The Perfect Meal: Chicken Chili

When I consider the perfect meal, it has these components:

  1. My whole family will eat it (this includes a 4- and 2-year old, and a dairy-allergic husband)
  2. There will be leftovers (my husband works from home so he eats at home to save money)
  3. It’s easy to make, easy to clean up
  4. It’s cheap-ish
  5. It’s healthy

That’s asking for a lot in a home-made dinner, but I have found the perfect meal, one that fits all these bullet points: Chicken Chili from THE CLEANER PLATE CLUB by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin.

photo (5)


CHICKEN CHILI (taken straight from the cookbook)


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1.5 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup ancho chile powder (it HAS to be ancho chile powder, mild, otherwise it will be way too spicy. Dillon’s sells it, Mama Jeans has a spicier version. I guess you could use maybe 2 t of regular chili powder, but only if you like your food super hot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1.5 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 (28-0z) can no-salt petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • about 1 – 1.5 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded (I poach mine in near-boiling water for about 15 minutes then shred with two forks)
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 cans beans (I like a tri-bean blend, but usually use 1 can of pinto and 1 can of black beans), drained and rinsed
  • shredded cheese (Colby Jack!) and Saltines


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot (a Dutch oven is perfect) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the oregano and cumin; stir for 1 minute. Stir in the chile powder, bay leaf, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the tomatoes with their juice and shredded chicken. Mix in the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add all of the beans and simmer about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf. Served topped with shredded cheese if desired.

Serves 10 (about 1-cup servings…my husband eats about 3 cups per meal, my kids about 1/2 cup). Freezes great and tastes even better the next day.


Pro tip (Since I make this about once a month): Cook and shred the chicken in advance, and chop the onion while it’s cooking. You can put them in the refrigerator until it’s time to devote an hour to cooking it.

Also, I always have all the seasonings on hand. If you don’t have them, it may cost a little more to make the first round. However, after that, I think it costs me about $13 to buy all the ingredients, and I usually buy the organic chicken and beans, and am brand-snobby on the beef stock (I LOVE Kitchen Basics).

Happy cooking!

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