Spicy Chocolate Milk–Simmered Chicken

October  4, 2019
12 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Alexis Anthony
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh wow, chocolate milk and chicken are finally coming together and now my life is complete.” For all two of you not thinking that right now, let me tell you why the combo works.

1. Chicken poached in milk is absolutely wonderful, as evidenced by chicken potpie or any creamy chicken dish for that matter.

2. Chicken in a sweet sauce is totally a thing. See American Chinese food classics, like sweet-and-sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, and orange chicken.

3. Chicken and chile and chocolate have a long and beautiful history in the form of mole, from the state of Puebla, Mexico.

So accept that this chicken may just be one of the most interesting and weird-good things you will make from a cookbook. After poaching the chicken (and I promise the milk will not curdle—the chocolate and Saturn’s influence, even if you have only a low-level association with the ice giant’s great powers, help keep it emulsified and beautiful), pull the meat out of the liquid and put it over quinoa with some sautéed zucchini for a solid weeknight meal. Or stuff it in corn tortillas with a spoonful of the braising liquid and Greek yogurt. Or, if you’re feeling super amazing, pull the cooked chicken off the bones, add it to some cooked potatoes in a savory pie crust with some or all of the braising liquid, and bake the damn thing!

From Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes For Your Favorite Bird (Ten Speed Press, 2019) —Tyler Kord

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup (240ml) full-fat chocolate milk
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (I prefer the one made from ancho chiles)
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed and split lengthwise
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 1 1 ⁄ 2 pounds (680g)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1 ⁄ 2-inch-thick (1.3cm-thick) rounds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups Cooked quinoa, for serving
  1. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate milk, chili powder, jalapeños, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the chicken thighs. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender.
  2. While the chicken is cooking, add the oil to a large sauté pan over high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the zucchini and the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is caramelized and soft, though not so soft that it’s turning to mush. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until the garlic starts to caramelize a little.
  3. Serve the chicken and zucchini over cooked quinoa.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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42 Reviews

