Warm up with a spicy and flavorful bowl
This time of year, the days are short in our part of the world. And the nights are cold. Fortunately, we have chili to keep us warm.
Chicken chili is a bit lighter than the beef version, so we don’t sink down in our snowshoes. But green chilies and white beans make it plenty tasty and hearty.
Good thing this recipe yields a big batch. You’ll want seconds.
Recipe: Chunky Chicken Chili with Green Chilies
You could make this dish with ground chicken if you prefer, but we think chicken chunks add nice texture and flavor. We like to pair the chicken with white beans (Great Northerns in this case), but you could substitute kidney or pinto beans. Or even black beans.
Green chilies run the gamut from mild to spicy wild. We suggest using a mix of two or more varieties to add interest. We used Hatch chilies, but milder Anaheim or poblano chilies would work well, too. We also added a few jalapeño peppers for zip. We used a combination of green and red (ripe) jalapeños. You can roast the chilies or not (see Notes for Procedure). We roasted the Hatch chilies, but didn’t bother with the jalapeños.
Prep time for this dish is about half an hour. Cooking time adds 1½ hours.
This recipe makes several quarts. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. Or just freeze them (and have ready-made chili on hand for weeks).
- 1 pound dried white beans (or substitute canned beans if you prefer – see Notes; use 3 15-ounce cans)
- ~3 pounds of boneless chicken (thighs or breasts)
- ~2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons oil (we use olive oil, but any cooking oil will work)
- 2 medium onions (2 to 3 cups, diced)
- 8 to 12 ounces fresh or frozen green chilies (to taste; can substitute canned chilies – see Notes)
- 2 to 3 red or green jalapeño peppers, or a mix of the two (to taste)
- 4 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
- additional salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon dried ancho chile powder (or substitute another variety; see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried coriander
- garnish of jalapeño slices or dice, or chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
- The night before you plan to make the chili, sort through the dried beans, removing any grit or stones. Cover the beans with water, then let them soak overnight (see Notes if using canned beans).
- Cut the chicken into chunks of 1 to 1½ inches. Season with salt to taste. Place a large soup pot or Dutch oven (one that holds at least 6 quarts) over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (in about 15 seconds – it’ll shimmer), add the chicken pieces and brown them on each side. Don’t overcrowd the cooking pot – brown in batches if necessary. When the chicken chunks are browned, drain them on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- While the chicken is browning, peel the onions and cut them into dice of ¼ inch or so. Set aside.
- Wash the chilies, then cut off their stems (if you want to roast the chilies beforehand, we tell you how in the Notes). Cut the peppers in half and scoop out the white pith and seeds with a teaspoon. Then cut the peppers into dice (you may want to reserve some jalapeño dice or slices for garnish). Remember, chilies are spicy and can burn your skin, so wear kitchen gloves while doing this step. Set the diced peppers aside.
- Peel the garlic and cut it into fine dice or thin slices. Set aside.
- By now, the chicken should be done browning, so you can remove it to drain. Using the same cooking pot (add more oil if necessary), sauté the onions. Season with salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us) and cook until the onions begin to brown (usually 7 to 8 minutes). At that point, add the chopped chile peppers and garlic, and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add the chile powder, oregano, cumin, and coriander, then stir them into the onion mixture. Drain the beans and add them to the cooking pot. Add the browned chicken chunks. Add just enough water to barely cover the mixture. Reduce the heat to the barest simmer, then cook for 1½ hours.
- Test to make sure the beans are thoroughly cooked and soft (they’re usually done after an hour, but sometimes can take longer; continue cooking until they’re done). Adjust the salt if necessary.
- Ladle the chili into serving bowls, adding garnish if desired.
- Green chilies develop deeper flavor if you roast them (though we don’t bother doing this with jalapeño peppers). To roast, just heat the chilies under the broiler or over a gas flame until their skins begin to blister and turn black. Turn the chilies and repeat until all sides are blistered. Then place the roasted chilies in a bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Allow the chilies to steam for about 15 minutes. Then rub the skins off the chilies (wearing kitchen gloves). Cut the stem ends off the chilies, remove the seeds, and cut away the white pith. Then dice the chilies as directed in Step 4.
- The heat level of chilies can vary quite a bit. If you’re unsure, take a small bite of one to gauge the spiciness.
- Anaheim chilies are very mild, and they’re available at every supermarket. Poblanos have more heat (and better flavor), and are also widely available.
- We particularly like Hatch chilies, which get their name from the city of Hatch, New Mexico (where they’re grown). Fresh Hatch chilies are available only in late summer, but you can buy them frozen. Or freeze your own – which is what we generally do.
- If you don’t have fresh or frozen green chilies on hand, the canned version will work fine in this recipe. You generally can find canned chilies in the Mexican food section at your supermarket. The cans come in various sizes, though 4-ounce containers are very common. Canned chilies tend to have very little heat, so we suggest starting with at least 8 ounces. After the beans have cooked for a bit, you can taste them to gauge the heat level. If the flavor isn’t bold enough for you, add more canned green chilies. Or sprinkle in some hot sauce, or more ancho chile powder.
- Want to use canned beans instead of dried? Here’s how: After the chili has cooked for 45 minutes, open the cans and drain the beans into a colander or large sieve. Rinse them to remove the gunk they’re packed in, then drain the beans and add them add to the chili. Cook for another 45 minutes.
- Want a dish with more heft? Add some potatoes: Peel 3 or 4 potatoes and cut them into dice of about ½ inch. Add them to the chili pot in Step 7.
- We suggest using ancho chile powder in this dish because it’s fairly mild, and its flavor marries well with green chile peppers. If you want something bolder, try dried chipotle chile powder. Both of these chile powders tend to be available at supermarkets. We also like dried red Hatch chile powder, but that can be harder to find. You’ll probably have to order it online.
- A reminder on terminology: Chile (with an e) powder is made from dried red chilies that are ground up. Chili powder is a combination of chile powder plus cumin, coriander, and other spices.
- If your supermarket doesn’t carry chile powder, you can substitute commercial chili powder. But remember, chili powder contains cumin and coriander, which are also listed as ingredients in this dish. So you may want to reduce the quantity of cumin and coriander we call for (or eliminate them altogether).
- We use kosher salt for cooking and baking. Kosher salt is less salty by volume than regular table salt (its crystals are large and more coarse, so they don’t fill a measuring spoon as tightly). If you’re using regular table salt, use about half as much as we suggest. But, as always, adjust the seasoning to your taste.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “We need a chicken in every pot – of chili.”
“So you’re not going to ask, ‘Where’s the beef?’” I said.
“No, I don’t want to ruffle your feathers,” said Mrs K R. “Or lay an egg.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That would be fowl.”
“One more pun like that and I may put up a squawk,” said Mrs K R.
Better stop now. Don’t want her to brood over this.
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