Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

DF GF

Not your average chili, this butternut squash and turkey chili features red lentils and is simmered in a creamy coconut milk and tomato broth. It can be made in your pressure cooker or on the stove top!

Somehow pressure cookers were all the rage a couple of years ago and are still gaining steam… and for good reason! I got a pressure cooker a few years ago and fell in love with it at the time – making rice, beans, soup, shredded chicken – but feel like I have a renewed love for my pressure cooker lately! It can cook just about anything and can make a flavorful chili that tastes like it’s been cooking all day in about 20 minutes… it’s amazing!

A bowl of butternut squash turkey chili with cilantro on top. A silver spoon rests inside the bowl of chili.

The butternut squash and turkey chili I’m sharing today is actually the first recipe I made in my pressure cooker back in 2017. I was so impressed with the texture, flavor and how quickly the chili cooked. I was worried it would totally overcook the chili and turn the ingredients into mush, but it actually cooked everything perfectly. The butternut squash chunks were tender but still held their shape.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries! I’ve provided instructions for how to make this on the stove top as well and hope you’ll give the chili a try. It’s one of our favorite cool weather meals over here! The butternut squash and turkey paired with red lentils and kale make for a hearty meal that’s so warming and comforting – perfect for chilly evenings.

Ingredients measured out to make butternut squash turkey chili: vegetable broth, olive oil, coconut milk, ground turkey, diced tomatoes, kale, butternut squash, red lentils, spices, apple cider vinegar, garlic and tomato paste.

What You Need

  • ground turkey – a lean protein option for this chili. You can also use tofu or mashed chickpeas for a vegetarian option.
  • onion and garlic – two key flavors in just about any savory meal in my opinion!
  • butternut squash – the main vegetable in this chili! Here’s a simple tutorial for how to peel and chop butternut squash before cooking.
  • kale or spinach – I added greens at the end of cooking for some extra texture, flavor and nutrients! Kale holds its texture really well in this soup but spinach works as well!
  • vegetable broth – I recommend using low sodium vegetable broth so you can control the salt content of this dish.
  • diced tomatoes – I used canned diced tomatoes for an easy shortcut but fresh works as well!
  • coconut milk – I recommend using light coconut milk (from a can) to add a little creaminess and flavor to the soup. If you’re not a coconut fan, you can just use more broth!
  • red lentils – no need to pre-cook your lentils! Add dried lentils to the mixture and let them cook with the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have or can’t find red lentils, brown or green lentils should work just fine. Just note the texture and flavor might differ.
  • tomato paste – helps thicken the chili and adds a rich color and flavor.
  • apple cider vinegar – adding a splash of vinegar brightens all of the flavors in the chili and rounds out the soup. Use a splash of fresh lemon juice if you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand.
  • olive oil – for sautéing the vegetables. Avocado oil works as well.
  • seasonings and spices – turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper.
  • optional garnish – cilantro and green onions.

Variations

The best part about soups is how versatile they are! Craving a different protein? Switch it up! Need to clean out some fresh vegetables from the fridge? Throw them in. Here are some notes:

  • Vegetarian or vegan option – ditch the meat and use mashed chickpeas or crumbled tofu for some added protein.
  • Different meat – feel free to swap the ground turkey for a different meat of choice. This soup would be delicious with ground chicken or even shredded chicken.
  • Different or more vegetables – add extra vegetables to your chili for added flavor and nutrition! Bell pepper or carrots sound delicious to me but you really can’t go wrong.
Collage of four photos showing the process of how to make butternut turkey chili: sautéing onions, adding spices and turkey, adding tomatoes and broth, adding kale.

How to Make Butternut Squash And Turkey Chili

On the Stove Top

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a large pot with olive oil for 3-5 minutes. The onions should be translucent and you should smell a pretty strong garlic smell!
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Use a large spoon to break up the meat while cooking – the meat is done when it is lightly browned. Add the spices and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Add the butternut squash, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, red lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered for 30-35 minutes.
  4. When the butternut squash is fork-tender and the lentils are cooked, reduce the heat to low and stir in the greens. Let sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.

In a Pressure Cooker

  1. Set your pressure cooker to sauté mode and sauté the onion and garlic with olive oil for 3-5 minutes. The onions should be translucent and you should be able to smell the garlic!
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook while using a spoon to break up the meat for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the spices and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Add the butternut squash, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar. Place the lid on the pressure cooker, lock the lid and close the pressure release valve. Press cancel to cancel sauté mode and then press the soup/stew button. The timer should be set to 15-20 minutes.
  4. When the timer reaches 0, quick release the steam by carefully switching the pressure release valve open (I like to use a tongs or kitchen towel for this). Once the steam is released, remove the lid and stir in the greens. Let sit for a couple of minutes so the greens can wilt.
A bowl of butternut squash turkey chili topped with cilantro. A serving pot of chili is cut halfway out of frame.

How to Serve

This chili is hearty enough to be enjoyed as a meal on its own, but it’s also delicious with with some sides. Here are some serving ideas:

  • over grains – if you want more volume, you can serve this chili over quinoa or brown rice. I find that when I serve over a grain, I need less chili overall to feel full.
  • with bread I love eating chili with my pumpkin cornbread muffins. It’s also delicious served with crusty bread, crackers (I love my almond flour crackers) or even tortilla chips.
  • alongside a salad – add some fresh veggies with a side salad. I have a ton of salad recipes to choose from, but something light and fresh like this garlicky kale salad would be perfect.
An overhead shot of a bowl of butternut squash turkey chili. A silver spoon rests to the side of the bowl.

