Smoked Chicken Chili

For years I’ve enjoyed sometimes making a white chicken chili, just on the stovetop, with boneless, skinless chicken breast, onion, canned green chilis, and cannellini beans. Since I’ve been smoking meats in my old gas grill for the past year or so, I decided to switch that recipe up; here’s a smoked chicken chili made with those same canned white beans and accompanied by other fresh ingredients.

This sacrifices the unusual, uniform white color of a white chicken chili, for the darker tones one would expect to accompany chicken, onion, and peppers all wood-smoked for hours.


Smoked Chicken Chili with Cornbread Croutons

Here’s what you’ll need, first, for the smoker:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large, sweet onion, halved
  • 3 poblano chili peppers, fresh, core, seeds removed
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poblano chilis, and sweet onion smoking on Hickory

Here are the remaining ingredients to prepare the chili:

  • ~5 cups low-sodium soup stock (I used homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving’s turkey carcass)
  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained

And flavor the chili with the following, to taste:

  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • Mexican oregano
  • ground cumin
  • ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ground Ancho chili pepper (optional)
  • garlic powder

Ingredients to flavor the chili


Chicken Chili prior to adding the Cannellini Beans

To prepare:

  • First, I smoked the chicken breasts (lightly salt-brined overnight), halved onion, and cored poblanos for about 3 hours, total, 160-200°F.  Note, the smoking phase should not bring the chicken breasts, inside, to safe temperature to consume. That’s intentional, because it will finish, simmering at a low boil in the chili.
  • Next, prepare like a typical chili in a stockpot: sauté the onions and peppers, chopped to a fairly fine size, in vegetable oil, add minced garlic cloves and spices.
  • Dice the smoked chicken breast, add to pot, stir, add the soup stock; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Add the cannellini beans for about the last half hour. You’ll be less likely to crush them while stirring if you delay adding them.

I simmered the chili for about 1.5 hours, total, stirring occasionally, and adjusted the salt and spices to taste, while some water boiled away, concentrating the flavor.

We served this Smoked Chicken Chili as one of three chilis to a gang of guest friends, at home, with choice of many toppings and hot sauces, including homemade cornbread croutons. These substantial croutons work nice in that they soak up a bit of the liquid, but still stay crunchy.

The two other chilis were a Chili Verde, made with pork loin roast and canned tomatillos, and a veggie chili, with corn, a variety of canned beans with the can liquid, and Adobo seasoning.

One guest shared they especially liked the Smoked Chicken Chili for its unique flavor. Having the three chilis allowed each dinner guest to mix them according to their vegetable, poultry, or meat desires. :)


So, if you enjoy smoking meats on the grill and have some time to put your talents toward a great chili, give this one a try!

Here is a solid, popular chicken recipe I’ve used before, and adapted here:

Here are a couple smoked chicken chili recipes I found while writing this up, that you might also like for inspiration:



Chicken Tinga

Chicken Tinga Tostada topped with ripe avocado, scotch bonnet queso fresco, and cilantro leaf.

I’m a huge fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food; if pressed, I usually say it’s my favorite. As such, I was surprised that, to the best of my recollection, I’d not heard of this fantastic dish.

In preface, I can say that after making this in my kitchen, I’m pretty sure my house has never smelled so good. Perhaps it did on Thanksgiving Day. :-)

My inspiration was: (a) to make something Mexican in honor of Cinco de Mayo – despite the idiocy that sometimes surrounds its “observance” in the U.S., and (b) to use up my chorizo.

Chicken Tinga ingredients.

I started with this impressive recipe: chicken tinga, apparently by a Kiwi chef now living in the Yucatan. One thing that struck me about this recipe is that many ingredients are used twice: to poach the chicken and also to make the sauce.

Here’s are my modifications:

  • I used well over 2 pounds of chicken breasts; perhaps 5, so approximately doubled the onion and spices to poach the chicken.
  • I used dried thyme and oregano rather than fresh.
  • I used one medium to large red onion (rather than white) in the sauce.
  • I used reconstituted dried ancho chilies (~7 small-medium), rather than using chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.
  • I used the water from the rehydrated chilies both to boil the chicken, and as part of the blended portion of the sauce.
  • I used 1 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, instead of fresh tomatoes.
  • I used 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 apple cider vinegar.
  • I used an additional 1 T. brown sugar, to taste, to balance the vinegar.

First, when rehydrating ancho chilies, I do as Rick Bayless suggested, and cover them with a small plate to keep them submerged, for 30-45 minutes.  Remove the stems and the seeds and rinse them before blending them into the sauce.

