BBQ Chicken Chili (Slow Cooker or Stovetop)

BBQ Chicken Chili that is sweet, smoky, made on the stove top or crock pot and is so good and easy my mom served it up on Christmas Day!

AKA Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Chili you are going to want every day.

BBQ Chili with tortilla chips on top.


Easy BBQ Chili Recipe

There is nothing as warm and comforting as a big bowl of chili – in any form – whether it’s my Chili Mac and Cheese, Chipotle Mango Chili or White Chicken Chili – all made exponentially more delicious with all the heaping toppings.  And now I’m proud to introduce you to to a new bowl of comfort, BBQ Chicken Chili!

This Slow Cooker BBQ Chili reminds me of Bush’s baked beans in its sweetness and smokiness – which was one of my favorite childhood comfort foods  – but loaded with tender chicken, green chilies, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and liquid smoke.  Seriously slurpworthilicious. (I hope you don’t mind I like to make up words – sometimes it’s necessary.)

My mom served this chicken chili with beans on Christmas Day part – talk about the perfect stress-free meal!  All you do is add all the ingredients to the slow cooker.  Done.  

I feel like I am beginning to sound like a broken record with all these easy soups and slow cooker meals, but I can’t ever stop becoming giddy over meals that are both delicious and effortless. Like really, it just seems wrong somehow for so much flavor and aroma to emerge with no thought or effort.  But also




It’s like magic.

And then its time for my favorite part – loading your magic beans of Sweet and Smokey BBQ Chicken Chili with cheese – lots and lots of cheese – sour cream, tortilla chips, avocado and even bacon if you like.  Because BBQ and bacon just belong together.  You will like.

Sweet and Smoky BBQ Chicken Chili Recipe – my belated Christmas gift to you that will continue to bring you joy all year round.

overhead view of bowl of chicken chili soup garnished with tortilla strips and shredded cheese

BBQ Chili Ingredients

This easy chicken chili has quite a few ingredients in it, but most of them are spices! Here’s what you’ll need to make this bbq chili:

  • Chicken breasts: I used boneless skinless chicken breasts.
  • Onion: A red or yellow onion can be used here.
  • Garlic: I love garlic, so I used 4 cloves. Add more or less as you see fit.
  • Ketchup: Sounds weird, but trust me on this! It gives this a true bbq flavor.
  • Brown sugar: Just 3 tablespoons adds a little sweetness and balances out the spices in this dish.
  • Yellow mustard: Just a few teaspoons adds a little tang to the chicken chili soup.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Vinegar pairs wonderfully with the smoky-spiciness of this chili.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Adds umami flavor.
  • Beans: I used a mixture of kidney, cannellini, and pinto beans. Don’t drain them!
  • Green chiles: Canned green chiles add flavor and some heat. Use spicier chiles for a hotter chili.
  • Liquid smoke: See my notes below if you’re unfamiliar with this ingredient.
  • Spices: I loaded up this chili with chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin.
  • Chicken broth: Use low sodium chicken broth so you have control over the amount of salt in this dish.

What is Liquid Smoke?

If you aren’t familiar with liquid smoke, it imparts a wonderfully smoky flavor and really is liquid smoke  It is created by capturing smoke as it rises through a combustion chamber filled with wood chips to a condenser.  In the condenser, the smoke cools and forms a liquid, thus liquid smoke.  (thank you, Wikipedia).  So if you ever want something to taste likes its been barbecued outdoors or smoked for hours, add a little liquid smoke. (Usually found next to the barbecue sauces in the grocery store.)

overhead view of bbq chili in a crockpot insert

How to Make BBQ Chili

When I say this is an easy chicken chili recipe, I mean it! Here’s all you do to make it:

  1. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and add to the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir around chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
  4. When chicken is tender, remove to a cutting board to shred or dice (personal preference) and return to slow cooker. Cook an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Dish into bowls and top with your favorite toppings!

Can I Make BBQ Chicken Chili on the Stovetop?

If you don’t have a slow cooker or don’t have time to wait because you want to eat the chili right now, then you just add the step of browning the chicken for a couple minutes then proceed to add the ingredients to your Dutch Oven/soup pot and simmer away. After 30 minutes, take your chicken out and shred it and add it back to your pot. Also super easy!