Jared E. March 26, 2021
Great recipe because it's insanely simple. I'm using a Le Crueset and store whole chocolate milk seems to be the key. It doesn't curdle that way. Boneless thighs work too
sficarrotta February 18, 2021
I'm alway looking for new recipes that are easy to prepare, and this one fits wonderfully. My initial reaction was "Ewww!" when I heard it on Splendid Table, but the host liked it so much I decided to give it a try. I was very pleasantly surprised. I like the idea one of the reviewers had to blend up the pot sauce remnants. I'll try that next time.
davidhard January 16, 2021
Heard about this on the Splendid Table podcast. This is so delicious! My sauce curdled a little too. But I let it cool a little, blended it in a blender, jalapeños and all, and made it into a really rich, spicy and smooth sauce. I shredded some of the leftover chicken and made tacos for lunch today. Outstanding. Definitely making this one again.
Cindy January 17, 2021
I'm going to give this a try - thanks for the suggestion!
Lani T. May 26, 2020
I love you food 52 but this appropriation should be removed ASAP
Susanna January 24, 2021
Why is it appropriation? It just seems nutty to me. Heard about it on serious eats and am highly skeptical.
Susanna January 24, 2021
I meant herald about it on splendid table podcast.
MDXWI April 1, 2021
Appropriation how? 100 percent Latina over here, and this just doesn't check. When anglos order jalapeños on their pizza, I don't cry out "appropriation" - do you? When you add a little miso to something to add a special something, are you appropriating asian culture? Honey....
xtremelife August 12, 2021
Jc May 24, 2020
Tasty & easy. The leftovers became much spicier. It was a bit too sweet. Next time I’ll try making my own chocolate milk so I can control the sweetness.
Maryann May 18, 2020
Do you chop the jalapeños..or cut in half and leave seeds in?
Tyler K. May 19, 2020
I just throw it in there split with the seeds still in, and then you can either remove it or eat it if you're feeling spicy! But you could absolutely chop it up if you feel like it!
Anny99 May 17, 2020
Is the chili powder supposed to be the kind that you just drop into chili stew, meaning it has cumin, garlic powder, etc., or dried, ground chiles? Thanks!
Tyler K. May 17, 2020
Honestly either works just fine! I prefer the kind that is just chile's because it allows you to taste the chocolate milk a tiny bit better, but regular chili powder with the extra herbs and spices is delicious, so it won't be a bad thing if you use it. I've done it both ways and both are great!!
Tricia March 31, 2020
So amazing. The first time I made it, I almost bailed but happily did not. I was lucky enough to find Los Chileros brand Ancho Chile Powder, which is incredible, and I think is key to the flavor of this ~ it is not too spicy, but has a bit of a kick ~ flavorful without being overwhelming. I raved to my 20-something daughters, and felt their eyes rolling from NY and Austin. Now they are home for Coronacation and we've done it twice in the space of a week. They are both thrilled to have a new, super easy, delicious recipe. Thanks Food 52!
Tricia March 31, 2020
Oops ~ forgot to mention. I did it the first time in Le Crueset (non-reactive cookware). The milk did not break. Second time in black steel ~ milk broke. Not sure if that was the reason, but those who are unhappy with "curdled" milk: maybe try non-reactive cookware?
Tyler K. March 31, 2020
That has got to be the nicest thing I've heard all week! Thank you so much!!!
Cindy January 17, 2021
I also used an enameled cast iron pot (less expensive version of Le Crueset but basically the same) each time I cooked it. Must be something else.
Cindy January 19, 2020
I've cooked this several times now, attempting to avoid the curdling issue - it isn't that it tastes bad, it just looks really unappetizing. Tried it as written, but also tried not letting it come to a boil (normally you wouldn't bring milk to a boil) but neither way works - I still get the brown sludge. I really, REALLY want this to work because it tastes great, is super easy AND is fun to cook for kids and grandkids (chocolate milk chicken? seriously?)
mmbaratz December 31, 2019
The milk did curdle for me. It was confusing to me that the liquid didn't even cover the chicken half way (how would the part out of the liquid cook?), so I put a lid on, and rotated the chicken a few times. Is this what caused the milk to curdle? It tasted very nice, and was so simple to put together, but I wish there was a little more instruction in the recipe about the liquid coverage and lid/ no lid while simmering.
Melody K. December 18, 2019
Well, this was a very interesting recipe!! First of all, I went to get those thighs in the basement fridge, and they were rock hard frozen. So, the recently purchased chicken legs were the meat of the day. This is an awesome recipe, but you KNOW that I have to mess with it. So here is what I did. Instead of ancho chili powder, I added TJ's chile lime --- great idea!! What happened to garlic in this recipe?? Hey, it is winter, and we NEED it for cold protection!
This was my procedure. I browned my chicken legs in a Dutch oven (7 bc that is what I had), took them out. Then browned onion, garlic, and chili lime powder, salt and pepper. After I poured in the chocolate milk, added back the legs and juice, and put the dutch oven in the oven at 400. 25 minutes later, I put a large cut up avocado on top with salt, pepper and lemon juice for an additional 10 minutes.
OK pepes!!! It was fantastic!!! However, next time I think I will add some cocoa powder for a little bitterness to the mix. I have not tried this, and just an idea.
Family raved with this over brown rice. Thanks 52!!! MEAL SUCCESS!!!
Amy December 16, 2019
I made this with boneless and skinless thighs because that’s what the supermarket had. Also somehow missed the part on leaving the lid off so I had my lid on the whole time. It still tasted great! Just that my sauce was totally watery. Will try making it again properly the next time round.
Stephanie B. December 8, 2019
Loved this! So easy to make and so tasty. I didn't have chocolate milk so I tossed some cocoa powder and a chunk of fairly old and rock-hard brown sugar into the pan with the spices. I let it cook a long time too, till it was falling apart, it's easy to cover, let simmer, and walk away. Since it was already falling apart, I scooped out the chicken to let it cool, shredded it, and added it back to the sauce in the pan. Served it over polenta with cojita cheese mixed in, and the suggested zucchini. I'd make this again!
Tyler K. December 8, 2019
cari November 17, 2019
Do you think this recipe could be doubled if I used either a dutch oven or a 6 quart "all in one" type pan (like a large braiser)? When it comes to choosing the pan, should the chicken be completely or partially submerged in the chocolate milk? Thank you!
Tyler K. November 17, 2019
You could definitely double it but maybe reduce the chocolate milk by a quarter of the doubled recipe amount to allow for reduction. And as for the pan size, submerged is ideal, but if you have a wider pan and the chicken isn't submerged you can just flip it occasionally to make sure it cooks!
cari November 17, 2019
Thank you so much -- I'm looking forward to making (and eating!) this!
Brenda N. November 17, 2019
Is it possible to substitute the chocolate milk with chocolate almond milk or any other plant-based milk or coconut milk?
Tyler K. November 17, 2019
I've never tried it but I can't imagine why an alternative chocolate milk wouldn't work!
tracy October 10, 2019
Simple, easy and delicious. I was too cautious with the jalapeños and only used one. Next time I’ll definitely do two. I had some thighs I needed to cook and all the ingredients were at my corner market. I think leftovers would be good shredded and made into enchiladas with the sauce on top w/cheese. You could guild the lily and make your own chocolate milk using a good quality cocoa powder.
Jeanmny October 9, 2019
Hi! I’d like to make this for my seven year old. Can I reduce the spice without compromising deliciousness?
Tyler K. October 9, 2019
Totally! You could use a small green pepper instead of the jalapenos and just use a little bit of the chili powder. If it's seasoned well with salt then it should still be totally delicious! Maybe add a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground corriander if you're worried about missing out on the dry spice action. I hope your 7 year old like it!!!
JocelynT October 9, 2019
I love this recipe - it's simple, easy, creative, and delicious. :) For anyone that's wondering I used low fat chocolate milk and skinless boneless chicken thighs and it still turned out great!
Tyler K. October 9, 2019
Pat J. October 8, 2019
Just finished bringing everything to a boil. For the next 40 min, I leave the lid off while it simmers right?
Brinda A. October 8, 2019
Yes! You’re looking for the sauce to slowly reduce as the chicken simmers.
tenmiler October 8, 2019
Seems like an instant pot version would work?
Tyler K. October 8, 2019
That would totally work, but the sauce won't reduce with the lid on so you may want to plan on simmering the stew a little after you open it up!
Dogolaca October 9, 2019
Pressure cooker gurus seem to say not to use milk as the liquid as it tends to foam and may clog the valve. I'm not that guru but you might want to read up on this before you try.
MonicaAnn December 22, 2019
As dogolaca posted, dairy products should not be cooked in the IP. Below is from just one site, but they all seem to concur.

Creamy Sauces

As with a slow cooker, dairy products don't do super well in an Instant Pot. The quick-heat function can make milk curdle or scald, or make cheese clump together. If you're making something creamy, try stirring the dairy products in at the end after the pressure cooking has been done.