recipe: Super-Light Chili Con Carne

I am quickly becoming a convert on eBooks, especially cookbooks. I love buying cookbooks, but when it comes to that post-lunch surfing to decide what to make for dinner, I always resort to websites because I can’t flip through my cookbooks. eBooks are that nice compromise to be able to flip through recipes, make shopping lists and not worry that a recipe site or blog has left anything out.

In conjunction with our attempts to eat lighter, I’ve been reading Rocco DiSpirito‘s "Now Eat This!" and many of the recipes are pretty simple and fast though the creative ingredients substitutions for some recipes may give one pause. Last night I made his version of light–make that super-light–chili con carne with surprisingly delicious results!

The secret, though it’s hardly a secret, is that it doesn’t use any oil and hardly any fat. Ground turkey breast meat is 99% lean and the recipe didn’t call for any butter or oil, just vegetables, their juice, turkey and beans. We were wary, I caught my spouse readying himself for disappointment, but it turned out to be a flavorful chili with good texture and plenty of heat. See nutritional details after the recipe, but I’ll confirm that when he titled it Super-Light, that was referring to calories, not taste.

Super-Light Mexican Chili con Carne with Beans

Recipe from Rocco DiSpirito‘s "Now Eat This!"


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into fine dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into fine dice
  • One 35-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, juices reserved (a)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (b)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces ground turkey breast (c)
  • One 14-ounce can black beans, drained (d)
  • Shredded 75% reduced-fat cheddar cheese, such as Cabot
  • Reduced-fat sour cream (e)


I usually place this section last, but when shopping for the specified ingredients, I noticed that the sizes in my local grocery store didn’t quite match up, something that can happen a lot when cooking from a book, especially a healthy recipe cookbook. My substitutions and other notes follow.

  1. I was unable to find a 35-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes in my local shop, so I compromised with a 28-ounce can + an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce.
  2. As mentioned before, I’m a heat wuss, so I used 2 tablespoons Chipotle chili powder with 1 tablespoon chili powder.
  3. At the local shop, ground turkey breast only came in a 20-ounce package, so I used the entire thing.
  4. Again, this size couldn’t be found, so I used a 15.5-ounce can of black beans.
  5. This is my own addition. It helps temper the significant heat produced by all the chili powder & cumin!


  1. In a Dutch oven, combine the garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and their juices, chili powder, and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Raise the heat to high and add the ground turkey, stirring to break it up. Add the black beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  3. Serve the chili in bowls, with the cheese sprinkled on top.

The recipe is very simple with only a few steps, so I had time to do a little bit extra. I “browned” the ground turkey–using non-stick cooking spray and a few spoonfuls of the simmering chili liquid–in another pot first before adding it to the chili. And I let the chili cook for longer than 8 minutes each step since this wasn’t a classic long-cooking recipe, I wanted as much flavor to develop as possible.

DiSpirito’s original recipe serves 4 at 287 calories per serving. My modified recipe (with more ground turkey and beans) serves 6 at 245 calories per 11.5-ounce serving. (Per Lose It! — Total Fat: 2.2g, Cholesterol: 60.4mg, Sodium: 544.5mg, Carbs: 22g, Fiber: 6.7g, Sugars: 3.1g, Protein: 29g) Sprinkle 18-cup reduced fat cheddar and top with 2 teaspoons light sour cream to add another 55 calories bringing each bowl to a nice even 300 calories per serving.

Having a kitchen scale is great for portion control/serving size. Admittedly to figure out the above, I had to find a large enough bowl/pot, tare its weight on the scale, then pour the chili from the Dutch oven into it, but after a little weighing and a little math, it wasn’t too bad. And even though this chili had me sweating from the heat, I packed up a serving to bring into the office for lunch today–with cheese and sour cream, of course.

I look forward to flipping through more recipes in this book and slowly making the switch–or in some cases, doubling up–from paper to eBooks when it comes to my cookbook library at home.

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