This creamy and mildly spicy slow cooker chicken chili is our family’s staple dinner recipe. It freezes well and leftovers keep for days! There’s no pre-cooking or complicated prep required, so it’s a true “set it and forget it” crockpot meal.
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili: Recipe on Repeat
I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve made this easy slow cooker chicken chili in the past few years. 100? 200? I think we’re in the 300s by now.
That’s not an exaggeration. Every time a family member, neighbor, or friend has a baby, I bring them over a batch to freeze. (Who doesn’t find comfort in home-cooked chili? Especially new parents!) Every time we have company over for a football game, I make this chili. And every time I want to prep freezer meals, I make another batch. It’s on the top of my list of 30+ back to school recipes. And, finally, anytime we want an easy slow cooker dinner, slow cooker chicken chili is on the menu.
Here’s Why We Love It:
- Easy– a set it & forget it slow cooker meal
- Flavorful– filled with traditional chili flavors and a little spice
- Satisfying– warm, cozy, and comforting
- Adaptable– swap out the chicken, beans, etc
- Make-ahead & freezer friendly– so convenient!
Ingredients in Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
Everything goes into the slow cooker at once. No pre-cooking!
- Canned Diced Tomatoes: Use 2 cans of diced tomatoes. Drain out the liquid first.
- Tomato Sauce: Use plain tomato sauce as the base of this chili. I usually pick up 2 8-ounce cans of Hunts tomato sauce.
- Chicken: You need about 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts.
- Chicken Broth: Use 1 standard can (about 2 cups) chicken broth. I stick with reduced sodium. If you have homemade chicken stock or broth, that works too!
- Onion & Bell Peppers: Let’s add a little freshness to the one pot dinner with flavorful onion and lots of diced bell pepper.
- Black Beans & Corn: I love adding these because the duo brings a southwestern vibe to the whole dish. If I don’t have corn, I swap in more black beans. If I don’t have black beans, I swap in kidney beans. Use what you enjoy and/or have in the pantry.
- Jalapeño: 1 jalapeño adds the perfect amount of spice.
- Garlic, Salt, Dried Oregano, Chili Powder, & Cumin: Each ingredient adds depth and flavor. I don’t recommend cutting any of them from the recipe. In fact, I usually add a little more of each after I taste the finished chili.
- Cream Cheese: Trust me. See below!
This is a set and forget it slow cooker dinner recipe. Besides chopping some ingredients and using a can opener, the only “work” is shredding the chicken. Remove the cooked chicken breasts, shred them with two forks (it’s easy because they’re so tender!), then add the shredded chicken back into the crockpot for 15 more minutes before serving.
Best Ingredient of All
You can make regular chicken chili or you can make the BEST CHICKEN CHILI. Stir in a touch of cream cheese after you shred the chicken. The cream cheese melts and creates a thick and creamy base for all these flavors and textures. It slightly cuts the heat, too. I’m not kidding—literally anyone I’ve made this chili for has asked me what my secret is—it’s the cream cheese!!!!
I usually add 4 ounces of cream cheese, but you can use the whole 8 ounce brick if it’s easier. You can use light or full-fat cream cheese. Whichever amount or fat content you use, just make sure that you don’t use cream cheese spread. Pick up an 8 ounce brick of cream cheese, like the kind you use for baking.
After you mix in the cream cheese, the chili will be creamy and lighter in color. Taste it. At this point you can add more salt, chili powder, or additional spices if desired.
Is This Chicken Chili Spicy?
No. I prefer mildly spicy chili and this has just enough heat to bring flavor without burning your tastebuds. (The cream cheese helps cut the spice, too!) The recipe written below is mild, so if you prefer spicier chili, add more chili powder and/or an extra jalapeño. You can adjust the spices in my pumpkin chili and cornbread chili casserole, too.
Adapt & Make it Your Own
This dinner recipe is adaptable! Sometimes I add more beans, less corn, an extra jalapeño, or more spices. This is a convenient base recipe where you can add/reduce pretty much anything in order to fit your family’s preferences. I’ve even turned it into slow cooker vegetarian chili by swapping the chicken for more beans and cubed sweet potato. See my recipe note.
However you make it, my #1 suggestion is to serve this 1 pot meal with cornbread.
You won’t regret it!
Here’s my family’s favorite slow cooker chicken chili recipe, a complete “set it and forget it” crockpot dinner!
- 2 (14 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes (drained)
- 2 (7 or 8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
- 1 cups (240ml) chicken broth (I use reduced sodium)
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 (14 ounce) can corn (rinsed and drained) or 1 package of frozen corn
- 1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 jalapeño, minced (remove seeds and ribs)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend
- 2 teaspoons chili powder (reduce to 1 teaspoon for less spicy chili)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 4 ounces (113g) full-fat or light brick cream cheese* (see note)
- Add all the ingredients except the cream cheese to a 4 quart or larger slow cooker. Give everything a big stir. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3 hours.
- Remove the chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces or use two forks to shred it. Return chicken to the slow cooker and add the cream cheese. Stir everything together until the cream cheese has melted. Taste, then add more salt or seasonings if desired. I usually add a little more chili powder and dried oregano/Italian seasoning blend. Cover the slow cooker and cook for about 10-15 more minutes.
- Serve warm topped with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, or crackers. And serve alongside my favorite cornbread or dinner rolls. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
- Freezing Instructions: Freeze up to 3-4 months. Freeze in 1 big container or a few smaller containers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place the container/bag in the sink filled with warm water. Once thawed, cook in a large pot on medium heat for 30 minutes. Or reheat in the microwave until warmed throughout.
- Substitutions: The spices like cumin, chili powder, and oregano/Italian seasoning blend are crucial to the taste. However, the following adaptions work well if needed. Homemade tomato sauce works wonderfully instead of canned. You can use ground turkey or ground beef instead of chicken. Brown on the stove first (medium-high heat for 8 minutes), then add to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. You can also use vegetable or beef broth instead of chicken broth. You can add more peppers, onions, or beans if you want (sometimes I do!). You can use kidney beans or white beans instead of black beans. Add more garlic or jalapeño if desired. And, finally, for vegetarian chili, you can add 1 more can of beans and swap the chicken for 3 cups uncooked diced and peeled sweet potato.
- Slow Cooker: You’ll need a 4 quart or larger slow cooker.
- No Slow Cooker? No Problem! Chop the raw chicken into bite-sized pieces. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a 4 quart or larger pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the diced onion, chopped bell pepper, jalapeño, salt, dried oregano, chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Stir and cook until the peppers have softened and the chicken is cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cream cheese, to the pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 30 minutes, stir in the cream cheese until melted and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Serve.
- Cream Cheese: Over the years, I’ve found that it’s helpful to slightly warm the cream cheese before adding to the hot chili in step 2. Unwrap it, place on a plate, and simply microwave it for 15-20 seconds before stirring into the chili. This helps it combine much easier into the hot chili.
Keywords: slow cooker chicken chili