Chili de Árbol – Made with Wild Turkey

Recipe and images by Eileen Clarke
Prepared With Turkey Chili De Arbol Eileen Clarke Taste Of The Wild

Harvesting a large bird has the benefit of a fair amount of wild protein to fuel the dinner table, and while you may have lots of recipes for the breast meat, I’d like to propose one that uses any and almost every part of your hard-earned wild turkey meat, including the breast meat, thigh, wings, and even the drumstick if you have a bit of time and a sharp filet knife.

This chili is an intensely flavored dish, though not fiery hot.  I’ve made it with smaller upland birds, but it’s handy to have a bird with lots of meat on its bones, and turkeys are perfect.  No turkey?  A mild-tasting wild pig is a great substitute.
Makes about 8 cups/2 quarts



4” length of dried de Árbol chilis

1 pound chopped turkey meat

4 tablespoons oil

1 yellow onion, sliced thin

1 tablespoon ground cumin

⅓ cup bottled roasted red bell peppers, chopped

¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

For the Cilantro/Garlic Paste

5 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro*

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic

*If you are one of those people who taste soap when you eat cilantro, you can substitute 5 tablespoons of chopped red onion for the foliage.



  1. De-stem each chili, remove the seeds and set the peppers aside. Pat dry the diced meat. In a 3-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the meat in 2 batches, using 1 tablespoon of oil to each batch, stirring occasionally until golden. Transfer the meat to a bowl.
  2. Add a bit more oil to the pot and sauté the onion until it’s soft and starts to brown. Return the meat to the pot, stir the cumin, roasted red bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes into the meat and onions. Add all but a ½ cup of the chicken broth. Let the pot come back to a gentle boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue cooking 30-40 minutes uncovered.
  3. While the chili cooks down a bit, toss the remaining ½ cup of chicken broth and de Árbol chilies in a blender and liquefy. Stir them into the pot.  Prepare the Cilantro/Garlic Paste: in a mini grinder mince the cilantro and garlic separately (so you can measure each in turn), then transfer to a small bowl and mash together with the back of a fork.
  4. To serve, stir the cilantro/garlic into the chili. Depending on the chicken broth—plus your own personal taste buds—you may want to add just a little salt at the table. Serve hot with corn bread or toasted tortillas.


Chili De Arbol Peppers Eileen Clarke 002

Chili de Arbol_peppers_Eileen Clarke

De Arbol’s are small but pack the heat:  30,000–50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) versus 2,500–8,000 SHU for jalapeno peppers. Smoked serrano chilies lie in the middle at 8,000-22,000 SHU.

The Scoville rating is always a range not a specific number, so always taste the peppers before adding them to the pot. I’m a wimp when it comes to spiciness, but I love de Árbol and smoked serrano chilies. My goal is lots of flavor in a chili, rather than just fire, and this batch of de Arbol provided that. If you want a somewhat smokey chili, I’d recommend the smoked serranoes. My new game cookbook, The Wild Bowl is full of do-it-yourself spice mixes, both for chilies and other dishes, ranging from mild to hot, mellow to sweetly-almost-on-fire. (Sweet somehow lets me add more fire without feeling overwhelmed.)

Beyond the heat range, there are at least two ways to cook with chilies: I prefer commercially-ground dried chilis so I have complete control. Or, as we’re doing here, ‘liquefying’ whole dried chilies with broth, then adding enough ‘to taste.’ The blender isn’t perfect though: there’s always a chance a chunk will escape.

The other factor with heat is the seeds. No matter what type of chili pepper you use, leaving the seeds in the pod will raise the heat level; removing them will lower it. (Hint: Always wear gloves when handling spicy peppers.)

If the heat gets away from you, a squeeze of fresh lime juice helps, as does a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, or even a bit of grated cheese. Easier yet, is adding a ¼ teaspoon of sugar to a glass of water and having this at the table when you are enjoying your meal.

Eileen Clarke The Wild Bowl Cookbook Cover

Eileen Clarke’s, Upland Game Bird Cookery, and Tenderize the Wild: Marinades, brines and rubs each have 100 recipes, as does her newest book, The Wild Bowl: 100 soups, stews and chilies. (For big game, upland, waterfowl, wild pigs–and 26 chilies.) Order only at

Categories: Featured, Game Birds & Waterfowl

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