Recipe: Mom’s Weeknight Chicken Chili

My mother was an excellent, if somewhat mercurial, cook. Some nights, dinner would be Cioppino, made with homemade seafood stock that had been simmering for hours before she added fresh shellfish to it, and served with freshly baked sourdough bread. Some nights, it was Taco Bell.

A recipe of hers that remains one of my favorites is somewhere in between: her chicken chili. My neighborhood friends would come calling around dinnertime when they heard Debbie’s chili was on the menu. Later on, I called her in a panic during my first year of college. It had been raining for what felt like weeks and I needed that recipe to warm my bones and stave off homesickness. I made it in my dorm’s shared kitchen space, drawing in other students asking what that amazing smell was!

chili cooking

This simple chili requires minimal prep work and consists of ingredients that most people already have in their pantry. It’s no 30-minute meal, but once all of the ingredients are simmering, it’s fairly hands off. You will have time between stirring to do laundry, catch up on emails or whatever weeknight chores you have on your plate.

Afterwards, you can cozy up to this bowl of fairly healthy comfort food with a glass of nice red wine. You can toss the leftover with cooked macaroni to extend the meal to tomorrow’s dinner. My husband likes it served with tortilla chips for lunch as well.

Notes: This recipe will work with any ground meat. I prefer dark meat ground chicken as the flavor is better than white meat. To make it vegetarian, nix the meat, use vegetable stock or water and add an additional can of beans. Kidney beans would make a nice addition.

chili mac

Mom’s Weeknight Chicken Chili

Serves 2 people with leftovers

2 tbs Olive oil

1 lb ground chicken (dark meat)

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tbs cumin

2-3 tbs chili powder

1 can Rotel tomatoes with chilis

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup chicken stock (She always used Better Than Boullion)

1 cup cooked macaroni (optional)

Sour cream, shredded cheddar, chopped onion and/or cilantro to serve (optional)


Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add ground chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until cooked through, then add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 second.

Add the chili powder and cumin and stir to combine. Add the Rotel and beans to the pot and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock, turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, 45 minutes to an hour. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.

Garnish individual bowls with macaroni, sour cream and cheddar if you’re feeling indulgent, or with chopped onion and cilantro for calorie counting. Leftovers will keep for 3 days in the fridge.


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