Hand-Selected Recipes and Stories Straight to Your Inbox

instant pot turkey chili

All Photos: Virginia Willis

Instant Pot Turkey and Black Bean Chili


An Instant Pot makes speedy work of Virginia Willis' rib-sticking game day chili

My vicious fear of pressure cookers was instilled in my terrified heart at a very early age. 

My grandmother used a pressure cooker for canning, and from the time I was a mere toddler my mother and grandmother admonished me not to go near the pressure cooker. Legendary tales of woe abounded detailing violent explosions, flying aluminum lids of death, and green bean shrapnel sprayed in horror across the ceiling. I shudder when I remember the fierce dragon’s hiss of steam. I gave that frightening, clamoring beast a very wide berth.

The extreme popularity of the Instant Pot, essentially a shiny, fancy and, most importantly, not-dangerous-sounding pressure cooker has exploded in a completely different way — with hundreds of cookbooks, thousands of online recipes and myriad fans forming Instant Pot-dedicated Facebook groups. Its perky, quirky name implies immediate satisfaction.

Nonetheless, I was resistant. (See above, re: green bean shrapnel.) An Instant Pot may be safer and my grandmother wouldn't categorize it as a weapon, but I kept asking myself: Do I really need another appliance to take up space on our countertop or be shoved in a cabinet?
instant pot on kitchen counter
After a few months of playing around with one, I have to admit that yes, I'm happy I found a space for an Instant Pot in my cupboard. One of my favorite uses for the Instant Pot involves dried beans and totally not-Texan chili.

When the season starts to change and fall — and football — is in the air, we love a hearty pot of chili. Making a big batch and enjoying it on game day with friends and family is an easy and delicious way to entertain. I put out bowls of sour cream or yogurt, grated cheese, scallions and a bottle of hot sauce. That, and a crispy bag of tortilla chips and we're ready for kick off.
dried black beans
However, I often get caught behind the line of scrimmage and forget to soak dried beans overnight. I sometimes resort to the quick, hour-long method of bringing the water and dried beans to a boil, then setting them aside for an hour or so before starting the process of actually making the dish. Still, depending on the age of the beans, this “Hail Mary” can take up to several hours to cook.

Enter my top new recruit: the Instant Pot. Start to finish, even with the pressure build and steam release, it takes only about an hour to make a pot of chili to feed a crowd. Now, that’s what I call winning!

Bon appétit, y’all — and go Dawgs!
– Virginia Willis
turkey black bean chili
Instant Pot Turkey and Black Bean Chili
Note: Chile powder, with an e, is pure ground dried chile peppers. It comes in mild or hot and the heat is a result of the choice of chile that was dried and ground. Chili powder, with an i, is a blend of chile peppers and other spices, including cumin, coriander, dried oregano, salt and pepper. I prefer to use pure dried ground chile powder in my chili and add my own spices to taste. Using freshly ground spices will give your chili a more vibrant flavor.

Serves: 8 to 10
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 onions, chopped
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 pound dried black beans
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
1/4 cup ground dried chile powder (see note)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
8 cups water
Grated cheddar cheese, for serving
Sliced green onions, for serving
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving

With the Instant Pot turned to the sauté function, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the peppers and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir in the turkey, beans and cornmeal. (The mixture will be quite thick.) Stir in the chile powder, coriander and cumin to coat the meat, then add the tomatoes, followed by the water, making sure not to go beyond the fill level indicated on the inside of the metal insert.

Lock the lid in place and set the Instant Pot to cook on the "Beans" setting for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes is up, let the pressure come down naturally, about 20 minutes. When the pressure is down, remove the lid, tilting it away from you. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with cheese, green onions, sour cream, and plenty of hot pepper sauce on the side.

Want to make your chili the old-school way? Soak your beans overnight and then drain and rinse. Use a large, heavy duty pot or Dutch oven and follow the same process above up through the point where you add the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens, the beans are tender and the flavors develop, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Author image

Georgia-born, French-trained chef and food writer Virginia Willis has made cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, catered a bowling party for Jane Fonda, foraged for herbs in the Alps, and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Her legion of fans loves her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and re-imagining Southern recipes en Français. Virginia's newest cookbook, "Secrets of the Southern Table," is currently available for here. Her previous book, "Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome," received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. Learn more about Virginia and follow her culinary exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.