Rehydrating ancho chiles

I tasted the chicken before combining it with the sauce, and it was quite flavorful on its own.  (I’ve often prepared chicken breasts for pulled or shredded chicken by boiling it in V8 juice; that’s a nice short-cut, but not nearly as good as with these spices.)

Poaching/boiling chicken breasts

Sautéing red onion strips and browning chorizo.

Preparing the sauce: onions, chorizo, and garlic

Sauce with blended tomatoes, ancho chiles, vinegar, sugar, and spice added

My total prep time was about 1 1/4 hours, including a wait for the chicken to cool so that I could pull or shred it rather finely, finishing by stirring it into the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes.

I took the Chicken Tinga to a friend’s house where we served atop both crisp tostadas and warmed corn tortillas along with shredded iceberg lettuce, ripe avocado, cilanto leaves, and crumbled Scotch Bonnet Queso Fresco.

Chicken Tinga tostada

I’m really happy with how this Chicken Tinga turned out, and, if I’m to believe them, so were the 3 friends, including one child, that have tasted it so far!  I can also suggest the substitution of ancho chilies (that are just a bit spicy); their flavor worked really well in the sauce.

Here’s the recipe that I adapted:

On a subsequent morning, I placed a poached egg atop Chicken Tinga for a nice breakfast from the leftovers… a serving suggestion from the video linked above.

Chicken Tinga with poached egg and queso fresco on spiced bread.

There are some complementary mexican recipes and interesting videos here:

Chorizo Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Chorizo Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

If ever you find yourself having to choose a last meal, and it must be a sandwich, you’d be doing yourself a final favor to request this Chorizo Buffalo Chicken Sandwich.

This is a sort of tribute to Katja’s Kitchen, as it is a variation of Katja’s Oven-Baked Buffalo Chicken Sandwich.

I used her recipe pretty much as-is.  However, I started by browning about 2.5 ounces of mexican chorizo in a pan.  I cooked the chorizo slightly less than I would if eating it immediately; after all, it’s going to bake in the oven with the chicken.

Sliced chicken breast and pan-frying chorizo

I sliced a relatively small chicken breast lengthwise, but not all the way through, so I could fold it open to a nice thickness for a sandwich.  (Hmmm, this may be twice as much chicken per sandwich as Katja’s recipe.)

Next, I pressed most of the fat from the chorizo and mixed it with .5 ounces of lightly crushed Special-K breakfast cereal, then coated the chicken breast as she described in her recipe. Be sure to press the coating to the chicken so that it is still adhered when it finally makes its way to your sandwich.

Dredge the chicken breast in flour, coat with egg, and chorizo/cereal mixture.

I similarly baked it in a 350° F oven for 30 minutes.

I served the chicken on lightly toasted sliced cheese bread, from our Farmer’s Market, topped it with hot sauce (Valentina brand Salsa Picante, which is much hotter than Frank’s Red Hot, thus I used it sparingly), ranch dressing, thinly-sliced celery, and a bit of crumbled queso fresco – not that the sandwich needed it, it’s just that I made the fresh cheese yesterday, so “Why not?” It’s my last meal of the, umm, afternoon. :-)

Chorizo Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Here are the recipes that inspired this sandwich:

Thanks for this and the other recipes, Katja!

Peruvian Baked Chicken

Peruvian Baked Chicken

More properly, this could be called Peruvian-inspired Baked Chicken; not being a Peruvian and without access to native ingredients, this is a rough approximation that I prepared for myself and friends (4-5 servings).  My closest Peruvian friend was out of town, so the authenticity remains untested. :)

A second inspiration for this dish is my love the taste of habanero pepper, in spite of its sometimes overwhelming heat.

This recipe uses two very hot peppers; in fact, these two are the hottest peppers that I know to be used regularly in cooking recipes (100,000-350,000 scoville units). I chose one habanero and one scotch bonnet, a related and similarly hot pepper.

Habanero and Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Be extremely careful when handling these peppers, once cut; if mishandled, you may find yourself in pain for hours. If you start to feel the tingling heat in your fingers from touching the pepper, you can dip your fingers in milk to sooth them, and/or use a toothbrush to clean them if you get the oils under your fingernails. Some people like to wear latex (or similar) gloves, however, I manage to handle these by just being careful to only touch the waxy outside of the pepper, and use only utensils to touch the insides when cutting, seeding, removing the veins and, mincing.

For this dish you could either use one whole chicken, cut up, or 4 leg quarters, as shown here.
The first step (a day or two in advance) is to prepare a marinade and to marinate the chicken (e.g., in a large, strong Zip Loc bag) for 8 to 40 hours.

