Easy Turkey Chili Recipe for Outdoor Adventures

Use leftover turkey breast from Thanksgiving dinner for this turkey chili recipe, or purchase thick-cut, oven-roasted turkey breast from the deli. Either way, the process of simmering the turkey in chili ensures that it will be tender whether you dehydrate it or not.

Turkey chili makes a great backpacking or camping meal.

Photo shows rehydrated chili enjoyed in the great outdoors.

This recipe shows how to make turkey chili, how to dehydrate it, and how to rehydrate it as a “just-add-water” meal for backpacking, camping, and adventure travel.


Servings: 3–4

  • 1 lb. oven-roasted turkey breast, sliced 1 cm thick (454 g)
  • 1 cup diced onion (125 g)
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper (125 g)
  • 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes*
  • 1 16-oz. can red kidney beans*
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (240 g)
  • 2 cups nonfat chicken broth, reduced sodium*
  • 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. salt*
  • ⅛ tsp. ground pepper

Ingredient Notes:

This turkey chili recipe is optimized for dehydration by making it thick. If serving immediately without drying it, you’ll want to thin it with about 1 cup more chicken broth. Alternatively, cook it with the lid on the pot to conserve liquid.

Use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes for best flavor, if available.

Any kind of beans may be used. Rinse beans before using.

Start with ½-tsp. salt while you cook the onions. Be mindful that chicken broth also contains sodium. Adjust salt as needed after the chili is almost done cooking.

Divide the seasonings, tomato sauce, and chicken broth into two parts. Half will be used to marinate the chicken while you dice and cook the vegetables.

How to Make Turkey Chili

Marinating the turkey while you dice and cook the vegetables will give it an extra boost of flavor.

Shred and Marinate the Turkey

Start with thick-cut turkey breast, about 1 cm-thick slices.

Shred turkey by rubbing it across a grater.

Shred the turkey by folding and rubbing the thick slices across a grater.

One pound (454 g) of shredded, oven-roasted turkey breast.

Photo shows 1 pound (454 g) of shredded, oven-roasted turkey breast.

Place shredded turkey in a large bowl. Add half of the spices, tomato sauce, and chicken broth. Set aside.

Cook the Vegetables, Oil-free Method

Cooking without oil helps dehydrated meals last longer. If you don’t plan to dehydrate the turkey chili, feel free to fry the vegetables with cooking oil.

Dice the onions and bell peppers, and mince the garlic.

Place the diced onions in a deep frying pan with the salt (½ tsp.). The salt will draw moisture out of the onions.

Cook onions on medium heat, stirring as needed. While cooking, slowly add ¼-cup of chicken broth, a tablespoon at a time so that the onions do not burn. This process is similar to caramelizing onions.

After about 10 minutes, add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the bell peppers plus all the remaining dry seasonings. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add spoonfuls of broth if needed to prevent scorching.

Onions, garlic, peppers, and dry seasonings cooked without oil.

Photo shows vegetables cooked without oil before the turkey and saucy ingredients were added.

Add the diced tomatoes and rinsed beans. Cook until heated, then add the marinated turkey including all the juices.

turkey chili simmering with all the ingredients.

Photo shows turkey chili with all the ingredients.

Increase heat and bring the chili to a light boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, up to 1 hour.

Turkey chili after cooked down to thick consistency for drying.

Photo shows turkey chili cooked down to a consistency ideal for dehydrating. If serving without dehydrating, add more chicken broth to make it saucy.

Dehydrating Turkey Chili

This recipe produces approximately 6 cups of thick chili before dehydration.

Spread turkey chili thinly on nonstick sheets.

Turkey chili on silicone dehydrator tray.

Photo shows 1 cup of turkey chili spread thinly on a silicone dehydrator tray sized for a Cosori dehydrator. You can spread up to 2 cups of chili on a ParaFlexx nonstick sheet if using an Excalibur dehydrator. (Amazon Affiliate Links)

Dehydrate turkey chili at 145°F (63°C) for 7–10 hours. To speed up drying, stir chili after 5 hours. Spreading 6 cups of chili on 6 trays (1 cup each) resulted in a drying time of 7 hours.

Dehydrated turkey chili.

Photo shows turkey chili after dehydration.

Rehydrating Turkey Chili

This turkey chili recipe produces approximately 4 cups of dried chili (300 g). Divide it into 3 or 4 servings, depending on your appetite.

Because the chili starts out extra-thick before dehydration, use more water to rehydrate it than was lost during dehydration.

Regular Serving:

  • 1 cup dried turkey chili (75 g)
  • 1½ cups water to rehydrate (355 ml)

Large Serving:

  • 1⅓ cups dried turkey chili (100 g)
  • 2 cups water to rehydrate (473 ml)
Turkey chili rehydrated in thermos food jar.

Photo shows turkey chili that was rehydrated in a Thermos Food Jar. There was more in the thermos!

Add boiled water to dried chili in thermos food jar, backpacking pot, or Mylar bag. Stir to mix well. If rehydrating in a pot or bag, transfer meal to an insulating cozy and wait 20 minutes before serving. If using a thermos food jar, enjoy the meal after 20 minutes or up to several hours later.


This turkey chili is delicious whether you dehydrate it or not. Use extra chicken broth to keep it saucy if not dehydrating.

Add any extras desired to the chili when serving, like sour cream, grated cheese, or sliced jalapeño peppers.

Dehydrated turkey chili is excellent for storage because turkey breast is naturally low in fat, and the recipe can be prepared without using oil.

Explore More…

Chili Recipes: Beef & Bean Chili, Chili Mac, and Chili & Rice.

Vegetarian Chili Recipes: Green Lentil Chili, Beyond Burger Chili, Textured Vegetable Protein Chili.

Dehydrating Ground Chicken & Turkey

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