Malaysian Turkey Chili

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I’m always intrigued when I see old standards revised into something new…especially something that sounds a bit odd.

Parsnip margarita? Sure! Why not? I swear I actually had one at my favorite Mexican restaurant. And it was fantastic.

And so, when I can across this unusual recipe in one of my favorite weeknight cookbooks, High Flavor Low Labor, by J. M. Hirsch I knew I had to try it. We all have a recipe for turkey chili…and we cook it often because it’s so easy, right? This recipe is just as simple, but it truly thrills the palate with a bit of the unexpected. It’s spicy, yes, but not overly so–and it’s bright from the lemongrass and ginger. But it’s the addition of the coconut milk that truly makes this an interesting and wonderful, one-pot meal.

When I adapted this recipe, I was a little more liberal with the spices because I like a lot of flavor in my food. Next time I make it, I think I’ll add a little lime juice or fish sauce (or both) and a handful of fresh basil to kick up the flavor even more. I love to mix it up and try new things when I cook, and for that reason, I hardly make anything the same way twice–because it’s fun to play with our food, right?  (Just don’t tell the kids I said that.)

Malaysian Turkey Chili
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe, adapted from High Flavor Low Labor by J.M. Hirsch, is a great way to revive that same old boring turkey chili you've been making year in and year out. Lemongrass and coconut milk work together to create a bright flavor and silky texture, and the spices add interesting complexity. Look for lemongrass in the produce section of your supermarket. It is a long, grassy stalk about the diameter of a finger. Use it as you would a bay leaf to add flavor during cooking and remove it before serving. If you can't find it, adding the zest of one lemon is a decent substitute.
Serves: serves 4
  • 1, 15-inch stalk of lemon grass, smashed and cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno, de-veined, seeded and diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1¼ pounds ground turkey (extra lean)
  • 14-ounce can of light coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro and sliced green onion, for garnish
  1. Heat a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lemon grass, olive oil, jalapenos, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika, chili flakes, and ground ginger. Saute for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the turkey and break it apart with a spatula. Cook until lightly browned. Stir in the coconut milk, chicken broth and beans. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and discard. Stir in the spinach and cook for one minute more, until the spinach is just wilted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and onions.

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  1. This looks delicious! I love trying new flavors and playing with my food. This seems like a perfect early fall dish 🙂

  2. Kimberly Schneider says:

    This was delicious! I was a little hesitant that my kids would like it, but they loved it! My 15 and 11 year old boys had seconds also! Kudoos on this recipe. We will definitely be having this again.

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