Hearty, Healthy Red Chicken Chili


“No thanks, I don’t care for chili.” – Sad, unenlightened me

After years of turning my nose up at bowl after bowl of those ubiquitous beef, bean and (heaven help us) green pepper concoctions, this recipe totally flipped the script on chili for me (as did realizing that chili provided an excellent opportunity to eat Fritos for dinner #winning). Many will argue that without beans or beef this isn’t really chili, that it is instead some kind of unholy union between chili and soup, or maybe stew. To them I say, it must be wonderful to have so much free time.

This recipe on its own is light and healthy, and because it doesn’t contain beans or grains, it’s a great fit for anyone following a Paleo or Whole30 diet. It’s also perfect for anyone who just loves food and loves to eat (hello, friend). It’s also hearty enough to be converted to a vegan recipe. Simply substitute the chicken for beans. I recommend black beans. 

Adapted from this recipe by my foodie guru, Ina Garten, this version is smoky, slightly spicy, and full of flavor. I like to load mine up with cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions and, of course, Fritos, but it is absolutely delicious all on its own.

And because bloggers who write 500 word intros when all I want is the recipe make me stabby, let’s get right to it, shall we?

Pro tip: start cooking as soon as you return home from the grocery store and you won’t have to put anything away.

Start by preheating your oven and giving your chicken breasts a solid rubdown with the avocado or olive oil, salt and pepper. Then into the oven they go.

Go ahead and be generous with the salt and pepper.

While the chicken roasts, go ahead and get your veggies ready. I like my onions diced finely so they’ll cook down in the chili, while the peppers get a larger dice. You do you, girl.

I told my photographer this shot was blurry. He said it’s selective focus and that I’m a philistine. Proof that as this post says, we all have different tastes.

Am I the only one who adds 2 extra cloves of garlic to every recipe? Yes? Okay then.

Catch a grubby little hand scavenging from your mise-en-place

Then it’s onions and oil into the pot. Let those soften for 10-15 minutes and then it’s time to add the garlic, followed one minute later by the peppers. Let those guys get nice and tender and then it’s time to take a trip to flavor country.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, along with a hearty spoonful of chili paste, give this chili plenty of smoky, spicy flavor.

I LOVE this product, but if you can’t find it or something similar in your store, simply substitute some canned chipotles in adobo sauce

Give this mixture a stir and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to develop the flavors of the spices and let that paste melt.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Add the tomatoes, then season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

On its way to meet its Frito laden destiny

Your chicken should be cooked and cool enough to handle by now, so separate the meat from the bones and skin and give it a rough dice, or shred it, according to your preference.

This is where your generous seasoning pays off

You can substitute the meat from a shredded rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight dinner.

Add the chicken to the chili, simmer for 20 minutes or so, and then voila! Top it with your favorite garnishes, or enjoy its rich flavor uninterrupted. Either way, it’s time for dinner.

There are so many delicious ways to top this chili. What do you like on yours?

Red Chicken Chili


4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)

1/4 cup olive or avocado oil (I like avocado), plus extra for chicken

2 T minced garlic (3-4 cloves)

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced

2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced

2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 – 2 T adobo or chili paste, or 2 chopped chipotles canned in adobo sauce and 1T of the canning sauce 

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Approximately 2 teaspoons pink salt (or kosher salt if you prefer), plus more for chicken

2 (28-ounce) cans diced or crushed tomatoes in puree, depending on the consistency you like (I prefer crushed)

4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on

Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

Chopped green onions, corn or tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the chicken breasts with oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.

While the chicken is roasting, cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers and cook until slightly soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the adobo paste, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Photo credit: Scott Zimmer

Allison Zimmer

I may be married to my high school sweetheart, but food was my first real love. I was the kid who came to the birthday party for the pizza, not the roller skating (never the roller skating). As an adult I’ve been known to discuss dinner plans before the breakfast dishes are cleared. I can’t catch a ball or turn a cartwheel but I can smoke a turkey with one hand tied behind my back. What I love most about food is that it brings people together. I’m happiest when I’m sharing a meal with my family and friends, and it’s typical to find 15 or 20 people hanging around our house on a Friday night, grilling pizzas and pouring wine, or sneaking crumbs from the brownie tray. After 10 years in South Florida I’ve returned to my hometown of Rochester, NY and am rediscovering it through the adult eyes - and a foodie palette. This mid-size city has long eschewed chain restaurants, and has one of the 3 best public markets in the country. Join me as I explore everything from the earthy to the elegant across the city, and make memories with my family and friends in my very favorite spot - my own kitchen.

1 Comment

  1. Danielle Roach

    January 29, 2018

    I LOVE this recipe!! What I love even more is the way that Allison wrote it up!! Can’t wait to try it out on the family & for Super Bowl?

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