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Recipe File

Buffalo Chicken Chili

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I love spicy buffalo chicken wings. I also love chili. And yes, I love to cook too. So when the company I work for (Boeing) presented a chili cook-off contest a while back, I took the challenge to heart (and the drawing board!). There are a few versions of buffalo chicken chili circulating the web, but I came up with a variation that I think adds much more texture, intense flavor, and plenty of heat while minimizing the labor and time. And best of all, this chili recipe is quite healthy. (Oh, and I won the cook-off with this chili.)

I did follow the traditional "Texas" style of chili making and did not include beans. This recipe is very thick, savory, and meaty. One of my variations is to use two types of chicken meat for added flavor and texture. I use the traditional ground chicken, and I also include whole shredded chicken from a store bought rotisserie chicken. If you prefer beans in your chili, please feel free to add them (I think pinto beans would be very good). I included plenty of aromatics (vegetables) cooked until soft and brown, and a good dose of Louisiana hot pepper sauce for heat. The addition of beer adds some flavor but mostly assist in deglazing the pan which is very important in this recipe since I recommend cooking this chili in a stainless steel pan (do not use a non-stick pan) in order to generate lots of those yummy brown bits (fond) that stick to the bottom of the pan (which is always a good thing!).

Starting with a store bought rotisserie chicken, shred the chicken from the bones (discarding the skin), and temporarily store the meat in a bowl. If you feel the need to roast your own chicken go for it, but in this case, I think a store bought roasted chicken saves lots of time and energy.

Some people (like my daughter) prefer to opt for larger cuts of meat and cut the chicken into cubes rather than shred. This option is up to you. I prefer the shredded meat because it adds a thicker texture to the chili, and also adds more surface area to blend with sauce.

For the aromatics (vegetables), start with 2 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 medium onion.

The addition of diced jalapeño pepper(s) is optional for extra heat.

Cut the vegetables into a fine dice.

(Discard the seeds of the red bell pepper.)

Once again, the fine dice adds more surface area to the chili, which adds a more thicker texture, and richer flavor when sautéed.

Next, mince 5 cloves of garlic.

For the spices, you will need 2 Tbs of Chili Powder, 3 tsp of ground cumin, and 1 tsp of ground coriander.

Add additional spices (plus salt and pepper) as your taste desires when the chili is completed.

Finally you will need one 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, one 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of Louisiana cayenne hot pepper sauce (give or take), and one 12 oz bottle of beer for deglazing the pan.

Start by cooking the ground chicken meat in a med-high heatedpan with a little olive oil.

I prefer a stainless steel pan so that the meat will form little browned bits (called fond) that will stick to the bottom of the pan and provide lots of concentrated flavor later on.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Make sure the meat gets good and brown (Browning = Flavor).

When the meat is cooked, reserve the chicken for later use.

Use the same pan to brown the vegetables in the next step, in order to get the browned bits released from the bottom of the pan.

Add 3 Tbs of butter to the pan and cook the vegetables over med-high heat, for at least 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft, tender, and the onions start to brown.

Once again, add some salt (and/or pepper).

With a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the brown bits from the cooked meat which will add intense flavor to the chili.

Browning equals flavor, so do not rush this step.

Note the brown bottom on the stainless steel pan when you are finished cooking the meat and vegetables. This is pure flavor!

The beer will be used to deglaze the pan, and add this concentrated flavor to the chili.

Add the cooked chicken and vegetables back to the pan and clear a spot in the center of the pan to cook the spices for 30 seconds.

Add about 1 Tbs of olive oil to the center of the pan then add the garlic and spices. Stir around and cook for about 30 seconds.

At this point, the bottom of the pan will be very brown with food and spices sticking.

Add 12oz of a good beer to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, and dissolve all of the brown bits stuck on the bottom.

Finally add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce.

Simmer to the desired thickness that you prefer.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add additional spices if desired.

Garnish with your favorite condiments.

