Chicken Chili

This Chicken Chili is a hearty, healthy recipe with layers of flavor that are out of this world! (Directions for the stove or crockpot!)

This Chicken Chili recipe is satisfying, comforting, accidentally healthy and imbued with robust seasonings that are practically hypnotic. Best of all, it’s easy to make, gluten free, freezer friendly and tastes even better the next day for make ahead dinner or lunches throughout the week.   This chicken chili recipe is exploding with flavor from the juicy chicken, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, beans, and smoky fire roasted tomatoes, swaddled in a garlic chili tomato broth.  Top off your bowl of the best chicken chili recipe with all your favorite toppings – cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, green onions and cozy up to this outrageously delicious bowl of comfort.

You can never have too many comforting chili recipes! If you love chili, don’t miss: crockpot beef chilibuffalo chicken chili, creamy white chicken chili, crockpot white chicken chili, easy turkey chili,  and chipotle mango black bean chili (one of the first recipes I ever posted!).

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HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN chili VIDEO

top view of showing how to garnish chicken chili with sour cream, green onions and tortilla strips

Chicken chili recipe

This chicken chili recipe is like a big, comforting hug that warms you from the inside out – but also happens to be guilt free delicious!  It makes a beloved family dinner but is also great to keep stocked in the fridge for a quick and easy healthy lunch that you will actually crave.

why this recipe works:

  • This chicken chili recipe is super flexible!  It can be made with any type of chicken (breasts, thighs, rotisserie) and any type of veggies!  
  • Healthy doesn’t have to be boring!  This recipe is hearty and healthy bursting with not just chicken but tender sweet potatoes (so good!) sweet bell peppers and creamy kidney beans in the savory tomato broth. You will love this swoon worthy combo.
  • The homemade medley of chili seasonings makes the dish. Instead of using any seasoning packets, our chicken chili is seasoned to perfection with pantry friendly seasonings along with plenty of aromatic fresh onions, garlic, fire roasted tomatoes and green chilies for a cravable symphony of complex flavors.
  • There won’t be a pile of dishes in your wake after this recipe!  It’s a meal-in-one that boasts, protein, veggies and carbs all made in ONE POT for all those busy nights.  
  • It makes even better leftovers.  You will love that this chicken chili recipe is not only so easy to make, but makes AMAZING leftovers!  In fact, I encourage you to try and make it a day ahead of time because it tastes even the better the next day.
  • Freeze chili for later!  This recipe is freezer friendly so you can freeze whatever you don’t consume or make it intentionally to freeze.

What chicken is best for chili?

I highly recommend chicken thighs for this chicken chili recipe (and for any soup recipe), but you may use any cut of chicken you prefer.  Here is the breakdown: 

  • Chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in): are dark meat which means they are inherently juicier, richer tasting and produce far more tender meat than chicken breasts.  They are also harder to overcook and stay tender for days with a more palate pleasing texture, even when reheated for leftovers.  I didn’t always use chicken thighs for my soup recipes, but once I started, there was NO going back. 
  • Chicken breasts:  you can absolutely still use chicken breasts for chicken chili if that is what you prefer.  Please note that chicken breasts are leaner than chicken thighs, so they will not be as juicy or as flavorful, especially if overcooked.  If using chicken breasts, I suggest bone-in chicken breasts but boneless will also work. You will want to slice your breasts in half through the equator if they are extra large, otherwise, the simmer time will be much longer and the beans can break down too much.
  • Rotisserie chicken: is my second choice to use in chicken chili after chicken thighs.   Rotisserie chicken comes lightly seasoned for an added depth of flavor and is a mix of both light and dark meat.  It also comes perfectly tender and ready to slurp up.  I always like to stock shredded rotisserie chicken portioned into 3 cup measurements in my freezer so they’re ready to add to any soup or casserole recipe.  I recommend shredding your rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home from the grocery store because the chicken is easier to shred while it’s still warm. 
  • Leftover chicken:  just make sure your chicken isn’t overly seasoned or you may need to reduce the seasonings in the recipe.  Add about 3 cups shredded or chopped leftover chicken to the soup when the recipe calls for adding the shredded chicken back to the chili.
a bowl of healthy chicken chili with a spoon showing how thick it is

