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Turkey and Dried Black Bean Chili

Welcome goblins, settle down ghouls… it’s time for Halloween Chili.
h/t my favorite Halloween album of all time Halloween Hootenanny.

On Halloween night, I want a dinner that sticks to the ribs of my trick or treaters, a buffer from the high fructose corn syrup binge that is coming. I want beans, meat, and a little heat to cut through the sugar that’s on the way. And, I want a chili I can throw together during the afternoon, so I have time to answer the steady stream of witches and robots knocking on the door.
And pass out some more high fructose corn syrup. Hey, it’s one day a year.

This recipe isn’t a one pot affair – I use two pots, because I have to use dried beans. I don’t have anything against canned beans; I’ll use them in a pinch, but dried beans have so much more flavor, and they build their own thickened broth. The downside of dried beans is the science of bean cooking – they will never soften if they are cooked with acidic ingredients. Like, um…chili powder and tomatoes, two of my major ingredients. That’s OK – while the beans are cooking, I sauté all the other ingredients, and add them for a last half hour of simmering to bring everything together.
Or an hour of simmering. A pack of little girls arrived at the door, eight little Elsas from Frozen. They were the crest of the wave; candy was going out as fast as I could shovel it into the bags. By the time I looked up, my half hour of simmering turned into a whole hour.

Recipe: Dried Black Bean and Turkey Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours




  • 1 pound black beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) water
  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (optional, but helps soften the beans if you have hard water)

Aromatics, Seasonings, and Turkey

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 8 ounces (3/4 bottle) of beer (or chicken stock, water)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juices
  • salt and pepper to taste (at least 2 teaspoons of kosher salt)
  • Lime wedges for serving


1. Cook the beans

Pick over the beans to remove any stones or bits of dirt, then rinse. Put the beans, water, halved onion, bay leaves, and baking soda in the dutch oven over high heat. Partially cover the pot and bring the beans to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if the water level drops below the top of the beans.

2. Cook the aromatics, seasonings, and turkey

While the beans are simmering: Heat the vegetable oil in the large skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the minced onion and jalapeño, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano, and cook until you smell the garlic and spices bloom, about 1 minute. Add the beer and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits of onion and spices, about 2 minutes. Add the turkey and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook the turkey, stirring and breaking up any large chunks of meat, until the turkey loses its pink color, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and wait for the beans to finish cooking.

3. Combine the beans and turkey

Fish the bay leaves and onion out of the bean pot and discard. Pour the turkey pan into the pot of beans, stir, and simmer for another half an hour to bring the flavors together. Taste for seasoning, and add salt until the beans start to taste a little sweet on the tip of the tongue; I usually add another 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Stir in some fresh ground black pepper and serve, passing the lime wedges at the table.


  • Why not soak the beans? Because lots of sources I trust say soaking black beans only cuts about 30 minutes from the cooking time, and it washes away a lot of flavor.

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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