I prefer sour cream, chopped green onions, and served with a warm bread stick.

Buffalo Chicken Chili (serves 6)
1 Tbs. (15 mL) olive oilsaute until brownedcombinesimmer 5 minsimmer 15 min or until thickenedseason
1 lb. (450 g) ground chicken
salt & pepper
2 Tbs. (30 g) unsalted buttersaute until soft
3 celery ribschop fine
2 carrots
1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
5 garlic clovestoast 30 sec in pan
2 Tbs. (15 g) chili powder
2 tsp. (4 g) ground cumin
1 tsp. (2 g) ground coriander
1 Tbs. (15 mL) olive oil
1 rotisserie chickenshred meat
12 oz. (355 mL) beer (good micro brew)
1/2 cup (120 mL) cayenne pepper hot sauce
15 oz. can (425 g) tomato sauce
14.5-oz. (410 g) can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper
12 oz. (355 mL) beerdrink while chili simmers

Tony Olson has a passion for cooking and playing around with cooking gadgetry. He is currently experimenting with rice-cookers and the plethora of tasty dishes that can be created in these one pot wonders.

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Written by Tony Olson
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45 comments on Buffalo Chicken Chili:(Post a comment)

On May 17, 2009 at 05:12 PM, an anonymous reader said...
This recipe sounds just great !

Though I have a couple of questions if you don't mind.
First : do you have any idea of how much meat you eventually get from a "standard" (roasted) chiken ?
Second : Any replacement idea for the Hot Sauce (fresh chili maybe ?)



On May 18, 2009 at 02:55 PM, eltonyo said...
In regards to your first question, some rough guidelines for a "standard" roasted chicken size are:

One rotisserie chicken will give you about 4 cups of shredded chicken, both white and dark meat (no skin). The typical chicken translates into about 12 ounces of light meat and 8 ounces of dark meat (no skin), which gives you a total of:

* 1,037 calories
* 166 g protein
* 0 g carbohydrate
* 34 g fat
* 10.4 g saturated fat
* 13.7 g monounsaturated fat
* 8.2 g polyunsaturated fat
* 505 mg cholesterol
* 0 g fiber
* 451 mg sodium (unless some sodium is added to season the chicken before roasting)
* 30% calories from fat

Keep in mind, that there is probably about a +/- 20% error on this, given the different sizes available, and you can easily increase or decrease the amount of chicken for this recipe, though you may need more tomato sauce if you add more.

For the hot sauce replacement, there are many things you could use. Your typical Louisiana hot sauce is very HOT, but you could water it down, or better yet use a salsa of your choice. Even the Heinz chili sauce that comes in a bottle is pretty tame, but tasty. My advice would be to start with less of whatever you use, and add more until you get the heat you are looking for.

On May 22, 2009 at 04:22 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Thanks for this very complete answer.

Though for the hot sauce replacement I should say I wasn't as concerned by "heat" than by the fact that hot sauces of any kind are a bit hard to find around here (france that is).
But salsa might be easier to get ...


On May 29, 2009 at 03:07 PM, Kelly H (guest) said...
Subject: substitution for beer
I think my husband, an engineer and a fan of all things spicy, will love this recipe. For religious reasons I need a substitution for the beer. In most dishes I have used beef broth. I was wondering, since this is a chicken dish, if chicken broth can be used instead of beer.

Thanks, Kelly

On May 30, 2009 at 06:05 AM, eltonyo said...
Subject: substitution for beer
While beer is a natural product for deglazing (a combination of acid and alcohol), you can most certainly use any liquid with a little more scrubbing chicken stock or even water.

Wine would also work.

Keep in mind, the alcohol content will be evaporated in the way it is cooked off in this recipe.

Vinegar (a strong acid) also makes a nice deglazing agent, and adds some nice flavor. A nice white wine or champagne vinegar, diluted with some water, would act as a nice deglazing agent for flavor instead of beer in this recipe.

