil and ground turkey. Season the meat with the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Break up the meat using a wooden spoon and cook until browned (about 5 - 8 minutes).
- Add the Worcestershire sauce and mix with the meat.
- Add half of the diced onion (saving the other half for topping), garlic, and bell pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to soften the vegetables.
- Add the beer to deglaze the pan, cooking about 1 minute and scraping up any brown bits.
- Add the coffee, tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, and corn, and then bring to a boil. Stir everything together then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the chili simmer for about 15-20 minutes to let the flavors all combine and reduce the liquid just a bit.
- Taste and adjust seasoning (see notes).
What most people are generally concerned about with chili is heat (heavy spice) and richness. This version finds a nice balance between mild spice and richness. It’s not too heavy, yet it’s substantial enough for a meal. While I do tend to avoid more earthy options from France and elsewhere in the old world and tend to opt for more fruity new world wines instead (from the U.S, South America, and Australia), your options are quite varied here.
Malbec is one of my favorite options for this chili. It can have some subtle earthy flavors and also some rich fruit that will stand up well to the bold flavors in the chili. This is a great option even if you do add a little spice to your chili. More often than not, Malbec is also a great value for this everyday dish.
Consider Septima Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina ($12). It has rich dark berry and some dark chocolate flavors, mild tannins, and a lush feeling in the mouth. The chili actually tames the intensity of the wine a bit (which was a pleasant surprise), and makes me enjoy the wine even more.
If you choose to add more richness or spice to your chili, then chose a wine that has bold fruit, mild tannins, and even some exotic spicy notes, like Syrah or Australian Shiraz, Zinfandel, and even Tempranillo. You can find great examples of all of these wines in the Wine4.Me app. Just search under “find a wine” and search one of these recommended grapes.
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.