turkey chili with zucchini and corn

Turkey chili with zucchini and corn

16 May 2013

I may have finally convinced my mom that I can cook. This year we’re sharing her kitchen, as I’ve temporarily invaded her house with my family of six. Here she cooks far more than I do, and I’m respectful of her domain. Despite being an admirably easygoing personality, my mom is very particular about her food. So mostly I contribute as directed: salads, vegetables, sweets and the occasional meal.

But even though my mom likes to cook what she wants to eat, she enjoys a break too. Her refrain used to be that my older brother was a better cook than I, even though none of us had ever witnessed him cooking – “He has credentials!” (credentials being junior high cooking class). But I think she’s finally over that.

My mom was born in China and grew up in Korea, but surprisingly, chili is one of her favorite meals. So this year I’ve made a lot of variations on my regular turkey chili. I’ve always been too much of a veggie lover for the all-meat Texas variety, and lately I like substituting vegetables for half the beans. In the winter, we fell for the soft sweetness of butternut squash in the spicy mix, but now that it’s late spring, we’re digging the freshness of zucchini.

Of course, it’s a little early for zucchini, but in the heat of August a steaming bowl of chili won’t make sense. So we’re enjoying it now.

Onions and garlic are a must. I should have prepped my zucchini too, but I was in a rush and got started without it.

onions garlic

Brown the turkey.

browning turkey

Catching up on zucchini while the meat cooks.

dicing zucchini

Add spices – they like to warm up.

chili spices

And because I’m lazy and cooking is flexible, I just threw in my zucchini late. It would have cooked more efficiently with the onions.


Add black beans.

black beans

Tomatoes and water.

tomatoes water

Cook for 20 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down.

zucchini chili

Corn at the end, because it cooks almost instantly in the hot chili. My mom bought some tasteless fresh corn that cut off the cob, but much better to stick with frozen until summer.


And black olives, because they’re pretty and my kids like them.

black olives

Taste for salt – with the zucchini you’ll need more than usual. Extra pepper is good too. And add more water if you like a soupier chili.

turkey chili with zucchini and corn

There it is – meat and veg in one flavor-packed bowl. My mom eats her chili over rice, which is a smart idea as rice and beans combine to make a complete protein. But usually I like mine straight up.

turkey chili with zucchini

Toppings are the best – grated cheese, diced avocado, scallions, cilantro, tortilla chips, sour cream or Greek yogurt. I restrained myself here so you could still see the chili. But a lighter chili makes loading up with toppings all the more fun.

turkey chili with zucchini and corn

Turkey Chili with Zucchini and Corn
A happy balance between my regular turkey chili and all-veggie chili, this variation utilizes favorite summer vegetables.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (1 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (1 lb frozen)
  • 1 3.8-oz can sliced black olives

Toppings (any or all)

  • Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • Avocado, cubed or sliced
  • Scallions, sliced thin
  • Cilantro, chopped


  1. Heat large saucepan or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add olive oil, onions, garlic and zucchini. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add ground turkey, breaking up meat with a large spoon. Cook until meat is cooked through (no pink).
  3. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano to the meat. Cook briefly to heat spices.
  4. Rinse beans in colander. Add to meat and stir.
  5. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and water (I fill tomato sauce can, which is just about 2 cups) and add. Stir.
  6. When chili starts to boil, turn heat to low and cover. Cook at a lively simmer for 20 minutes. Check periodically and add more water if necessary.
  7. Add corn, olives and crushed red pepper to taste. Serve with toppings as desired: grated cheese, sour cream or plain greek yogurt, diced avocado, slivered scallions, chopped cilantro.


  • Feel free to use whatever beans you have handy – kidney beans are of course the classic chili bean, but pinto, white kidney (cannellini) or even garbanzo beans (chickpeas) all work.
  • Optional adds: chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika if you have either.
  • Leftover chili will thicken when cooled. Add a bit of water when reheating if you like it soupier.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Slammie 22 May 2013 at 6:32 pm

Cool that your mom likes chili. Don’t think my parents do(will have to ask mom if she ever had with your mom) and I definitely don’t. LOL


BK 23 May 2013 at 3:10 pm

This is one of my favorites! Thanks!


KathieB 23 May 2013 at 4:01 pm

Even though my Cincinnati years are back in the past, I still have to speak up for that Cincinnati institution–chili served over spaghetti noodles. Or any kind of pasta. Comfort food……


cg 23 May 2013 at 4:51 pm

hi kathieb – you are right on! my brother-in-law is from cleveland, but he’s from the chili-spaghetti school too. i guess my mom’s chili-over-rice is just another take on that combo.


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