Leftover Thanksgiving Chili

leftover thanksgiving chili recipe
Ananda Headshot Ananda Kaplan

What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers is always the question! A classic option is making the scrumptious Thanksgiving sandwiches the following day, but that only uses so much of the leftovers. One great solution is chili. This recipe is not your classic red chili — it’s a green chili that is a little lighter and very nourishing but still provides those comforting and hardy flavors we expect from a chili. Our Leftover Thanksgiving Chili recipe combines succulent turkey, holiday vegetables, and earthy spices to create a tasty and exciting dish that will keep you satisfied in the days after the big holiday feast.

Leftover Thanksgiving Chili

Servings: 4-6

  • 1 tbsp oil (avocado, sunflower, olive oil, coconut)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (optional, to taste)
  • 1 4-ounce jar of hatch green chilis or ½ cup salsa Verde
  • ¼ cup leftover gravy or 2 tbsp flour (all purpose or gluten free)
    • If using flour, you will add it to the cooking process with the spices
  • 2-3 cups of leftover holiday vegetables
    • You can really add any of the vegetables you have leftover, some options are: Brussel sprouts, green beans (chopped to 1 inch pieces), sautéed greens, braised greens, spinach, roasted carrots
    • If you do not have left over cooked vegetables, you can add 2-3 cups of fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand. If using raw vegetables, you will add them to the cooking process with the onions and peppers to cook them through.
  • 3-4 cups of leftover turkey, shredded
    • If you do not have this much leftover just use what you have left or take it out and double the beans.
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 15 ounce jar or BPA \-free can of any beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups of soaked, cooked, drained beans
  • ½ tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Garnish options: mix ¼ cup cranberry sauce with 1 cup yogurt and dollop on the top; fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil); broken up pieces of stuffing; sliced jalapeños; sliced avocado; squeeze of lime

  1. Heat a medium-large pot over medium heat with the oil, onions, and peppers to soften for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure all vegetables are evenly coated.
  3. Add the green chilis for salsa and deglaze. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the yummy bits on the bottom of the pan to mix into the liquid from the chilis or salsa. If you do not have chilis or salsa use 2 tbsp of lemon juice or white wine.
  4. Add in the gravy, vegetables and turkey and mix to combine. Then add the stock, beans, salt, pepper, bay leaf and chili flakes, stir to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer allowing sauce to thicken for 10-15 minutes. If the sauce begins to get too thick you can thin it with extra stock.
  5. Remove the bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve and enjoy!
  6. Serve with recommended garnishes or get creative. This also tastes great on top of rice or mashed potatoes/cauliflower or fill inside bell pepper and bake.

Keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Turkey: A great source of protein and is rich in other key nutrients to help us maintain strong bones. It also supplies tryptophan which has been shown to help relieve stress.

Beans: Areas around the world that have been identified as places where humans live the longest (Blue Zones), are places where beans are commonly found in the diet.  Beans are versatile and affordable as well as contain folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fats. Their high amounts of soluble fiber and plant sterol support a healthy gut microbiome.  Beans increase feelings of satiety and have been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

GreensGreens such as kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens, arugula, and chard have been shown to protect bones from osteoporosis. They can reduce inflammation, support a healthy gut, strengthen the immune system, protect cognition, and supply a high number of antioxidants.

Garlic and onions: Considered a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the “good” bacteria in our gut and promotes a healthy digestive system. Research supports that the compounds in garlic and onions, such as allicin, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cardio-protective properties. If you chop your garlic 10-15 minutes before using, it will have the maximum amount of active allicin.

Cumin: Good source of iron. Aids in digestion. Cumin is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Paprika: Packed full of vitamin A along with lutein and zeaxanthin to support eye health. It also has a variety of antioxidants with anticancer effects (by fighting cell damage). Paprika can increase our “good” cholesterol (HDL) and reduce our “bad” cholesterol (LDL), decreasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Cayenne: The capsaicin in the chilies has been shown to promote the secretion of endorphins as well as binding with nerve endings that sense pain. This can reduce the feeling of pain and help us feel better. It also assists in the increased secretion of digestive juices to ensure healthy intestines.

Coriander: The seed of cilantro. Fragrant and flavorful. Anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

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