Marinade ingredients:

  • olive oil (3 T.)
  • mint leaves (1/3 cup)
  • smoked paprika (2 t.)
  • cumin powder (1 T.)
  • garlic (6 large cloves, minced)
  • scotch bonnet pepper (1, seeded and veins removed, minced)
  • habanero pepper (1, seeded and veins removed, minced)
  • salt (1 T.)
  • ground pepper (1 T.)
  • brown sugar (1 T.)
  • crushed dried oregano with buds (2 t.)
  • fresh lime juice (1/4 cup)
  • lime zest ( 2 t.)

Combine marinade ingredients and thoroughly blend in blender or food processor.

Use a spoon or bowl scraper to apply the marinade to the chicken.  Loosen, but do not remove, the skin, and be sure to put the marinade both between the chicken meat and the skin in addition to on the outside of the skin and pieces.  (If you use less hot pepper, you could certainly apply the marinade by hand.)

To bake the chicken, place it on a broiler pan, with water in the bottom (to keep rendered fat from burning and smoking), and bake for approximately 1 hour at 375°F.  If necessary to crisp the skin, rub or spray chicken with oil and finish under the broiler.

Given that I meant the chicken to be somewhat spicy, while it was baking, I prepared a soothing cream sauce with cilantro, lime and ripe avocado.

Sauce ingredients:

  • sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • mayonnaise (3 T.)
  • milk (~1/3 cup, to desired consistency)
  • cilantro leaves (1/2 cup)
  • balsamic vinegar (1 t.)
  • avocado (1, ripe)
  • juice of fresh limes (~3, to taste)
  • salt (to taste)

Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce Ingredients

Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and puree.  (Adjust amount of milk to achieve desired consistency.)

Abstract #1: Sauce Ingredients in Blender

Once baked, I cut each leg quarter into 3 pieces: a leg, and two thigh pieces.  Use a chef’s knife or cleaver so that you can cut through the bone.

Peruvian Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

I served the chicken pieces, two per guest, topped with the sauce and accompanied by a Twice Baked Sweet Potato.

Overall, this dish was pretty good and fairly mild or just approaching what many Americans might call “medium” in heat.  Next time I’ll vary the pepper (perhaps adding a bit more) and limit the amount of mint so that it doesn’t dominate the flavor.  I used 1/2 cup of mint leaves (before chopping); the amount (1/3 cup) in the marinade ingredients above is my revised suggestion.

Here are the recipes that I used as bases for this dish:

UPDATE (June, 2015):

I wanted to spice it up even more so this time also added the following to the marinade:

  • An additional habanero pepper (2 total, seeded and finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • apple cider vinegar and water until desired consistency

This worked well, and still wasn’t too much spice for 8 chicken thighs.

Chicken Fajita Salad

Chicken Fajita Salad

Marinate chicken breasts (one per serving) in lime juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, ground cumin, and crushed whole dry mexican oregano (i.e., oregano with buds).
I suggest marinating them for 8-48 hours.

Prepare pico de gallo: diced tomato (cored), finely diced jalapeno, minced garlic, minced onion (white), chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt.
Optionally add diced ripe (but not too ripe) avocado.

Prepare a creamy cilantro-lime sauce of: sour cream, heavy cream and/or milk, fresh cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, cumin powder, fresh ground pepper, and salt.
Purée this in a food processor or blender.

Pan fry strips of corn tortillas in olive oil until crisp.

Grill or pan fry the whole marinated chicken breasts in oil and marinade; blacken and sauté red pepper strips. Slice the chicken breasts (across the grain) and serve with the sautéd red pepper strips atop chopped Romaine lettuce. Top with cilantro-lime sauce, pico de gallo, crisp tortilla strips, and garnish with slices of lime, ripe avocado, and cilantro leaves.

I consulted these recipes for ingredient ideas:

“Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce”

“Chicken Fajita Salad”

Braised Chicken a la King

Braised Chicken a la King

This dish is a modification of Chef Ming Tsai’s “Braised Sake Chicken a la Ming” recipe:

I added red pepper and garlic to the mirepoix, added a couple bay leaves with the stock, and substituted 1 1/2 cups of Sauvignon Blanc for the sake and substituted sour cream, thinned slightly with milk, for the creme fraiche.