On May 31, 2009 at 09:14 AM, Joe Healy (guest) said...
Subject: Buffalo Chicken Chili
I like the idea of adding pinto beans. Can you help me with the deatails? Canned or fresh, when to add, etc.

On June 03, 2009 at 11:48 AM, eltonyo said...
Subject: substituting beans
Pinto beans would work well, or if you wanted a south western flare you could use black beans as well.

For simplicity, you could just use the pre-cooked beans in a can, and add as many as you wish. If you do this, be sure to drain off that "goo" that the beans are soaked in when they come out of a can (that's nasty stuff!). Just use a strainer to do this. Since canned beans are pre-cooked, you would add them at the very end. You would also have to add some additional tomato sauce and/or water since the beans are starchy and would thicken up the chili (which is already fairly thick).

Or, if your a purist, you could soak the uncooked beans over night, and/or cook them per the instructions they come with, then add them at the end.

I think the black beans would give this chili some nice color contrast.

On June 03, 2009 at 06:34 PM, brentium said...
Subject: Sounds Delicious!
Been reading this blog for a while and have been using a lot of the information and recipes you've posted. Thanks for all the good work, keep it up!

I'll definitely be trying this recipe out soon and will let you know how it goes!

On June 03, 2009 at 09:57 PM, Joe Healy (guest) said...
Subject: substituting beans
thanks for the feedback re beans. I especially like the idea of the color contrast with the black beans.

On June 04, 2009 at 10:31 PM, SoNotBuffalo (guest) said...
Subject: So not Buffalo
This is SO NOT Buffalo Chicken Chili - You absolutely cannot substitute the hot sauce if you're going to call this "Buffalo" anything. As a matter of fact, it can't be anything other than Frank's Red Hot. You're also missing a fair amount more butter, not for cooking vegetables in, just as part of the sauce. Tomatoes don't belong anywhere near Buffalo sauce. Neither do all those chili spices, coriander, cumin, but I guess without them it wouldn't be chili. Unholy bastardization, xP

On June 05, 2009 at 10:27 AM, eltonyo said...
Subject: so not buffalo
Well now hang on there a second Buffalo cowboy... you stated:

>As a matter of fact, you can't use anything other than Frank's Red Hot.

Now scroll up to the recipe, and take a look at the picture that has the Hot Sauce in it. It is in fact "FRANKS RED HOT" (thank you... thank you very much)

My point was that some people may like to use something with less heat. And we can allow that.... can't we?

In regards to the butter, I know what your saying. Authentic buffalo wings are dripping with butter and Franks hot sauce. Ok... my bad. I tried to make this recipe a little more healthy. Give it a try... I think you'll see a good compromise. If not, you can "Paula Dean-ize" your version, and add 4 sticks of butter to your pan.... enjoy. :)

sigh... always a tough guy in the crowd! LOL

On July 09, 2009 at 01:51 PM, LovesChili (guest) said...
Subject: Crock Pot
I am setting up a chili cook off in my office (also a bunch of engineers)and I found this recipe...can I just throw the finished product into a crock pot to keep it warm all day at the office or would that make all the vegies get mooshy? How did you keep it warm at your office cook-off?

On July 10, 2009 at 07:18 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Fantastic
Absolutely delicious, thank you for sharing. We substituted chicken stock for beer, blended the veggies a bit after they were cooked (and the tomatoes prior to their addition) as one of us around here isn't a fan of veggie "chunks", and added a drained can of kidney beans about 5 minutes before finishing. This is now our go-to chili recipe.

On July 17, 2009 at 04:44 PM, eltonyo said...
Subject: How did you keep it warm at your office cook-off?
A crock pot works just great, that's what I did. Just make sure to give it a good stir from time to time while it is being kept warm.

I recently made this again and added canned black beans (drain the goo from them in the can), and it was really good. I think sweet corn could also be added for color contrast and flavor.

Good luck.

