Chicken chili

This chilly weather calls for chili. Everyone has a favorite chili. My granddaughter Meagan and her husband, Brandon, make some of the best chili I have ever eaten. No need to ask for the recipe, because they don’t use a recipe. I guess you could call their version a “pantry” chili, because many times they just put together what they find in the pantry.

I like to vary my chili recipe from time to time. My friend and longtime assistant, Mauna Reynolds, didn’t like beef, so I made some chicken chili simply by substituting cooked and chopped chicken for the beef in one of my favorite chili recipes.

You can do the same. I was surprised at how great that version tasted. If you are cutting back on fat in your diet, chicken breast is a perfect choice.

When cooking chicken chili, it is best if the chicken is cooked before adding it to the pot. I have made it with raw ground chicken and, in my opinion, it does not taste good. The raw chicken seems to give the chili an unusual flavor that takes away the “real” chili flavor.

The following Three Cheese Chicken Chili is one of my favorites. It does not taste like “red beef” chili, and it certainly isn’t low in calories either, since it has so much cheese in it.

The Simple Chicken Chili is the one I made for Mauna.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chili peppers
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon oregano leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (about 15 ounces each) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), undrained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded Queso Blanco Velveeta cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded pepperjack cheese

Heat olive oil and butter in large soup pot. Add onions and saute until tender but not browned. Add garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, cayenne, beans and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken and cream cheese in small pieces. Stir and heat until cream cheese begins to melt. Add white Velveeta and pepperjack cheese. Stir until cheeses melt. Serve warm.


  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cups cooked and finely chopped or shredded chicken breast
  • 1 (2.5 ounce) package McCormick’s chili seasoning (see note)
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cans (about 15 ounces each) chili beans or pork and beans
  • 5 ¼ cups water

Heat oil in large soup pot and add onions. Saute onions until tender but not browned. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes almost a gallon.

NOTE: I usually do not list the brand names of products, but McCormick’s seasoning is best in this chili.

Award-winning chef Prudence Hilburn’s cooking column appears every other week. Contact her at