Sweet Potato & Turkey Chili with Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Longest title ever, amiright? It may be a mouthful (literally) but that mouthful was the highlight of my weekend. After a long week, Friday finally made its appearance. I had an empty apartment and a hungry man coming over for dinner, so I knew salad was off the table. Earlier in the week, I had made a plan in my head that I was going to attempt my first chili recipe. Then, Friday rolled around and the fact that I still had chili on the brain meant one thing: I’m making chili and I’m totally adding sweet potatoes. Because…fall.

After an hour+ spent at the grocery store (curse you, samples!), I gathered my ingredients at home and began to prep. Normally, prep is the bane of my existence, particularly when chopping onions are involved. How can cooking be relaxing and therapeutic when my eyes are on fire, mascara is running down my face and I nearly chop my fingers off because of all the tears? Well, color me lucky because onions are the first thing you prep in this chili recipe.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was a Friday in October, the Otis Redding blasting from the stereo or that I was making chili for date night (plus, leftovers!), but the prep work for this chili was practically seamless. Sure, there were onion tears involved…but probably not as many considering I cheated and subbed a few shallots for 1/2 an onion. Shh, don’t tell anyone.


What’s great about making chili is you don’t really have to stick to a recipe. Sure, there are certain ingredients you always use to achieve that familiar flavor: chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomatoes, beans, etc, but when it comes to adding much else, the world (or crock pot) really is your oyster.

For this version, I added two kinds of beans: white kidney beans and black beans. For heat, I threw in 2 diced jalapenos and used ground turkey instead of ground beef and if I’m being honest, barely noticed a difference (yay, being healthy!) I microwaved the sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes before adding them to the pot and topped everything off with two gorgeous slices of creamy avocado. I let the chili cook and simmer for a lot longer than normal – I figured the longer I waited, the more flavors would develop and with my first bite, I knew I was right. Low ‘n slow, people. Low ‘n slow!

Because I was feeling adventurous, I also made cornbread for the first time to accompany the chili because honestly, what else would you use to dip in the chili? A SPOON!? No way josé! I followed a trustworthy recipe from the culinary queen herself, Ina Garten (who I happen to see live in Chicago on November 6th, not like I’m counting down the days or anything) and it was pretty much perfection.


To drink, I told my hungry man to bring over a hearty beer that would pair well with the hearty meal we’d be having. He brought over a bomber of the G.F.Y., a delicious imperial stout from his favorite local Chicago brewery, Spiteful Brewing. As I stirred the simmering chili, sippin’ on the beer, cornbread in the oven, I couldn’t have felt more relaxed or more excited to dive in to a meal. Friday, you’re great.

DSC_0085Sweet Potato & Turkey Chili (Recipe slight adapted from both this Williams Sonoma recipe & this Redbook recipe). 

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (or 1/2 an onion and 3 shallots, in my case)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 2 cans (each 14 oz) diced tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 can white kidney beans
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • Cheddar and avocado for garnish

1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven (or really, the largest pot you can find), heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook until browned. If there is any excess oil or moisture from cooking the turkey, discard it now, remove the cooked turkey from the pan into a bowl, set aside and cover with foil. (NoteSome recipes call to keep the turkey in the pot as you add vegetables and such. I wanted to ensure the veggies got a nice saute on them before cooking and simmering them with the turkey, so not as to overcook the turkey too soon.)

2. Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened and opaque. Add the jalapenos, red pepper and garlic and saute for 5-10 minutes until softened. Remove the turkey from earlier and add back to pan. Then, toss in the tomato paste, paprika, chili powder, cumin and paprika to the vegetables and stir. Finally, stir in the tomatoes and juices, bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium.

3. Add both types of beans, sweet potato and vegetable stock and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil again, reduce heat to a medium-simmer and let time do it’s thing…

4. After about 20 minutes if the chili is thickened to your liking, go ahead and serve. I kept mine on the stove for almost 2 hours, but that’s just because I had time to kill. Remember, the longer you cook the chili, the stronger the flavors will be. When it’s ready, serve with sliced avocado, cheddar cheese and chopped scallions (optional, I had extra from the cornbread). Serve with jalapeno cheddar cornbread and a dark, hearty beer (again, optional) 🙂

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

Note: This recipe yields 12 large slices of cornbread. If I made this again for 2 people alone, I’d halve the recipe. If you love cornbread and freeze the leftovers, go ahead and make the whole thing. 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted, melted butter plus more to grease the pan
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
  • 3 tbsp seeded and diced fresh jalapeno peppers

1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy eating! xx, Bytes

6 thoughts on “Sweet Potato & Turkey Chili with Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

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