Easy Chicken Chili Ingredients

This stovetop or crockpot chicken chili is made with easy to find ingredients. In addition to chicken, you will need:

  • Chicken broth: use low sodium broth so we can control the salt and make room for adding chicken bouillon, the secret flavor weapon.
  • Chicken bouillon: is a secret ingredient that adds a rich depth of flavor that makes the chicken chili taste like it’s been simmering for hours.  You can use granulated chicken bouillonchicken bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.   If using cubes, crush 2 cubes and add them directly to the chili, don’t dissolve in water first.
  • Onion: one yellow onion please for its assertive sharpness and mild sweetness. Make sure to dice it finely so it doesn’t take forever to soften.
  • Garlic:  fresh is best but you may substitute with 1 teaspoon garlic powder or more to taste.
  • Bell peppers: one yellow and one red bell pepper offer sublime sweetness to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes.  You can also swap in orange and/or green bell peppers but keep in mind green isn’t as sweet.
  • Sweet potatoes: offer sweet creaminess you will crave in every bite.  If sweet potatoes aren’t your thing, just skip them or add an additional bell pepper or use Yukon gold potatoes instead.
  • Mild diced green chilies:  one small can adds a hint of tangy delight.  Make sure you purchase MILD diced green chiles because the “hot” green chiles are HOT! 
  • Kidney beans:  are the most satisfying beans in chili.  I like to use two cans for their satisfyingly creamy, tender, and nutty flavor but you may also swap a can of kidney beans for pinto or black beans.
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes:  are tomatoes that have been roasted which gives them a complex smokiness and removes the acidic bite.   Look for them next to the traditional diced tomatoes. If you can’t find them, regular diced tomatoes will work just fine.
  • Crushed tomatoes:  you will need one 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (often called crushed tomatoes in puree). Take care your crushed tomatoes don’t have any additional seasonings or added salt.   The crushed tomatoes add texture and of course our full-bodied tomato flavor.  I recommend the brands San Marzano, Cento and Muir Glen.
  • Seasonings: our homemade chili seasoning is made with chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, ground coriander, salt and pepper.  It adds layers of complex flavors so please don’t skimp on any of them.  You may also add cayenne pepper to taste if you would like it spicier.

is this recipe GLUTEN FREE?

Yes!  This chicken chili recipe is gluten free!

HOW TO make chicken chili

This chicken chili recipe is easy to make in one pot in less than 60 minutes.  Here is how to make it with step-by-step photos (full measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Step 1:  Sear the chicken.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper then sear in a large Dutch oven/soup pot until golden, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate but leave the drippings.  The golden bits left behind are flavor gold and will build the base of the chili.  If you are using rotisserie chicken, then just skip this step.
showing how to make chicken chili recipe by searing chicken in a Dutch oven until golden
  • Step 2Sauté the vegetables.   Add the sweet potatoes, onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened then stir in the garlic, and all seasonings and cook for 1 minute.  Cooking the spices “blooms” the seasonings, or releases more of their flavor to create some seriously explosive flavor.
showing how to make chicken chili by cooking bell peppers, onions, sweet potatoes until onions are tender in a Dutch oven
  • Step 3Simmer the soup.  Add the seared chicken back to pot followed by the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer until the chicken is tender, then remove it to a plate and continue to simmer the soup until the sweet potatoes are tender.  In the meantime, shred the chicken with two forks.
showing how to make healthy chicken chili recipe by adding chicken, beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers to a Dutch oven
  • Step 4Finish the soup.   Add shredded chicken back to the pot and cook on low for a couple minutes so every nook and cranny of the shredded chicken can soak up the flavors.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle chili into bowls and top with desired toppings and dig in!
showing how to make easy chicken chili recipe by adding shredded chicken back to the finished soup

WHAT TOPPINGS FOR chicken chili?