a bowl of bbq chili in front of a bowl of chips and a halved avocado

Tips for Making the Best Chicken Chili

  • Homemade chili seasonings. The ingredient list may look like a lot of seasonings, but they take just minutes to throw into the Crockpot Chili and are my perfected spice blend for this quantity of chili.  You will never regret using homemade seasonings!
  • Season to taste. I have included quantities for all of the seasonings except the salt – this will depend on how salty your chicken broth and is as well as personal preference.  I would suggest starting with ¼ teaspoon salt, cook the chili then season to taste with additional salt as needed (I use ½ teaspoon total). Remember, you can add more salt, but you can’t take it away!  
  • Large crockpot.  You will need at least a 6-quart slow cooker so your crockpot chili contents can fit comfortably.
  • Thin chili.  After you’ve given your bbq chili a good stir at the end of cooking and still want it a little thinner, you can thin with additional chicken broth, stirring in ¼ cup increments until it reaches desired consistency.
  • Thick chili.  If you like extra thick chili, you can start with just ½ cup chicken broth or omit it altogether. If you would still like a thicker chili after cooking, then remove the lid of the slow cooker the last hour of cooking to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
bowl of bbq chili garnished with tortilla strips and shredded cheese. A bowl of chips rests in the background

Recipe Variations to Try

I love how versatile chili recipes are!  Here are just a few ways to customize this chicken chili with beans:

  • Swap beans.  Swap out the beans for black beans to make a black bean chili.
  • Add veggies. Add sweet corn or whatever veggies your heart desires such as zucchini, poblanos, mushrooms, etc.
  • Swap protein. Swap out the chicken for ground beef, sausage, etc.
  • Add heat. Up the spice level by adding chipotle chili peppers, jalapeños, or cayenne pepper to taste.


Although this bbq chili is fairly quick to prep, it still requires some chopping and stove time which can be done 100% in advance:

  • You may chop your veggies ahead of time and store them in an airtight container. 
  • You can measure out all the spices and store them in a container until ready to use.
  • You can measure out the various sauces and condiments and store in a container until ready to use.
overhead view of bowl of chicken chili soup garnished with tortilla strips and shredded cheese

How to Store BBQ Chili

Homemade chicken chili soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.  If you don’t think you’re going to finish your chili in four days, then be sure to freeze the leftovers.

Can I Freeze BBQ Chicken Chili?

Crockpot bbq chili freezes exceptionally well because it does not contain any dairy products, pasta or potatoes which sometimes can become a funny texture once frozen. This chili makes a large quantity so you may need to freeze some leftovers (although there are never any in our house).


  • Let chili cool completely.  If you have a full recipe of easy chicken chili, you will want to divide it into multiple containers so it can cool down more quickly, otherwise it will stay at the danger zone for too long.
  • Divide chili into freezer friendly plastic containers or freezer bags. Squeeze out any air.
  • Label and date.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.  Lay freezer bags flat to safe space.
  • Let frozen chili thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

How to Reheat Chicken Chili

Transfer contents into a soup pot, microwave-safe dish or Crockpot to reheat. To reheat in the crockpot, cook on low for 1-2 hours depending on leftover volume.

overhead view of bowl of bbq chicken chili garnished with tortilla strips and shredded cheese


We LOVE our chicken chili with beans recipe with my favorite ever Moist Cornbread and a big green salad. Some people also love their chili over rice or pasta for some added texture.  If you wanted a full spread, chili is also wonderful with:

Looking For More Crockpot Soup Recipes?

BBQ Chicken Chili | Carlsbad Cravings

Smoky BBQ Chicken Chili (Slow Cooker or Stove Top)

BBQ Chicken Chili that is sweet, smoky, made on the stove top or crock pot and is so good and easy my mom served it up on Christmas Day! AKA Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Chili you are going to want every day.
Servings: 6
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours

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  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 16 oz. can can cannellini beans, undrained
  • 1 14 oz. can can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 14 oz. can can pinto beans, undrained
  • 1 4 oz. can can mild diced green chilies
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, smoked paprika, salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Hot sauce to taste (reserve until end of cooking)


  • cilantro
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • bacon
  • Tortilla chips


  • Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and add to the bottom of your slow cooker, Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir around chicken.
  • Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. When chicken is tender, remove to a cutting board to shred or dice (personal preference) and return to slow cooker. Cook an additional 20 minutes.
  • Add additional water/chicken broth for a less “chunky” soup if desired.
  • Taste and add hot sauce, salt/pepper to taste.
  • Best garnished with cheese, cilantro, sour cream, chips and bacon!


STOVETOP: Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat in a large Dutch oven/soup pot. Add chicken and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender enough to shred. Shred chicken, return to dutch oven and simmer on low for an additional 30 minutes.

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  1. Katherine smith says

    Can you use frozen chicken breasts?

    • Jen says

      Hi Katherine, the FDA says the breast should be thawed first:
      “It is best to thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. Frozen pieces will take longer to reach a safe internal temperature and could possibly result in foodborne illness. Frozen or partially frozen foods can also cool everything else in the slow cooker.”

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