On August 31, 2009 at 01:58 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Buffalo Chicken Chili
Hi There -

Can you tell me approximately how much one batch of this comes to (e.g., one quart, two quarts)?

On August 31, 2009 at 05:01 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Crock Pot?
Would this work if I threw all the ingredients into a crock pot and slow cooked for several hours? I know I would lose all the yummy browned bits.

Also, is this good reheated? I want to make a big batch the night before a party and then reheat the next day.

On December 12, 2009 at 08:13 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Made this exactly like you said and we LOVED it I am in my 20's and was told that every man should know hoe to make a good chilli, I now have my recipe! thank you very much. I am now going back to the kitchen for more.

On January 20, 2010 at 04:55 PM, Siouxchef (guest) said...
Your recipe calls for ground chicken but you suggest that you prefer shredded rotisserie chicken. So I just begin the recipe with Step 2, sauteing the vegetables instead Step 1, which is browning the ground chicken. How much flavor is lost without the fond from the browned ground chicken? You kind of wax poetic on how much that fond adds to the dish. Does the wonderful flavor of the rotisserie chicken make up for the relative blandness of the ground chicken but without its fond?

On January 20, 2010 at 05:38 PM, Dilbert said...
>>rotisserie vs ground chicken

a good question, but not a dead duck simple question, actually.

browning the ground chicken generates flavors - I'd mention the "M reaction" but that often generates more conflict than clarity.

now, rotisserie chicken also has good flavors, but typically only "skin deep" -
in the end, rotisserie chicken is "grilled" on a continuous rotating basis....

so unless one includes the skin, the rotisserie chicken has to potential of being just "baked chicken" - flavor wise. since the skin is a prime source of "fat" and some folks just don't do fat, a goodly portion of the rotisserie'd flavor could get lost.

On January 23, 2010 at 03:10 PM, Coolbreeze said...
Subject: Buffalo Chicken Chili
Seeing a lot of anal-retention here... go figure, how did engineers get that rep?

Chili (by definition) is almost anything that can be thrown in a pot together. Some basics have become necessities by evolution >> Hot Sauce of some kind, meat, chili powder (cumin, coriander, etc.), beans of some kind (I've seen spaghetti in place of the beans [engineering work around]).

Back to point, this recipe is SUPER, even in variation. I've been making chili for years and don't think I've done it the same twice. Such is the case here. A nice touch on the Buffalo side is to use a good Buffalo Wing sauce in addition to/in place of the hot sauce.

Good chili gets better every time it is re-heated. One can never know how good re-heated chili can get as sooner or's gone.
In the never-ending search of the perfect chili! Viva Terlingua!

On January 23, 2010 at 07:16 PM, another_engineer (guest) said...
Subject: More praise and tweaks
Wanted to add my praise for the basic framework. A couple notes I've found after making this and variations a few times:

Splitting up the chili powder into chili powder and cayenne pepper adds some nice flavor and decent heat that can be tweaked easily.

Using something other than a white beer like a good doppelbock or Scottish ale adds a lot of flavor and, of course, still does the job. Doppelbock/Scottish ale makes it a bit sweeter and tastes a little more noticeable than a white ale in the end product.

For the guy who complained about the lack of butter - adding just 1-2 Tbs of butter when adding the "sauce" ingredients (tomatoes/Frank's) goes a long way in giving it the buffalo creaminess without adding pounds of fat.

I haven't tested this yet but I think that, when serving, sour cream could be replaced with blue cheese (dressing) to go with the buffalo theme. Off to the store to go buy some good blue cheese...

Great recipe. I've been looking for a good chicken chili recipe and this more than fits the bill.

On February 21, 2010 at 08:40 PM, NC engineer (guest) said...
Subject: Very Nice (Borat sytle!)
I made this chili for a neighborhood cookoff. There were about 15 chili's there and this took top honors - the coveted ladle award! People loved it! I added black beans and extra Frank's red hot. I grated a bowl of Dietz & Watson Hot Pepper NY State Cheddar W/ Buffalo Wing Hot Sauce Cheese - perfect topper. Thanks for the recipe and the contribution to my 1st ever chili cookoff win!