Overall, I rate it 3 out of 5 starts, i.e., I wouldn’t make it again as-is. The chinese mustard and wine are a nice improvement from your (my) mom’s Chicken a la King, but it is still reminiscent of that fairly mundane comfort food. The chicken is super tender when cooked this way though… the knife turned out to be just a photo prop. :-)

A Tale of Two Enchiladas

A Tale of Two Enchiladas: Olive and Chard Enchiladas, Chicken Enchiladas

Rick Bayless’ website says: “The word `enchilada’ simply means `in chile’ and in Mexico, the most beloved version is actually a street snack: a corn tortilla dipped in chile sauce that’s a far cry from the limp, stuffed tortillas swimming in a sea of red sauce and molten cheese that we’re familiar with in the U.S.”

This is the first time I’ve made enchiladas, so I made the familiar latter, molten, swimming variety. :-)

The vegetarian Olive and Chard Enchilada (center of plate) is a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling of sautéed chopped red swiss chard, sliced jalapeno-stuffed olives, finely diced fresh jalapeno (seeded), sliced scallion, minced garlic, cumin powder, and a pinch of salt. The sauce is a cheddar cream sauce made with whipping cream, sharp cheddar cheese, garlic powder, and a touch of cayenne powder.

For the Chicken Enchiladas, chicken breasts were boiled in strained tomatoes (a purée/juice in a box; V-8 juice would be a reasonable alternative) seasoned with salt and pepper, then cooled and shredded. Corn tortillas wrap a filling consisting of the shredded chicken combined with black beans, grated cheddar cheese, and a sautéed mix of finely diced white onion, diced fresh jalapeno and serrano (with seeds), minced garlic, seasoned with minced fresh cilantro leaves, crushed whole oregano, and cumin powder. The sauce is a smoky tomato sauce, based on the strained tomatoes used to boil the chicken, seasoned with smoked spanish paprika, salt, and a touch of cayenne powder.

Some enchiladas were topped with both sauces. The enchiladas were placed in a baking dish (sauce also in bottom), sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese and sliced scallion greens, then baked at 350°, first covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes to slightly brown the top.

Served with sliced avocado, sour cream, and salsa.

Whew, that’s enough of cooking for today.

This recipe was inspired by some enchilada recipes on Epicurious using either green olives or chard, and these video recipes:

“Beef Enchiladas”

“Chicken Chimichanga”

Chicken Tikka and Curried Potato

Chicken Tikka and Curried Potato

Served with basmati rice and cucumber raita.

Chicken: bite-sized chicken breast pieces marinated for hours then broiled. Marinade: goat milk yogurt, toasted cumin seed, minced fresh garlic and ginger, lime juice, salt, turmeric, garam masala, black pepper, cayenne, paprika.

Potato: prepared in a covered skillet, with canola oil, diced russet potato, minced garlic, white onion, water, chopped cilantro leaves, fennel seed, hot curry powder, garam masala, salt, green peas (frozen).

Here are some useful related recipes:

“Chicken Tikka”

“Chicken Tikka Masala”

“Vegetarian Tikka Masala Recipe with Potato, Cabbage, and Peas”

“Cucumber Raita”

Sweet Clementine Chicken and Szechuan Green Beans

Sweet Clementine Chicken and Szechuan Green Beans

At Christmastime I made a slightly spicy Clementine marmalade, and still had some left, so decided to use it in this orange chicken dish.

Orange Chicken: carrots, baby bok choy, peanut oil, sliced chicken breast, minced fresh garlic and ginger, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, five spice powder, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes, sliced scallion greens, Clementine marmalade, toasted slivered almonds, and (frozen) green peas, corn starch to thicken sauce as necessary. Served with sticky Calrose rice.

One “trick” I discovered is to cut the carrots the way many Chinese restaurants do, so that the slices have slanted ends and ripples on the long side edges: first slice the carrot diagonally into thick “chips” with a ripple blade (or mandolin), then lay the chips flat and cut them into relatively thin strips.  Here’s a 1 minute video on Fancy Cut Carrot.

Szechuan Beans: green beans, peanut oil, minced fresh garlic and ginger, minced scallion (white portion), chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seed.

Here are the recipes I consulted for ideas:

“Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry”

“Szechuan Green Bean Recipe”

“Clementine Marmalade”

Orange Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Orange Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

Boneless skinless breasts baked in a marinade (later reduced to a sauce) including fresh orange juice & zest, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic & ginger, red pepper flakes, and cilantro. The chicken, sliced after cooking, was served on rice, accompanied by steamed Brussels sprouts with chinese hot mustard butter.

Here are a couple related recipes:
“Fragrant Orange Chicken with Scallion Mashed Potatoes”

“Mustard Butter”