How to Store Leftovers

I love leftover chili! It’s one of those meals that seems to get better on days two and three. Allow the chili to cool slightly before adding to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I haven’t tried freezing this but I’m sure you could! The texture of the butternut squash may change slightly during storage but I’m sure it would still taste delicious.

More Chili Recipes to Try

The Most Popular Soup Recipes

Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

5 from 45 votes
Not your average chili, this butternut squash and turkey chili features red lentils and is simmered in a creamy coconut milk and tomato broth. It can be made in your pressure cooker or on the stove top!
A bowl of butternut squash turkey chili with cilantro on top. A silver spoon rests inside the bowl of chili.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can light coconut milk
  • ½ cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups chopped kale or spinach
  • chopped cilantro and sliced green onions, for garnish
  • cooked brown rice or quinoa, optional

Instructions
 

Pressure cooker:

  • Push the sauté/browning/meat button on your pressure cooker. Add oil to the inner pot.
  • Sauté onion and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add ground turkey and cook until brown, about 5-7 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat while cooking.
  • Add spices (turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper) and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add butternut squash chunks, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar to the pot.
  • Place the lid on the pressure cooker, lock lid and make sure the pressure release valve is closed.
  • Press cancel on the pressure cooker and then press the soup/stew button. The timer should be set to 15-20 minutes.
  • Once the timer reaches 0, the cooker will switch to keep warm. Carefully switch the pressure release valve to open (I use tongs for this). Once the steam is released, remove the lid and add in chopped kale or spinach. Give the chili a stir and let sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  • Portion chili into bowls, top each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onions before serving. You can also serve the chili over brown rice if you’d like.

Stove Top:

  • Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
    A large pot with sautéed onions and garlic.
  • Add ground turkey and cook until brown, about 5-7 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat while cooking.
    Turkey added to a large pot with a wooden spoon.
  • Add spices (turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper) and cook for an additional minute.
    Turkey, onion, garlic, and spices mixed together in a large pot.
  • Add butternut squash chunks, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, red lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar to the pot. Stir to combine.
    Broth, ground turkey, and vegetables in a large pot.
  • Bring mixture to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat to medium and simmer the chili uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the butternut squash is fork-tender and the lentils are cooked, reduce heat to low.
  • Add in kale or spinach, stir to combine and let sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
    Chopped kale added to a large pot with vegetables and ground turkey.
  • Portion chili into bowls, top each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onions before serving. You can also serve the chili over brown rice if you’d like.

Video

Equipment

Notes

  • If you’re serving a crowd or just want to extend the servings of the chili you can serve it over brown rice or quinoa. We did this one night and it was delicious!
  • Inspired and adapted from Oh She Glows.
  • Slow Cooker: You can make this recipe in your slow cooker as well. Just sear/cook the turkey in a regular pot and then add everything into your slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours or on high for 6-8 hours. You’ll just want to cook it until your butternut squash and lentils are tender. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 373kcal Carbohydrates: 39g Protein: 24g Fat: 15g Saturated Fat: 9g Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 52mg Sodium: 566mg Potassium: 674mg Fiber: 7g Sugar: 8g
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butternut squash turkey chili

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    92 comments
    1. Jackie
      October 17, 2021 AT 7:18 pm

      5 stars
      Wanted to make Turkey chili a different way. Made this on the stove and it is delicious over quinoa even better the next day. .

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 18, 2021 AT 11:52 am

        Woo!! So thrilled to hear this chili was a success, Jackie. Thanks so much for making it and coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it!

    2. Kim
      October 17, 2021 AT 6:50 pm

      5 stars
      I was intrigued & had to try this recipe. Needless to say it was a complete hit. I used the sauté fxn on the Ninja Foodi then the pressure cooking mode as directed. The directions are accurate and it came out great! I added baby book choy at the end for my green and also kale in other bowls I packed up for lunch this week. So excited to have found this recipe! Froze a bag too! We will see how it holds up!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 18, 2021 AT 11:53 am

        Ah yay! Pumped to hear this chili was a hit. Thanks for trying it out, Kim. And I so appreciate the review!!

    3. Jessica
      October 13, 2021 AT 9:30 pm

      Could you use regular coconut milk or part regular coconut milk and water if it’s too rich?

    4. Chelsea Hennard
      October 13, 2021 AT 3:45 pm

      5 stars
      Honestly my favorite soup in the world. I found this recipe years ago and have been making it ever since. It’s my winter go to. Thank you for sharing it!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 14, 2021 AT 12:12 pm

        Ah yay!! I’m so glad you’ve been loving this recipe, Chelsea. Makes me so happy to hear! Thanks so much for the review and star rating. It means so much to me!

    5. Janine
      October 13, 2021 AT 8:05 am

      5 stars
      AMAZING! made this with no substitutions and it was soooo good,I’ll be doubling this recipe and making again this week. I do have 1 question, can this be frozen?

Parchment paper lined with protein balls.

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