If you serve any chili recipe without toppings, it will taste like something is missing – because it is!  Toppings play an important role in adding both crunchy and creamy textures and bright, fresh flavors to the chili. 

You can keep the chili toppings traditional and serve with cheese, sour cream, chips and green onions, or treat the chili more like a taco chili and add some Mexican inspired toppings as well. 

a few ideas for your toppings bar: 

  • Sour cream:  a must in my book!  It adds a wonderful creaminess but most importantly, cuts through the richness of the chili. You can also use fat free sour cream or Greek yogurt.  
  • Cheese:  sharp cheddar for the most flavor or Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack.  Use freshly grated cheese for superior taste and melting ability.
  • Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips: you can’t beat the CRUNCH of salty, chips or strips!   Use crushed tortilla chips or store-bought or homemade tortilla strips (see this recipe for homemade).
  • Green onions: for color, crunch and a fresh, mildly pungent onion flavor.
  • Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce so individuals can customize the heat.
  • Sliced jalapenos: also, a fabulous topping for those who want to add some heat.

Additional Toppings for a Tex-Mex Vibe:

  • Cilantro:  adds a fresh, zesty flair.  It can be used in addition to the green onions. 
  • Lime juice: awakens the flavors of the entire soup. 
  • Avocado:  chopped or sliced avocados add a wonderful creaminess. 
  • Radishes:  add a delightful spicy, peppery, zesty crunch.

At any point while your chicken chili is simmering, you can prep the toppings. When ready to serve, create a toppings bar and let everyone dress their own bowls.  

TIPS FOR MAKING the best chicken chili RECIPE

Follow these tips and tricks for the best chicken chili recipe every time:

  • Use the right chicken. This recipe will work with chicken breasts or chicken thighs, but for best flavor and juiciest chicken, use chicken thighs or shredded rotisserie chicken.
  • Rotisserie chicken hack: stock shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken portioned into 3-cup sealable bags in the freezer so you always have chicken ready to add to any soup, casserole or pasta.
  • Prep Ahead. You can trim your chicken, chop your onions, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and garlic and prep all your toppings ahead of time.
  • Don’t skip the sear.  Searing the chicken results in the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids and reducing sugars produce browning, and as we know, color= flavor!  The delicious brown bits left in the bottom of the pan will season the entire chili as they permeate the broth.
  • Don’t burn drippings.  Sear the chicken until golden but make sure it’s not at too high of heat. You don’t want black drippings because this will make the chili recipe taste burnt.  If the chicken is browning too quickly, turn down the heat.  You may also need to add some additional oil depending on your pot.
  • Don’t overcook the chicken.   Cook the chicken just until it easily shreds with two forks.  Time varies depending on the size of the chicken, simmering strength, pot, etc.  I recommend checking your chicken right at 12 minutes or even earlier if you have extra thin chicken thighs.  If your chicken isn’t tender, cook on!
  • Stir often. The chili can stick to the bottom and burn while it’s simmering because it’s quite thick, so you’ll want to stir often so the bottom doesn’t burn.  
  • Multitask.  Save time by prepping the toppings while the chicken chili is simmering.
  • Customize consistency.  Chili is supposed to be rich and thick.   If you prefer it more brothy, add additional chicken broth at the end of cooking.
  • Adjust to taste.  If you feel like your finished chicken chili is missing something, it is likely salt, heat and/or acid. I season the chili with additional salt once finished cooking – but as always, taste first!  You can also add cayenne pepper for spicier or lime juice for a kiss of tanginess.
  • Don’t skip the toppings! The chicken chili will taste like it’s missing something if you don’t add toppings. The toppings add the contrasting crunchy and cooling flavors/textures.
top view of two hands holding a bowl of healthy chicken chili with sweet potatoes

crockpot CHICKEN chili

This recipe can easily be adapted to the slower cooker for a super easy hand’s off recipe. To make Crockpot Chicken Chili:

  1. Spray a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and line it on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except use only 2 ½ cups chicken broth (because less will be evaporated). 
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours OR just until the chicken is tender enough to shred. 
  5. Shred the chicken, add it back to the crockpot and continue to cook on low for 20 minutes.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste (I add additional salt). Add additional chicken broth for a less “chunky” soup if desired.  Top bowls of chili with desired garnishes.