On February 23, 2010 at 01:35 PM, eltonyo said...
Glad y'all are liking this chili, and I appreciate the great comments on additions and changes.

Somebody previosly was asking about the ground chicken versus shredded chicken. I was not trying to recommend one or the other, but I prefer using BOTH as the recipe states. The ground chicken adds some nice flaver and texture when browned up nice, and the shredded chicken adds another layer of chicken flavor and texture. The ratio between these two chicken sources can, of course, be tweaked to your preferences.

One more subtle ingredient you might want to play with, especially if you want to tone down the heat, and that is to add a little molasses!


On March 01, 2010 at 11:10 AM, Asha (guest) said...
Subject: Vegetables in the Chili
My husband and I don't like vegetable very much (yea yea shame on us!), so my question is could we just add onions and jalapenos and leave out the bell pepper, carrots, and celery? Would it still taste ok? Do I need to saute the jalapenos with the onions? Thanks so much, it looks delicious.

On March 30, 2010 at 12:26 AM, mike (guest) said...
Subject: Great Stuff!
Made this recently for a "Men who Cook" Fundraiser and it was a hit.

I doubled the recipe and added a can of (drained/rinsed) white and black beans.

It struck me a that one could substitute a BBQ sause for the Buffalo sauce to have a sweeter chili. And that thought got me thinking about substituting Pulled & Ground Pork for a another variation.... I may need to try that!

Thanks for the recipe!


On July 21, 2010 at 11:48 AM, engineeringStudent (guest) said...
Subject: steer clear of hops
I'd agree that a hearty beer (like the aforementioned witbier or Scottish ale) would add more flavor, but I would highly recommend steering clear of a hoppy beer. I love hops (think Imperial IPA, and that's my game) but cooking hops adds a ton of bitterness and might ruin a dish. I cook a lot with beer, so I'd recommend sticking with the maltier beers. Just my $0.02.

On August 17, 2010 at 10:25 AM, Chellecara (guest) said...
Subject: Buffalo Chicken Chili
I think this sounds great..I just sent the link to my mom so maybe they'll make it the next time I go home to visit :D

On October 14, 2010 at 06:58 PM, Liz (guest) said...
Subject: yummo
I just made this tonight to try it out and YUMMO!! I am lazy and cheap so I used all ground chicken. I had my neighbor taste test it and she wants the recipe.

I must say that your new anti-spam measures are incompatible with the recommendation in the recipe of drinking a beer while you simmer.

On October 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM, Stacy (guest) said...
Subject: How many does it serve?
Can you give me a general idea of how many people this recipe can serve?

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking of making it for a party I'm having this weekend.

On October 23, 2010 at 04:04 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: How many does it serve?
Stacy wrote:
Can you give me a general idea of how many people this recipe can serve?

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking of making it for a party I'm having this weekend.

Serving sizes are almost always posted at the bottom of each recipe just above the recipe summary table(s). Servings given are usually for main courses (recipes will stretch if served as an appetizer). Tony, the author of this recipe, says it will serve 6.

On November 21, 2010 at 07:03 PM, Sable (guest) said...
Subject: Buffalo Chili
I just want you to know, that I made your chili - with a few variations - for our yearly chili cookoff - and I won!!!
It was awesome. Thanks!

On December 18, 2010 at 02:46 PM, JINX (guest) said...
Subject: Awesone Recipe !
Made this recipe a few weeks back for group of friends at a annual chili party....Everyone absolutely LOVED IT !

On February 01, 2011 at 08:51 PM, GO GO Buffalo (guest) said...
Subject: Double batch
I am entering this chili in contest in Canada and I'm pretty sure it's the hands down bring home the trophy chili. I will be making a double batch and want to know if 2 beers should be used since I am doubling everything. Being Canadian doubling the last beer while it simmers is a no brainer. But I not sure about doubling the beer to de-glaze.


