5 Ingredients or Fewer

Chunky Chicken Chili

October 14, 2019
10 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes 2 quarts
Author Notes

One of my favorite meals growing up was my mom’s chunky chicken chili. A few months ago, I asked her if she had the recipe (or if she remembered where it was from), but no dice. In all likelihood, it was a throw-together meal that she made on repeat because it made me smile. And I think that’s just how chili should be—as fuss-free and crowd-pleasing as possible. Like my Big Little Bean Chili, this recipe hinges on sweet-tangy yellow onions and sorta-spicy poblanos. Some of them get diced super finely while the rest take a chunkier route, just like the chicken thighs. Canned tomatoes, water, and a knob of butter make up the sauce, which is spiced with chili powder. A no-no to some, but I love its convenience (no dried chili soaking! multiple spices in one blend!). And if you fry any chili powder in butter and chicken fat, you won’t believe how punchy and full its flavor becomes. Serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt, grated cheddar or Monterey-Jack, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro, and/or wedges of avocado. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Chunky Chicken Chili
  • 2 large yellow onions (12 to 14 ounces each)
  • 5 poblanos (3 to 4 ounces each)
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/4 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  1. Dice 1 onion as finely as possible. Chop the other in larger, ½-inch or so chunks. Dice 2 poblanos as finely as possible. Chop the remaining 3 in larger, ½-inch or so chunks. We’ll come back to these soon.
  2. Chop chicken into 1-inch chunks. (Boneless, skinless chicken thighs can be sort of wonky and misshapen, so don’t worry about perfect cubes—just try to get them as even as possible.)
  3. Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large, wide pot and set over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the pan is very hot, add the chicken. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and let cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, until the bottoms are beginning to brown.
  4. Give the chicken a toss with a wooden spoon, then add the chili powder. Stir to coat and cook for about 30 seconds, just to toast the chili powder.
  5. Lower the heat to medium and add the finely diced onion and poblanos to the pan. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding small splashes of water as needed to prevent any scorching, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.
  6. Add the rest of the vegetables to the pan and season with another 1 teaspoon salt. Cook in the same way (stirring and watering as needed), for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.
  7. Add 1 ¼ cups water to the pan, then the can of tomatoes and their juices, crushing each tomato in your fist before you drop it in. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the consistency is as thick as you like it.
  8. Serve hot with whatever toppings you want.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Melanie Uhler
    Melanie Uhler
  • Krispyecca
  • liamoran
  • Bevi
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

12 Reviews

draya3 December 23, 2020
This was way to good for how crazy easy it was to prepare! I added a cup of dried black beans that I precooked and it was devoured in this house and shared with a friend, so thank you!
Andi J. October 13, 2020
Really delicious! Used a food processor for the finely diced onion and pepper to cut down on time and tears.
Melanie U. September 15, 2020
Is it normal for my Poblanos to be so spicy?
June December 27, 2020
Peppers can vary a lot depending on (I think) how they are grown: water, sunlight, ETC. Maybe even the seasons.
Krispyecca November 6, 2019
This was really excellent. I used fire roasted tomatoes, and maybe half the salt called for. Lot of chopping, but worth the results.
Patrice F. October 21, 2019
Made tonight - I added black beans also and wish I cut back on the salt - over 3 teaspoons seemed excessive and I wish I had followed my gut and cut back. I’m hoping sour cream will cut the saltiness.
liamoran October 20, 2019
I loved this. The different sizes of onions and peppers is so smart. I followed the recipe exactly and it is perfect. Wondering if anyone has made this with the addition of beans (I’m thinking black beans) to stretch it a bit?
LisaLuka October 20, 2019
I forgot to mention in the review, but we did also add black beans and felt it was a really good.
LisaLuka October 18, 2019
This was simply delicious! We added garlic when we added the second round of peppers and onions, a bit more chili powder and also some dried ancho chili powder for heat. We just had it served with corn chips and some Greek yogurt mixed with diced scallion and cilantro - this is going into the recipe binder!
Deferred_Maintenance October 16, 2019
I made this tonight and it was great. I agree with earlier reviewer about letting it simmer for 35 +/- min. Also added a little crushed red pepper to kick it up a bit. Delish!
Bevi October 15, 2019
I made this today and it was good,; but I made some changes. I used fire roasted canned tomatoes to add another layer of heat, and simmered the chili longer than written in the recipe - about 35 minutes for the final heating. Cooking longer allowed the flavor of the poblanos to develop.
Emma L. October 15, 2019
Yum, fire-roasted tomatoes sound delicious!