RECIPE VARIATIONS

This chicken chili recipe is fabulous as written or feel free to mix it!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use rotisserie chicken.  Swap the chicken thighs for about 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken. Add the chicken to the soup the last 5 minutes or so to warm through.
  • Swap protein.  You can make this chili recipe with any protein!  Use ground chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, shredded beef, pork shoulder, etc.
  • Make it vegetarian. Skip the chicken bouillon, use vegetable broth and omit the chicken. Add an extra can of beans and/or extra veggies, rice or quinoa in place of the chicken.
  • Customize vegetables.  Use whatever veggies you have on hand or mix it up just for fun!  Try green beans, corn, zucchini, butternut squash, cabbage, spinach, etc. Just be aware of veggie cooking times – for example, green beans take longer to cook than peas and cabbage, which take just minutes.
  • Swap beans.  Use black beans, cannellini, pinto beans, etc. or a combination.  
  • Add rice.  Add 1 cup long grain white rice (I recommend basmati for the best texture) the last 10-12 minutes of cooking.  You will need to add additional broth to accommodate the rice.
  • Add quinoa.  Add 1 cup rinsed and drained quinoa and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes.
  • Make it cheesy.  Stir freshly shredded sharp cheddar, pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack cheese directly into the soup at the end of cooking until it melts.
  • Make it creamy.  Add 4 oz. softened cream cheese at the end of cooking and stir until completely melted.   This is the method I use in my Cheesy Taco Soup and Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder and it is fabulous.  You can also add cream cheese and freshly grated cheese for extra creaminess and enhanced flavor.
  • Make it spicy. Stir in hot sauce or cayenne pepper to ramp up the heat.

HOW MANY DAYS IS CHICKEN chili good for?

Chicken chili tastes even better the next day!  It will last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer. 

up close of a bowl of chicken chili recipe digging in with a spoon

HOW TO FREEZE CHICKEN chili

Chicken chili freezes and reheats beautifully because it doesn’t contain any dairy. Here’s how:

  • Cool: allow chili to cool completely before freezing.
  • Package: add chili to a freezer safe container.  You can use sandwich size plastic bags for individual soup portions, quart size bags or freezer bags.  To easy fill these bags, place them in a container that you can wrap the top around the edge of – for example, place a sandwich size bag in a mug then cuff the edges around the mug.  This keeps the bag open and prevents it from collapsing when you are pouring in your chili.   Final packaging tip, make sure to let out any excess air before you seal.
  • Label: make sure to label your bags so it doesn’t become a freezer mystery and so you can use it within 3 months.
  • Freeze: once the bag is solid you can lay it flat in a single layer so it’s stackable to save space.
  • Thaw/Reheat: thaw chili in the refrigerator overnight then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

HOW DO I REHEAT chicken chili?

You can reheat this easy chicken chili recipe on the stove, in the microwave or crockpot:

  • Stove:  reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes.
  • Microwave:  transfer individual servings to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lids or paper towel.  Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
  • Crockpot:  transfer soup to a crockpot and heat on low for 1-3 hours.  The time will depend on how much soup you have remaining.

HOW TO PREP ahead

The prep work for this chicken chili recipe can be done ahead of time so that it’s just a quick sear, sauté and simmer to dinner.  To save time:

  • Chicken:  can be trimmed or trimmed and seasoned and stored in a single layer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Pep aromatics:  dice onions and mince garlic; store in a separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.   
  • Chop veggies:  chop the sweet potatoes and bell peppers up to 2 days ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Measure Spices: it doesn’t take long to measure out the spices, but you can certainly do it beforehand and store the mix in an airtight bag or container. 
  • Toppings:  can be prepped a day ahead of time and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. 