On February 02, 2011 at 11:47 AM, Dilbert said...
the beer is used to deglaze the pan - and then reduced. so 'double the liquid' qty is not needed in the final recipe.

since it's reduced, one presumes the beer 'solids' would add a bit to the flavor, hence one beer only might lack some in that department - but most of the flavor from the deglaze is likely to come off the pan.

I'd deglaze with just one beer....

On February 03, 2011 at 10:12 AM, Animal Advocate (guest) said...
Subject: Making this for a Chili Cookoff tomorrow - any suggestions?
I'm making this for a chili cookoff tomorrow. I've just found the recipe and have not tried it yet. Any suggestions???? Sounds good and I work with a lot of engineers so maybe this will be the winner. I haven't won for over 10 years (won twice before) so it's my year :lol:

On February 03, 2011 at 01:12 PM, Dilbert said...
>>Any suggestions????

well, perhaps a prototype would have been in order - doesn't sound like you've got time for that.

rather a lot of the nitpick differences between good and 'a winner' boils down to ingredients (hot sauce is not "hot sauce" - they all taste slightly different...) and technique (how browned is browned...)

so basically with no opportunity to "try then adjust" - give a go and good luck!

On March 08, 2011 at 08:16 PM, Lil' d (guest) said...
Thank you for this site and this recipe! I have made many of your recipes, all have been great, but this one totally ROCKED. I used the pinto beans, otherwise, followed it pretty much to the letter and it was AWESOME!! Thank you!

On January 31, 2012 at 11:11 AM, Animal Advocate (guest) said...
Subject: Winning Chili Recipe
I made this last year and came in 2nd.

I'm making again and hoping for first place ! People LOVED this Chili.

On February 05, 2012 at 09:38 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I have also used this recipe and tied for first place in a Chile Cook Off. The one thing I have found that works great in any Chile is the addition of Garbanzo beans (Chic Peas). These beans add a nice contrast to the otherwise mushy texture.


On February 05, 2012 at 02:17 PM, LSmith (guest) said...
Subject: chili cookoff winner
So I made the recipe for a superbowl chili cookoff contest with my friend and this recipe won by a landslide. It is so good with the perfect amout of heat. Love it! Thanks for the recipe and the title Chili Queen ;)

On March 06, 2012 at 08:57 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Chicken Chili
My husband made this the day before we went camping. Reheated it, put it into bread bowls, topped with the sour cream and chives. Our friends have been trying to top it ever since! Excellent Recipe!

On February 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Best Chilli Ever!
I've now made this amazing chili for the last three years. It has not only won my heart but also the hearts of everyone who tastes it. In any chili contest this recipe stands alone. I do substitute and modify some. Franks buffalo sauce is a great substitute for heat. I hope everyone else enjoys!

On October 29, 2013 at 02:58 PM, drednaught (guest) said...
Subject: Great Recipe! Here's a beer suggestion
As engineerstudent mentioned, you want to make sure you use a beer that's not too hoppy. Google 'Beer Styles – IBU Chart' for a good graph of bitterness by beer style. I used a Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, which is a German smoked beer that has a low IBU and an amazing smoky taste. Highly recommended.

On February 03, 2014 at 12:01 AM, gnasm (guest) said...
Subject: Thanks for the Great Recipe!
Just made this tonight for a Superbowl party/chili cook-off. I added a can each of kidney and black beans and doubled the hot sauce. The heat was perfect and it tasted oh so delicious topped with bleu cheese crumbles and some scallions!

I won the cook-off in a landslide vote, so add another award to this awesome recipe's string of victories!

On April 23, 2022 at 02:47 PM, nVision (guest) said...
Subject: Been making this for 10 years
This recipe is so good! With a little practice, it is easily mastered. I have been using this recipe for 10 years and my friends and family can never get enough! Thank you so much!

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