Easy Eats: Chili Tonight!

Spice up your family’s dinnertime with a delicious Southwestern delight. Stir it up firehouse hot or kid-friendly mild with meat, chicken, or turkey.

Chili is a hot topic and not just because of the spices. There’s the simmering beans/no beans debate, the heated argument over where the first bowl was concocted, and the fireworks over which state makes the best version.

But we won’t argue over whether the Lone Star State’s bowl o’ red is really better than New Mexico’s (with green chiles and no beans) or California’s (loaded with vegetables). Our aim is a leaner, faster chili that gets you a soul-warming, flavor-packed bowl in about 30 minutes.

You can make the three chili recipes we offer without beef, which cuts down on both fat content and cooking time. Any of them would be perfect to serve hungry Scouts (and their parents) at the end of a busy day.

White Chicken Chili is an all-in-one meal of lean-ground chicken, small white beans, and a combo of tomatoes, jalapeños, and spices to give it heat. Because ground chicken has so little fat, it tastes best if cooked quickly so it doesn’t dry out. Just a few minutes to cook the meat through, then add the rest of the ingredients for a quick simmer. Thicken with a little cornmeal and serve topped with grated cheddar and diced avocado.

Lean, Mean, No-Bean Chili is made with ground buffalo (or bison), which you can find in the frozen meat section of many supermarket chains such as Safeway and Kroger, as well as at specialty stores including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. It has even less fat than chicken but tastes similar to beef. It gets three-alarm heat from three kinds of peppers. And it offers a subtle smoky flavor from canned fire-roasted tomatoes and ancho chile powder.

Finally, Southwest Turkey Chili can be made with either ground turkey or ground chicken. To make things easy on the cook, it uses prepared salsa plus frozen corn to add a mildly sweet flavor. Fresh cilantro is stirred in at the last minute to give it a fresh, southwestern flavor.


Tastes beefy but with much less fat, thanks to the ground buffalo. This spicy bowl o’ red uses three kinds of chile peppers. If you want to tone down the heat, omit the serrano pepper. Serve topped with sour cream to help douse the fire.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground buffalo (or bison) meat
½ small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and chopped (an Anaheim pepper, which is milder, may be substituted)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
¼ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
¼ cup medium to hot salsa
1/3 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add ground buffalo and cook, breaking up any large chunks, until the meat is browned and no traces of red can be seen.

Remove meat, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot. Add onion, green bell pepper and poblano or Anaheim pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add jalapeño and serrano, if using, and cook 3 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook about 1 to 2 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, ancho chile powder, cocoa and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste. Cook for another minute.

Add buffalo back to pot, along with fire-roasted tomatoes, salsa, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and let cook about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste before serving.

Serves 4.


Quick to make, with a fresh, medium-spicy flavor. Serve with warm tortillas or cornbread and a green salad for a complete meal.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound ground chicken
1 10-ounce can Rotel (tomatoes and jalapeños)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup canned small white beans
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Heat oil over medium heat in saucepan. Add chopped onion and cook about 5 minutes, or until slightly golden. Add chili powder, oregano, and cumin to onion and stir; cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Add ground chicken and cook until no longer raw, about 4 minutes. Add Rotel, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in cornmeal and cook about 1 minute, to thicken. Serve hot, topped with grated cheddar and diced avocado.

Serves 4.

(Adapted from www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

You could easily add a can of pinto beans to this quick chili for added nutrition. Although the recipe calls for ground turkey, ground chicken can be substituted. To tone down the spiciness, the jalapeños can be reduced or omitted.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pound ground turkey
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (4 ounces) diced jalapeños
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
½ cup medium salsa
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen corn kernels
Salt, to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Crushed tortilla chips for garnish, if desired

In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add ground turkey; stir to break up any large chunks and brown for about 3 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, broth, salsa, and corn. Season with salt, to taste, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in cilantro, if desired, top with crushed chips and serve.

Serves 4.

Candy Sagon is a former food writer at The Washington Post.

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