This Award-Winning Chili recipe is the best chili you’ll ever have. If you're tired of one-note chili recipes, this is the flavorful, cook-off-winning chili you've been dreaming of, complete with a secret ingredient that sets it apart from the rest.
The secret to the best chili lies in my award-winning recipe, a hit at a cook-off in my Northwestern Indian hometown. With its wonderful flavor and countless positive reviews, this is a go-to recipe that I can't recommend enough.
If you're a fan of this Award-Winning Chili recipe, you'll also love my best Vegan Chili, packed with chickpeas and sweet potatoes. It's a healthy, easy, and kid-approved alternative that's sure to satisfy.
And for those who enjoy the convenience of a slow cooker, I've adapted this recipe for a crockpot chili recipe to deliver the same incredible taste and flavor with minimal effort.
Why This Is The Best Award-Winning Chili Recipe
- Quick and Easy: This award-winning chili recipe is straightforward and simple to make. With easy-to-follow steps, you'll have a delicious meal ready in no time.
- Unique and Irresistible: The unique blend of spices, including cocoa powder, gives this chili an unforgettable flavor. It’s a flavor combination that will amaze you and have you coming back for seconds.
- Classic Flavors: This recipe sticks to the classic chili ingredients like ground turkey, beans, and tomatoes, ensuring a familiar and comforting taste and that’s why it won a chili cook-off!
- Family Favorite: This chili is a hit with the whole family. It is a hearty, satisfying meal that everyone will love.
- Crowd Pleaser: Whether you're hosting a party or a family gathering, this chili is sure to please. It is a dish that's always met with rave reviews, like the numerous incredible reviews under my Chili pin on Pinterest.
- Comfort Food: There's nothing quite like a bowl of warm, hearty chili on a cold day. This recipe is the epitome of comfort food.
Here's an overview of some key ingredients for this recipe. For the full list of ingredients and measurements, please scroll to the recipe card below.
- Ground turkey thighs: This ingredient adds a rich, meaty flavor to the chili.
- Ground turkey breast: This leaner cut of turkey adds additional protein without the extra fat.
- Beans: We’ll be adding white beans and kidney beans to our delicious chili. Kidney beans add a hearty element and are a great source of fiber, while white beans add a creamy texture and are also a good source of protein.
- Cocoa powder: This unusual ingredient adds a depth of flavor and a hint of bitterness that will everyone asking what the secret to this incredible award-winning chili is.
- Sharp Cheddar: Shredded and served on top, it adds a creamy, tangy finish.
- Sour cream: This is served on top to add a cool, creamy contrast to the spicy chili.
How to Make Award-Winning Chili
This best award-winning Chili is really easy to make. If you want to speed up the cooking process, you can cook everything in one pot. First, brown the turkey and then cook the veggies.
- In a large Dutch Oven heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
- In a medium sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add ground turkey thighs and breast.
- Add cooked meat to a pot with an onion and pepper mixture.
- Dilute tomato paste with 1 cup of chicken broth and add it to a pot. Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, brown sugar, cocoa powder, the remaining chicken broth, and ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Add garlic and both types of peppers and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the big chunks with a fork, until the liquid evaporates and the meat is thoroughly cooked and slightly brown, about 7-10 minutes.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes and beans.
- Give everything a good stir and bring the chili to a boil. Cover with a lid, and reduce the heat to low. If the soup becomes too thick, add ½ cup of chicken broth. Simmer for 1 hour.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve the best Award-Winning Chili immediately with shredded Cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
Tips For Making the Best Award-Winning Chili
- Use a Dutch Oven: For the best chili recipe, use a Dutch oven. It distributes heat evenly and keeps the chili at a steady simmer, which is key for developing deep, rich flavors.
- Trust the Cocoa Powder: The unusual combination of spices that I put in my award-winning chili makes it super delicious. I bet you never added cocoa powder to your Chili. But trust me, it works and makes this hearty homemade soup grand prize-worthy.
- Choose the Right Meat: This recipe uses ground turkey, but you can also use ground beef or Italian sausage for a different flavor. The secret ingredient is to use a combination of meats to add depth to the taste.
- Don't Rush the Cooking: Allow the chili to simmer for at least an hour. This slow cook-off allows the flavors to meld together and the sauce to thicken, creating a hearty comfort food.
- Top it Off: Serve your homemade chili recipes with shredded cheese, sour cream, and green onions. For a crunch, add corn chips or tortilla chips. These toppings add a variety of textures and flavors that make the chili even more delicious.
- Add any of your favorite toppings to this contest-winning chili, such as shredded cheese like sharp cheddar, Monterey, or pepper Jack.
- For a hearty dinner, serve this award-winning chili recipe over a bed of baked potatoes and top it off with a generous sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese. The soft, fluffy potatoes perfectly complement the robust flavors of the chili.
- Looking for a fun twist? Try serving this chili atop a pile of crispy tortilla chips for a homemade chili mac. The crunch of the chips adds an exciting texture to the dish.