What sides should I SERVE WITH CHICKEN chili?

Keep it simple and serve this healthy chicken chili with a big green salad and some fruit or here’s some more fun and flirty ideas:   

up close of easy healthy chicken chili recipe topped with sour cream and green onions

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Chicken Chili

This Chicken Chili recipe is satisfying, comforting, accidentally healthy with layers of flavor that are out of this world! Best of all, it’s easy to make, gluten free, freezer friendly and tastes even better the next day for make ahead dinner or lunches throughout the week.   This chicken chili recipe is exploding with flavor from the juicy chicken, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, beans, and smoky fire roasted tomatoes, swaddled in a garlic chili tomato broth.  Top off your bowl of the best chicken chili recipe with all your favorite toppings – cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, green onions and cozy up to this outrageously delicious bowl of comfort.
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken thighs or breasts (use 1 ½ lbs. if using bone-in), or rotisserie chicken (see notes)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ½ cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes (1/2-inch chop)
  • 1 red bell pepper, ¾-inch chop
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, ¾-inch chop
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, ground coriander
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon (see notes)

TOPPINGS (Pick your favs!)

  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • green onions
  • tortilla chips
  • jalapenos
  • hot sauce
  • avocados

Instructions

  • Pat chicken dry and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Add chicken and sear until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate but leave drippings.
  • Add onions, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, and all seasonings, and cook, for 1 minute.
  • Add chicken back to pot followed by the rest of the ingredients (though chicken bouillon).
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. Remove the chicken to a plate and continue to simmer the soup until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, shred the chicken with two forks.
  • Add shredded chicken back to the pot and cook on low for a couple minutes to soak up the flavors. Taste and season with salt, pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste (I add 1/4-½ teaspoon salt).
  • Ladle chili into bowls and top with desired toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips and green onion.

Video

Notes

 
  • Chicken: This recipe will work with chicken breasts or chicken thighs, but for best flavor and juiciest chicken, use chicken thighs or shredded rotisserie chicken. If using rotisserie chicken, add about 3 cups to the chili when the recipe calls for adding the shredded chicken back to the soup.
  • Chicken bouillon: is a secret ingredient that adds a rich depth of flavor that makes the chicken chili taste like it’s been simmering for hours.  You can use granulated chicken bouillonchicken bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.   If using cubes, crush 2 cubes and add them directly to the chili, don’t dissolve in water first.
  • Don’t overcook the chicken:   Cook the chicken just until it easily shreds with two forks.  Time varies depending on the size of the chicken, simmering strength, pot, etc. I recommend checking your chicken right at 12 minutes or even earlier if you have extra thin chicken thighs.  If your chicken isn’t tender, cook on!
  • Recipe variations: Add/swap whatever veggies you’d like. See post for ideas.
  • Prep ahead: the chili can be made completely ahead of time and reheated or the chicken, veggies and toppings can be prepped and stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook.  See post for details.  

Crockpot Chicken Chili

  1. Spray a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and line it on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except use only 2 ½ cups chicken broth (because less will be evaporated). 
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours OR just until the chicken is tender enough to shred. 
  5. Shred the chicken, add it back to the crockpot and continue to cook on low for 20 minutes.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste (I add additional salt). Add additional chicken broth for a less “chunky” soup if desired.  Top bowls of chili with desired garnishes.

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT

  • To store:  chicken chili tastes even better the next day!  It will last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • To freeze:  let chili cool completely then transfer to an airtight freezer safe container.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
  • To reheat:  reheat large batches on the stove over medium low heat, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes, adding additional broth or water if desired to thin.  To microwave, transfer individual servings to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel.  Microwave for 2 minutes, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, as needed.

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