- For a lighter option, serve this chili with a side of fresh, diced tomatoes and green onions. The freshness of the vegetables balances the rich, deep flavors of the chili.
- For a true comfort food experience, serve this chili with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. The creaminess of the sour cream and the sharpness of the cheese enhance the flavor of the chili, making it a dish to remember.
Recipe Variation Ideas
- Texas Style: If you're a fan of the traditional Texas "Bowl O'Red", this variation is for you. Simply omit the kidney beans and tomatoes from the recipe. Instead, increase the amount of ground turkey and add a bit more chili powder for that authentic Texas flavor.
- Cincinnati Style: For those who prefer a sweeter chili, this variation is a must-try. Add spices like cinnamon, cloves, or all-spice to the chili pot. This will give your chili a unique, sweet flavor that's reminiscent of Cincinnati's famous chili.
- Meat Lovers: If you love a meaty chili, feel free to substitute the ground turkey with ground beef, pork, venison, or bison. You can also use a combination of meats and/or Italian sausage. In addition, you can use beef broth instead of chicken broth for a deeper, richer flavor.
- Bean Variation: If you don't have kidney beans or white beans on hand, no worries. Replace them with black beans or navy beans. This will give your chili a different texture and flavor, but it will still be delicious.
- Tomato Twist: If you're out of tomato paste, tomato sauce can be used instead. Use about 1 ½ cups to maintain the right consistency and flavor in your chili.
- Pepper Mix: If you want to mix things up, try using different types of bell peppers. You can use red, orange, or a combination of peppers. This will add a pop of color and a slightly different flavor to your chili.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don't worry if your chili has a bit more spice than you'd like. You can easily adjust the heat by reducing the amount of cayenne pepper you add. If it is already too spicy, a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche can help cut through the heat. Adding more toppings like cheese, avocado, or tomatoes can also help balance the flavors.
Beans that have a firmer skin, such as kidney beans, cannellini beans, or black beans, are ideal for chili as they retain their shape during the long cooking process. It is best to avoid softer beans like butter beans, which can become mushy.
The secret to award-winning chili lies in the balance of spices. The right amount will highlight the individual ingredients without overpowering them. This allows each flavor to shine through, creating a rich and complex chili that's sure to impress.
If your chili is lacking in flavor, consider adding more smoked paprika and ground cumin. These spices can really enhance the overall taste of your chili. Plus, a touch of sugar can help cut through the acidity of the tomatoes, creating a more balanced flavor profile.
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerator: To ensure your leftover chili maintains its flavor, store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This comfort food can be kept fresh for 2-3 days. When you're ready to serve, simply reheat the chili in a microwave or saucepan.
Freezing: This best chili recipe is freezer-friendly. After allowing it to cool to room temperature, place the chili in an airtight sealed container or freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to 2-3 months.
Thawing: Thaw your homemade chili by transferring it from the freezer to the refrigerator. Allow it to thaw for approximately 24 hours. Once thawed, transfer the chili to a saucepan and reheat until it begins to simmer.
Reheat Instructions: If the chili has been stored in the refrigerator, reheat it over medium heat on the stovetop until it starts to simmer. For the best taste, serve immediately after reheating.
If you make this recipe, please leave me a comment below and rate it. I always appreciate the feedback. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
Award Winning Chili Recipe
- 1 lb ground turkey thighs chicken thighs can be used instead
- 1 lb ground turkey breast chicken breast can be used instead
- 2 cans (14 oz each can) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (14 oz) kidney beans
- 1 can (14 oz) white beans
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 32 oz chicken broth
- 1 large onion finely minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 8 cloves garlic finely minced
- 4 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups Sharp Cheddar shredded, for serving
- 8 tablespoon sour cream for serving
- In a large Dutch Oven heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and sauté on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and both types of peppers and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
- In a medium sauté pan heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add ground turkey thighs and breast. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the big chunks with a fork until the liquid evaporates and meat is thoroughly cooked and slightly brown, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add cooked meat into a pot with an onion and pepper mixture.
- Pour in diced tomatoes and beans.
- Dilute tomato paste with 1 cup of chicken broth and add into a pot.
- Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, brown sugar, cocoa powder, the remaining chicken broth and ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Give everything a good stir and bring Chili to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. If the soup becomes too thick, add ½ cup of chicken broth.
- Simmer for 1 hour.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately with shredded Cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
If you don't have a good cast iron Dutch Oven in the kitchen, now is the time! It's one of those kitchen items that will last you a lifetime and is so versatile. From cooking soups, stews, braising meat to frying and baking bread, this Le Creuset Dutch Oven can do it all. I own one and can't recommend it enough!
Iryna Bychkiv is the founder and writer of the culinary website Lavender & Macarons, where she shares clean, European-inspired recipes that are delicious, easy to prepare, and made with wholesome ingredients. Iryna loves creating meals that are simple yet healthy and unique, including vegan and vegetarian recipes.
Iryna is also a freelance writer for MSN and Associated Press Wire.